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Paramount's new TV chief Amy Powell: we'll be more like a start-up than a TV studio

Date July 22, 2013

By Lucas Shaw

NEW YORK (TheWrap.com) - Amy Powell took the reins as the new chief of Paramount's TV division on Monday, adding a third division to her purview (alongside microbudget film label Insurge and Paramount Digital).

The promotion cements her status as one of the top executives at Paramount, a place she has worked for almost a decade.

Powell has long stood out in slow-moving Hollywood for her embrace of innovative marketing tactics. The studio's use of social media is one reason films such as "Paranormal Activity," "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" and "The Devil Inside" surprised at the box office.

TheWrap spoke with Powell about the plans for Paramount TV, and why it won't be run like the other TV studios in Hollywood.

Congratulations on the new job. How did this come about?

Brad approached me about this idea of creating a flexible and innovative TV studio that is kind of like a start-up. We can really do something different and not replicate a model that is established.

It's like what we've been doing at Insurge in terms of finding new voices and new talent and what we're doing on the digital content side finding new stories and new ways of distributing.

What do you see as the model now and where is there room for innovation?

The idea is for Paramount to be a creative studio where talent can come and pitch us any idea for any screen. A director or writer can come to us and have an idea that could be for a digital episodic content, for a prime time series. We'll create and distribute programming for audiences across every screen -- digital, cable, online, traditional broadcast and maybe even microbudget theatrical. We're an incubator for all of that.

So do Paramount Digital and Insurge now fall under this?

No, but it's one creative group. We're taking what we do at Insurge in terms of microbudget and applying them here. We want to be one creative group where talent can come. We want to be flexible, innovative and nimble.

So if you're making shows for Netflix and Amazon as well, is there any distinction between a TV show and web series?

The definition of TV is evolving and changing in front of us. My kids look at TV as being very different. With that said, we plan on financing substantial TV projects as well as small projects. We're more focused on talent and voices than volume.

We're lucky to have Viacom as potential partner for us; we have this amazing opportunity for us to pitch a network on a global scale. We also have the opportunity to partner with Netflix or Amazon. It's really a different way of looking at a division.

How much of an asset was your digital savvy in getting this job?

Rob, Brad and Adam have all recognized the importance of being able to take risks and do things differently. Digital is a division that has always had its hand on the pulse, what's in the zeitgeist and what's relevant. We understand how to reach audiences organically and authentically to understand the marketplace.

What have you learned running the digital division and how has that informed what you've done as an executive?

You quickly realize that the definition around who the new 'voices are' and talents are and stories is more loosely defined now. We've been fortunate to work with the biggest movie stars, biggest movers, biggest talent at Paramount in the biggest films and also able to find new directors and new talent and bring them to the studio to create small-budget films or web series and now a TV show.

Can you point a single web series or movie that serves as a model for what you want to do with your TV shows -- both creatively and in terms of how you want to market and distribute them?

We aim to have a diverse beat, but the project we're just coming off in digital is Season 3 of 'Burning Love.' It just got nominated for an Emmy. That has been a great example of comedy and how it works in digital; it's social and discoverable online. We have a rich slate of digital content; "Paranormal Activity," Justin Bieber and Katy Perry movies. The commonality was those are all movies that spoke authentically to audience. In terms of TV, Brad and I want to create opportunities where talent can come to us.

You have had great success embracing new opportunities whether in social media or mobile games - reaching new audiences but also using approaches that are cheaper than more traditional advertising. Do you have any trepidation in handing off a show to a network that might not market the show in the same way?

In the digital space, we also sort of hand content over to third party distribution.

Projects like ‘Burning Love' are such passion projects that we still can't help ourselves. The onus is on you to be content's best advocate. Talent is a big part of the marketing machine.

Any project we're developing has to be a big passion project.

So do you have something you're already working on?

Not that we can announce.

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