May 31, 2024

The Power of Collaboration: Wrigley Media Group’s Approach to Filmmaking Partnerships

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Welcome back to On Production, the podcast that sheds light on the craft that builds the world of film and media production. Today I'm very delighted to host Misdee Wrigley Miller and Joe Livecchi of Wrigley Media Group. Misdee is a very accomplished equestrian and media leader and she's played a pivotal role in shaping Kentucky's film production incentives while Joe with his extensive background in production, drives innovative content creation and a lot more at Wrigley Media Group. Together they utilize their expansive studio space at Lex Studios bring a diverse array of stories to life, both for their business and for filmmakers all around the world. Joe Mizzi thank you so much for being on the podcast.


Thank you for having us.


Yes, happy to be here. All right. Well Misdee


Thanks again, so much for being here. I have to ask what is your background in film and media? What drew you to Kentucky and tell me and the audience a little bit about your background?


Well, I grew up being a Crazy Horse girl. I'm fourth generation equestrian. As a matter of fact, one of the little known facts about really in Wrigley Jr. is that he was an outstanding horseman, who anything else he did. So I think I came back by that naturally. So I grew up with horses. But also my stepfather was an owner of the CBS affiliate station in Phoenix, Arizona. And so I'm growing up I would I would go to affiliate meetings with him. And I always had just this fascination with television production, and was always very fond of it. So much so that my degree is in broadcast journalism. And I went to work as a broadcast journalist and was offered file a lot of stories for CBS News nationally. So I was offered a job. And fortunately, I had a friend who had gone to New York to CBS New York before me and she said, Misdee, if, if this is the life you want, there's no place better to be than in New York City at CBS News at that time. And further, she, she warned me that if you want to have any kind of life, outside of the news, don't come here. Because you will be married to the news and the news cycle. And that will be your life. And I thought, Well, gosh, I still have all these horses. So that's kind of the you know how my, my life evolved with these dual passions. But I've never, ever lost my love for the production side of it. And when an opportunity I moved to Kentucky, obviously for the horses, and had an opportunity to buy into a small production company. And I was having so much fun. We grew it and eventually bought the majority share of the production company. And here we go.


That's perfect. That flows then into my first question. And for you, Joe, I know you have a pretty amazing background in the creation of media, tell the audience a bit about your background. I


always wanted and loved telling stories. I grew up in a household full of stories. And the first 10 years of my career really was I started out in live television. I worked with Dick Clark, who's rocking the show on Good Morning America on talk shows. And then I was in advertising and promotion, I worked on the Olympics, and launched big shows for NBC and ABC. And then I was fortunate enough to become a producer spent about 20 years creating, show running and selling shows. And I just love for me, it's really just getting to a person's truth. I think that's where all the good stuff is. If you can live in the truth, sometimes it's a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's dramatic. Sometimes it's emotional. But if you can tell a good story filled with truth and take someone somewhere they didn't think they could go themselves to watch that to witness that to be a part of that. That's what we're all about. That's what we all crave as human beings, right the human experience. We need a witness to our lives, and we all want something better for ourselves. We want change. So we want to witness change. So I love being a part of it. And really, this is the dream job for me. Because we get to tell stories in so many different ways. We get to work and serve so many different clients. And it's what I love the best. I think what Misdee is great at she said, she's a competitor, which she is. But she's just a great people person, she knows how to bring people together, to bring out the best in them to put a winning team together. And I just love that I'm inspired by her every day, I do my best to do it with our team, and to share with people we work with. So that's my thrill every day.


Can you elaborate for us your involvement in developing film production incentives in Kentucky, and the impact it has had on the local film industry?


Sure. We actually had film incentives several years ago, and it started to build the production industry in Kentucky. And then unfortunately, with a change of administration, the film incentives were basically put on out a more moratorium. And so those of us who believe in film production and and what incentives can do for the economy in Kentucky, sort of banded together and wanted to craft an incentive, that would not be subject to the perils of the whims of government. So that was one of the most when we brought the idea of an incentive back to the legislature that was very important to us that it would be not only a fantastic incentive, but that it would be part of state statute. And so you know, it was important for us to get it back in and then make it more or less permanent, or much more difficult to change. Really


interesting, slightly changing the topic a little bit, we'll get back to the incentive a little later. Because I think a lot of listeners are very interested about bringing their productions to Kentucky, there's some details and some interesting sort of details related to like having a slate of productions in the state, etc. But I just have to ask, you know, as somebody deeply involved in both equestrian sport and media, how do you integrate your passion into the products produced at Wrigley Media Group,


I believe I am at heart of a very competitive person. And I always strive to, to find the best not only within myself, but within my projects and everything that I become involved with. So whether it's in the horse industry, or in the production industry, and I know, it's crazy that I have these two very diverse interests, but at the heart, it's, you know, just the dedication to quality and bringing out the best on, you know, whatever the performance arena is, whether it's the horse show arena, or the production landscape, very


helpful, you know, I'm curious Misdee with the establishment of like studios, and with the incentive that you helped, you know, get really codified into the state of Kentucky, what opportunities do you see for filmmakers in Kentucky and kind of beyond?


I think we have such a diverse landscape. Number one, our locations are fantastic. And being able to have such a diverse landscape. I mean, my goodness, we have an urban landscape of you know, incredible rural landscapes. We have a castle we've really got something for everyone. I mean, even you know, let's let's begin with the best incentive in the country. We've got this incredible stage and in the Commonwealth and just extreme beauty and four seasons. But building Lex studios, of course, adds another completely different dimension to it, of being able to come indoors. And I tried to build stages that are very, very workable and very friendly to productions that come in in terms of what's offered their you know, my redundant internet and you know, and other things that sometimes go unseen if I do say so myself saying is it is a woman, very nice green robes with very attractive makeup.


I love that you just mentioned a moment ago that Kentucky has one of the best incentives in the nation. For you, what is it about Kentucky's incentive that's particularly interesting that maybe folks who've never considered Kentucky as a location should know about the incentive? And how to use it from your view?


I think what is very, very important is that, you know, number one, it's 35%. In the case of in certain counties in areas in the Commonwealth, it is a 35%. incentive. And also, if all the productions are Kentucky, citizens, excuse me, that it's it's 35%. So it's very easy to bump the incentive up 5%. And also the fact that the tax credit is both refundable and non transferable. It makes it more of a of a percentage amount, may not discount percentage taken from that base credit. I mean, you get a check back 30-35%. That's


pretty wonderful. I want to pivot the conversation a little bit over to you, Joe, because this is just mentioned something really interesting about a great tranche of that incentive being related to labor costs in Kentucky. And that sparked in me a question about infrastructure. So obviously, Misdee was telling us about the studio space. Obviously, there's some infrastructure there sounds like there's some nice green rooms, but talk to me about the production crew, the infrastructure, what you've built at Lex Studios. Dig in for me with the details because at on production, US production, people care about the nitty gritty of making the work. Exactly.


Thanks, Cameron. Well, the Wrigley media group and Lex Studios is the largest film and television studio in the state of Kentucky. We have 20,000 square feet of post production facilities, where we do soup to nuts, post production, anything you need, from loading your footage, shooting it, coloring it sound everything. We can take care of all that at our expansive post production facilities, Lex studios, we call it a 50,000 square foot living stage. That's because it's three separate studios, the largest being close to 5700 square feet, with 40 foot ceilings, 100 parking spots out front. And then we have all of this expansive space around the studios that doubles as a restaurant, a court, train station, a hospital, a school prison, a cop shop, a morgue and so on and so on and so on. So productions come in, they love that. Wow. I can save time on company moves because I could be shooting in and around these stages on the stages in the parking lot. And then of course as Misdee alluded to, we have four seasons shooting and the best part for production people is when you're in a town that wants you there. There's a difference. The difference is not being hassled with permits, not being stuck up by locations that are trying to get you for every single dollar not having residents that are trying to shut you down. And you're worried about that. Kentucky wants your productions. Kentucky wants your business. It's a friendly place to shoot. It's a beautiful place to shoot. And then in terms of crew, we pull crew from Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati. Louisville and Cincinnati both been about 75 minutes way from Lexington. Crew also comes in from Nashville and knocks Knoxville sometimes crew will come in from Atlanta. So if you're bringing your production to Kentucky, there's a lot of good crew there. You may have to bring some of your own crew in that is typical. And that is why when you go for your incentive, the crew you bring in from out of state is incentivized the hotel costs and the food costs for that crew is incentivized. It's quite frankly the best incentive in America. And that's really


really interesting. You know, what's what's fascinating about all of that Wrigley Media Group I've been able to learn a bit about your organization as your clients here at Wrapbook is just how broad your businesses from the relationship with the state the studio but then also the post production and then you know your capacity to find Stories and make stories. I mean, Joe, can you help describe? And again, just on the production side of things, what kind of media do you all produce and Misdee? I'm sure you have ideas and a viewpoint on this as well, like I'm curious, in your view, what sets your projects apart? Well,


first of all, this is all Misdee's vision. Right? So she's the one who came and built the post production facility. She's the one, along with a few of the key people helped to make sure the incentive was written into law. She's the one who built Lex studios. So this is all part of a bigger vision that that Misdee as for production and storytelling in the state of Kentucky, she has been very successful there in a number of other businesses. She's done a lot of things for Kentucky, she loves Kentucky. So what we really want to do and I know Missy can speak to this too, is we want to be a friendly home for filmmakers, for productions. When you're telling a story. It's hard. There's a million things getting in your way. It's nice to have someplace you can go where people can take care of things. Everything is turnkey, and transparent. Everything you need is right there. That was Misdee’s vision all along. I'm just the steward or to putting it together. And that's what we're doing in Kentucky.


That's awesome. But you guys also produce content as well, right? We do. Yes.


So we produce branded content, we work with the University of Kentucky, Scholastic, lots of other brands as well, we produce long form original unscripted content, a lot of true crime investigative, in fact, right now on Max, one of the favorite picks is one of our shows, Expedition from Hell: The Lost Tapes. And we also do a lot of lifestyle. So and then in addition to that, we also do scripted. As I said, we're a home for filmmakers. So we're doing independent feature films. So we really look at ourselves not as a production company. We're a media company. And we find all the different ways we can be of service to these productions.


That's great. I'm curious from both of you, can you discuss a project that you think exemplifies the collaboration between your creative visions and business strategies? It


was the ultimate collaboration. Because it was one of our producers who found the Lost Tapes, quite quite honestly. And once we started going through those tapes, and seeing what kind of story it was, and its potential, we realized that to give it the best chance to survive and get sold is, was to take on a partner, and that partner was IPC. And they were great. They are great partners to work with. Very collaborative, and you know what our vision for the series was never got lost on them. And for a small company in the middle of the country that, you know, really doesn't have, you know, a lot of a lot of shows on the air, it was nice, nice to have that sort of collaboration and recognition from a company like IPC to really put us on the map. And I think, each time something like that happens, we can demonstrate the talent that is, you know, part of that they're the people who make up the Wrigley Media Group. And I've said for years that I will put the folks who worked for us at at Wrigley Media up against anyone from either coast and in terms of their talent and what they do. And this project really allowed us to show that.


Yes, I'd like to add to that. So I've done quite a bit of true crime over my career, I teach towards true crime series that I created or co-created at AEe. So once I came to the Wrigley Media Group, we were developing True Crime right away. We just sold a true crime project to NBC peacock, what and that's an original production and that we created but in addition to that, in the spirit of partnership, we created a whole True Crime Lab. So this is as I was speaking about Lex studios and its flexibility. So the production companies who were once our competitors are now our partners. So they come to us. They have to do recreations. They need graphics, they need to do host wraps, color and sound all types of things for their production. They trust that to the Wrigley Media Group. So we have a whole group of people who are doing nothing but that, and they're thrilled, because they're getting high quality work. They're getting the benefit of a great incentive. Kentucky is winning because it's getting all this business. It's a win win win all the way around.


That's really fantastic. But I have to say, Joe and Cameron, I still, when we turned the catering kitchen into a morgue, it that's going to be tough on me the next time I cater there.


You know, Misdee? I'm really curious, you know, as a leader in the industry, as being someone that has built a pretty vertically integrated media business. I'm curious how you foresee the evolution of Film and Media Production the next few years.


In Kentucky, I'm sure you're saying I think that as more filmmakers and studios find out what is available in Kentucky. And I think they will be really excited to come to Kentucky. And you know, Joe alluded to this, our Kentucky hospitality people will come and find that there's so much excitement about having filmmakers come to Kentucky and as importantly, as the legislators see the economic advantage. film that the incentives can bring to Kentucky in terms of the ancillary businesses we all know that thrive because of it, the catering companies, the hotels, airline transportation, dry cleaners. You know, it's the rising tide floats all boats. So as we continue to demonstrate what film incentives can do to the economy of Kentucky, I think our incentives will only grow and grow in strength. I mean, they're good now, but we intend to make them better. Yeah,


and one thing I want to say Cameron is, this is we're at a crossroads in our business. Everybody knows this. And it is a time to work smarter, not harder. It is a time to collaborate. It is a time to innovate. It is a time to do all kinds of things that we haven't done before. So we are perfectly positioned to be an ally, to productions, producers, networks. That's why they're coming in and visiting us networks are flying in bringing their people to see what we're all about. I always say Kentucky's a bit of a sleeping giant. And people are finding Kentucky. Amazon is here with a $20 million project. Last year 61 projects received $72 million in incentive funding. So more and more productions. I meet with filmmakers every week, who are discovering Kentucky Our doors are open. And we're here to help other creators bring their visions to life.


That's really tremendous will. Joe and Misdee I want to thank you both for sharing a little bit of your story. The really exciting things happening in Kentucky at Wrigley Media Group and Lex Studios. Thanks for joining me On Production. Thank


you so much.


Thank you, Cameron. Our pleasure.

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