Conde Nast’s Dawn Ostroff on turning magazine articles into movies and new TV shots – The Hollywood Reporter
In 2011, dawn Ostroff, who had been president of The CW, entered what she calls “a slightly dysfunctional world” when the publisher CondÃ© Nast tasked her with operating her 19 magazine brands, including Vogue, The New Yorker and Vanity Show, and a mine of 100,000 articles dating back several decades – across film, television and digital under the banner of CondÃ© Entertainment Nast. âWe couldn’t use a lot of the existing infrastructure because the print side was so different,â she says.
While from Ostroff the bottom is on TV, six years later, CNE has found more traction in digital video and film. He has 35 films in development with stars such as Alexander Payne (The will of the judge) and Frank Marshall (The longest night). And on October 20, Sony will open its first major film, the $ 38 million firefighters drama. Only the brave, on the basis of a GQ report on a tragic 2013 Arizona hell that killed 19 firefighters. Unlike previous onscreen magazine hits like Argo and Brokeback Mountain, CondÃ© Nast is a for-profit participant.
CondÃ© Nast Parent Advance Publications has invested over $ 50 million in CNE, which has 313 employees in New York and Los Angeles, and the label finally made a seven-figure profit in 2016, a year ahead of schedule, mainly thanks to advertising revenue from the billion monthly views of CNE 5,000 digital videos, including Emmy nominees Screw yourself cancer and Oscar nominee Joe’s violin.
Ostroff, who is married with two children and two stepchildren, invited THR at his desk at One World Trade Center to talk about the future CNE.
Part of your initial mandate was to operate the CondÃ© Nast Archives for source material. What is the most promising project the effort has produced so far?
What we have done is engage readers to browse articles from all of our magazines and organize them digitally. Jeremy Steckler, who runs our film group, was able to identify a few key items he wanted to start with, and The old man and the gun was one of them. The article [by David Grann about a bank robber] was published in The New Yorker in 2003. We took it to David Lowery to see if he’d be interested. [in directing]. he had just done Are they not holy bodies, and we saw his sensitivity and his incredible ability to write characters and relationships, which is at the heart of this story.
For a while, it looked like the John McAfee Project, based on a Wired article starring Johnny Depp, was going to be CNE first big movie. How is Only the brave end up going first?
The McAfee project was put in development at Warner Bros. [in 2013]. It was a little different diet at the time. At that time, the studios were still making some of the most adult films. Now the big studios are focusing on tent pegs. Only the brave was also able to attract incredible talent without being installed in a studio. We packed the movie ourselves, putting the script and the director and some of the talent together, and then going to market. The movie ended up coming in handy because when you look at where we are right now, we’re so dependent on first responders, whether you’re talking about hurricanes in Houston and the Caribbean or an earthquake in Mexico or the California wildfires. The McAfee project will be in pre-production soon.
How much of a challenge, given the material you’re working with, that the studios are moving away from character-driven narratives?
I think it’s an opportunity. When you look at the tent pole movies, you have actors who make a lot of money. Everyone likes to go see the Star wars movies; we are all there with our children. It’s fantastic. But when you start looking for movies that are going to be adult stories, I think the whole creative community is looking for these really meaningful stories, and they just don’t get done as often as they used to be. Whether they are writers, directors, actors, we have been able to attract an incredible array of talent because the choices available to them are not as numerous as before.
When CNE First launched, you took a lot of heat on the standard freelance writer contract which included a 12 month option right. Now do you feel CNE was he right or were the critics right?
I really think we were right. All industries have changed. Everyone goes there, whether it’s a television company, a film studio, the music industry. Everyone sees their business as a holistic, 360-degree approach. That being said, we were able to choose a lot of those items that may never have been optioned. In fact, we are giving writers the chance to make more money on the option, and if that happens, they will obviously make a lot more money. We cultivate these projects. We really paid a lot of attention to packaging these projects the same way we did. Only the brave and The old man and the gun. And I hope writers see this as a big way for them to make more money.
What have you read recently that turned you on?
The New Yorkerarticle about North Korea that was published [in September]. It was an incredible article. One item we are looking at concerns a SWAT team that is in ISIS territory, essentially in very difficult situations and removing people. It’s called “The Desperate Battle to Destroy ISIS”, and it was for The New Yorker. Wired had an amazing cover story about a hotel hacker who found a way to get into people’s hotel rooms by programming the cards. These are some of the stars. I’m sure as soon as you leave I’ll be thinking of 10 more.
On the TV side, you have Last chance u for Netflix, Vanity Fair Confidential for Investigation Discovery and the next More The most expensive for Viceland – all non-fiction. What about scripted?
We tried. We have two scripted projects that we haven’t announced yet. It’s hard. On the CW, when you want to announce something, you can go and announce it. Here we are indebted to the networks, which is a bit more difficult. We have a few things that we’re selling to networks now in the pilot season that haven’t been announced yet, and we’re working on a lot of different scripted ideas. It is the only field that we started a little later than cinema and digital video. We had a big project that was announced last year, a pilot called Icon, which we developed at ABC. It hasn’t progressed, but we’re still trying to find the right project and the right package.
What is the most lucrative part of CNE business right now?
The digital video business.
And where do you think it will be in five years?
What happens is the long form and short form merge. A digital video was two minutes long. Now some of our videos are 20 or 30 minutes long. This is really where a significant amount of the advertising money is going to be transferred. Google published a survey [this spring] where millennials and gen Z-ers spend over three and a half hours a day watching digital videos. It’s the new prime time.
You moved on to acquisitions and distribution by purchasing the Zac Posen doc House of Z and post it on Vogue.com. How did this experience go?
We buy films at festivals all the time, usually short films. It was the first time that it was TVOD [transactional video-on-demand], where the viewer will pay to rent a feature film. It did better than our projections, which is good news, but only two weeks ago in our window.
This story first appeared in the October 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, Click here to subscribe.