Ok, I’m going to take a break from talking about VR 360 video and step back to talk about the project that started it all for my company Those Canadians Media Group.
In the spring of 2013 at 52 years old, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I had a great job as senior producer and VP at one of eastern Canada’s largest and most successful production companies. I was comfortable, secure, had a nice car, a nice house , 5 weeks vacation a year, a great family and life was good.
I was about to make a decision that would turn my comfortable little world upside down.
Do you know me?
A good friend and colleague of mine, Don Young, had just come off a job as executive producer of features and documentaries for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics and had an interesting proposition for me.
During the Olympics he fed our company tons of work. The content we produced was great stuff and made him look good. We delivered on time and on budget and set the bar high for other companies across the country who were also scrambling to produce Olympics features alongside us to feed the Olympics media beast.
Our “Do you know me?” features exploded onto the web creating a real buzz leading up to the games. These were conceived of and created by my colleague (and now business partner) Dave, who owned a motion graphics company called 27Forty.
They took on the challenge by hiring some of the best motion graphics designers in the country to produce the work. It was a massive undertaking with over 150 features pumped out the door in about 8 months. It was intense, creative work with crazy deadlines, and the rush was exhilarating.
Then came a rear naked choke…
Fast forward to May 2013 and Don calls out of the blue and asks Dave and me how much we know about the UFC, and in particular their reality TV series called The Ultimate Fighter?
One of Don’s former colleagues from the Olympics was now marketing director for UFC Canada, had approached him looking for production companies to submit bids for a Canadian version of the show called The Ultimate Fighter Nations – Canada vs Australia. Would we be interested in partnering with him to create a company to submit a bid?
Now a rational person might have asked who else was bidding (turns out Insight, who produces Amazing Race Canada, etc., etc. was the forerunner) or what our chances were, but something inside me told me to say yes. I needed a shakeup in my professional career, so I left my secure job and committed 100% to chasing this crazy opportunity.
What the hell was I thinking???
We had three weeks to prepare for our pitch and with our combined experience and instincts and a bit of luck, we did everything right. We scouted locations, learned the sport, studied the American show and put together an incredible team including the lead editor from the TV show, Survivor. Even though we’d never produced a reality television show before, our pitch deck was strong and UFC felt our drive, commitment and passion. A two-hour meeting turned into fours hours and subsequently UFC short-listed us.
Those Canadians in the USA
The next step was to go to UFC’s production facility in Las Vegas to shadow the producers and crew of the American show to make sure we were comfortable with the budget we’d submitted. It all happened so quickly and we didn’t even have a name for our company yet.
UFC was just starting to shoot season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter and for the first time, featured an all female cast with Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate being the coaches. As they began shooting the first scene, we stood against the back wall inside the control room watching the monitors between UFC president, Dana White and the president of Pilgrim Studios (the American producer of Ultimate Fighter, Monster Garage, Wicked tuna, Dirty Jobs, etc., etc., etc…), as the director called ‘action’.
Ronda came bursting out the doors onto the set, but a cameraman was in the shot and they had to start over. A big no, no…
Dana leaned out and said to the Pilgrim President – “See those Canadians right here? They’d never f**k up like that.” Without missing a beat, the Pilgrim pres. responded with “Do they even have f”n TV in Canada?”.
We laughed nervously, but the name stuck…
Needless to say we won the gig and went on to produce 25 x 1hr episodes for Fox Sports One, FX Australia, Rogers Sportsnet 360 and TVA Sports and the series was touted by fans as being one of the best Ultimate Fighter series ever produced. The numbers more than doubled Fox Sports One audience projections and we were even nominated for three Canadian Screen Awards for the series.
Next week I’ll talk about some of the crazy things that occurred on set with 16 fighters living in a house together and training and fighting each other over 7 weeks with absolutely no contact with the outside world…You won’t believe what happened…
(Mike with the crew and fighters on set)
Are you considering making a drastic change in your career? It’s never too late and sometimes it just takes a little push. Would you take the leap if you had the opportunity?
About Mike Wetmore:
Mike is a partner with Those Canadians Media Group, a company producing branded content and VR 360 stories for some of the biggest brands in the world. Our clients include UFC, Facebook, The International Olympic Committee, Export Development Canada, G-Adventures, Hockey Canada, Tennis Canada, Skate Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and many others. To learn more or get in touch, visit www.thosecanadians.com