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The story of Winston Baker is one of female empowerment, friendship and building a community around curated content and events.
It started when Amy Baker and Katherine Winston met in 2001 at a company that organized finance events. Baker focused on business development and sponsorship sales, Winston on producing the events. The two became fast friends and stayed close when their careers took them separate ways.
Fast-forward to 2008: Baker was pregnant and Winston had just bought a house. Both shared the desire to stop “working for the man” and set up their own conference production business. “Eventually, we said, ‘Let’s do our own thing,’ ” recalls co-founder and CEO Baker. “We had so many years of working with all these finance people, but we didn’t see any events out there in entertainment, especially film.” Winston Baker, headquartered in Santa Monica, was born.
In just three years, Winston Baker became a brand name. At its third annual Film Finance Forum, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos was a keynote speaker, showcasing the duo’s ability to book events with a firm eye on the industry’s pulse and shifting landscape. “It was empowering and humbling all at once to launch a business together during the greatest financial recession of our generation,” recalls Winston. “I was in my early 30s at the time, and although I thought I knew everything, I quickly learned that I didn’t! Together, Amy and I combined our brain power, conference experience and our willing-to-risk-it-all attitude, and that was more than enough to propel us forward.”
Since both Winston and Baker were also raising sons, they made great efforts to balance the roles of dedicated mothers and dedicated co-founders. They would even take their kids to some of their global conferences, which they say helped to shape who their children are today.
Over the years, the company has put on events on the East and West Coasts of the U.S., in Toronto; London; Zurich; Cannes; Moscow; Los Cabos, Mexico; Rio de Janeiro; Singapore; Shanghai and, last December, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Featured big-name speakers read like a who’s-who of Hollywood: Rob Reiner, Taika Waititi, Danny Glover, Alicia Vikander, Paul Dano, Alfonso Cuarón, Julie Taymor, Asif Kapadia, Participant CEO David Linde, Black Bear Pictures boss Teddy Schwarzman, AGC Studios boss Stuart Ford and Imax CEO Rich Gelfond, to name a few.
Winston Baker also started covering such topics as music and the merging of entertainment and technology via blockchain, Web3 and the metaverse.
The COVID pandemic posed a major challenge for live events, though, and 2020 also saw Winston exit from the company. “I’m very happy for her,” emphasizes Baker. While others might have thrown in the towel, Baker kept fighting to put the company on a path to a future of “endless possibilities.” Taking over the firm was “one of the toughest things that I have done,” Baker admits. But she kept its community engaged, educated and “hopefully inspired,” she says with pride.
Indeed, Baker is not showing any signs of slowing down. This year, Winston Baker celebrates its 15th anniversary, as well as its 13th International Film Finance Forum held during the Cannes Film Festival. Organized in partnership with the fest’s Marché du Film, it will take place on Saturday, May 20, following 2022’s standing-room-only affair.
Baker talked to The Hollywood Reporter about Winston Baker’s approach and values, criticism about the firm’s recent event in Saudi Arabia, her goals after the first 15 successful years and what’s next for the company and her.
Looking back 15 years, tell us a bit about how the idea for Winston Baker started.
Katherine and I had originally been working for another company years ago. And that’s how we met, producing events in finance: distressed debt, private equity, hedge funds. That was interesting, but we were so burned out, because it was quantity over quality. We were doing so many events, and we really didn’t feel like they were deep dives. Then we went off and did different things. She was working in marketing for 3D company RealD, and I went off to do sponsorships for the Grammys and American Music Awards. And eventually, we said “let’s do our own thing.”
We both were very excited about the creative industry. She really loved the music industry, and at that time, there seemed to be already something there with the finance niche, which was our strong point. We had so many years of working with all these finance people, but we didn’t see any events out there in entertainment, especially film, where it’s about getting the money and financing and how do we do this? We saw a lot about producing or writing a script, but we thought there might be something to this.
That was in 2008. And we basically started Cinco de Mayo 2008. I was pregnant, and my son was born the next day, so he was a bit early. And it really did take off. We started in Los Angeles, and then New York. And eventually, when we were asked to come to Cannes and put something together, that’s when we started meeting people from all these other countries. We worked with the Zurich Film Festival, which was an amazing collaboration, for nine years. We were also in Shanghai for seven years. But before Shanghai, we dated and went to Beijing and Shanghai and said, “what’s going to make sense where?” We did a one-off in Singapore, a one-off in Moscow. And it just kept growing.
We have also seen the whole trajectory in the industry change. It has changed not only in the last three years because of this pandemic, but sales and distribution are totally different with all these platforms for distribution. It was very hard eight years ago to get a conversation going that finance people would be interested in documentaries. Now they are like, “Okay, we’ll, listen, we are interested.”
And then little by little, we also started focusing on other verticals in this industry, including music and our Confluence Summit to focus on the confluence of entertainment and technology, which we started in Silicon Valley to look at the technology behind the storytelling. And now we have really interesting conversations on Web3, the metaverse and blockchain technology.
Since you mention the metaverse and other newer topics, Winston Baker seems to have kept evolving to take on new hot-button topics. Did you or your team ever decide to put the spotlight on an emerging trend or issue that then didn’t turn out quite so well?
Absolutely. I myself was one of those people standing up in front of the audience holding up my credit card for MoviePass. I was like, “this is the greatest thing since sliced bread, let’s look at this.” And then that kind of failed.
How big a challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic for Winston Baker, particularly given that your bread-and-butter business is live events, and that Katherine moved on around that time as well?
Because of this pandemic, we have had to pivot. It was a big pivot, because we had been doing so many in-person events every year.
Suddenly, people were saying “they are going to shut down everything.” And I was like, “What, are you crazy? What are you talking about?” I was one of those people. I remember Katherine and I had an argument, and we barely ever argue – we are like sisters. And she was telling one of our clients in China, “I don’t know, it doesn’t look like we are going to be able to go, it seems like things are shutting down, and we are really nervous, and I don’t know if our speakers will want to go over to China.” And then after we got a phone call, I said, “Why would you say that? Of course, we are going to go there, this is going to blow over. It’s like when people get sick with the flu.” I was completely wrong. I never ever could have imagined.
So we did have to start canceling events. And we had sponsors on board, some of which had already paid, we had deposits for some hotels. And so it was about trying to get deposits back which they were doing. So thank goodness for that. And thank goodness we have so many great relationships with our sponsors who had been with us for years because they said, “save it now – in six months, whenever we can do it, we will use it.” And then when six months came, and we couldn’t do a live event, they were like, “Okay, let’s do some Zooms.” So we did some webinars and things like that, but the sponsors weren’t coming after us, wanting their money back. So we were really lucky. It could have been more devastating.
We ended up doing so many Zooms, which we then took down a notch because that was burning us out. But then people thought that’s why Katherine had left, but it wasn’t because we had already planned that, even legally in documents, before. It just happened to be during the time of COVID. I’m very happy for her, and we got through the pandemic, knock on wood. We are here and we are moving forward.
So how did you manage to keep going without Katherine?
Now it is almost three years that I have taken over Winston Baker, so I really miss Katherine. We had this yin and yang thing that was amazing. But I’m super happy because she’s very, very happy where she is right now.
And I have a new Katherine (Witkowski), who goes by Katie, who is my right hand and my director of operations – she’s amazing.
Moving through this pandemic, we were doing a lot of virtual things, and it wasn’t about making money. Everyone knew that the Zooms were not about making money for us, right? And luckily I have a village of support.
It was about keeping our community engaged, connected, inspired. We had great speakers because the speakers were also sitting home alone. So I was able to bring in Danny Glover and have really interesting conversations on Web3 and the metaverse.
But I keep saying that it takes a village and how grateful I am for our community. It’s my life’s work right now. It’s great to have this presence in so many countries. When I say a village, it’s because all these people, all these storytellers, all these financiers, producers and filmmakers that I’ve met over the years, tell me about their stories and their interests. And it really makes me go, “Well, this is interesting to you, I’m sure this is interesting to a lot of other people.” So I start having ideas and saying we need to offer this, put this out there and create a platform for people.
For example, what we have done with our platform “Discover New Voices.” We were doing that in live events for a while, and then we were doing that online (during the pandemic) for people who may be new to the industry, who may be green, but they have great ideas. So we would do kind of like a contest, everyone submits pitches, and then a group of people would select who they want to hear the pitch from. But meanwhile, we would have a big agency executive, a big financier, a big producer, maybe someone who dealt with legal questions, and they would be the judges and would also be giving some feedback. I felt wow, we are leveling the playing field. This was an opportunity for new people in the industry, no matter how old they are and what their background is to have a voice, get it out there and maybe get it picked up. A couple of them have gone on and done things, and those are great stories.
People are always trying to use buzzwords, such as inclusion and diversity and things like that. Well, Katherine and I were two women and about inclusion and diversity and started this company in 2008. That was our initiative from day one. We were all women, and you know, inclusion, and of course, diversity. So in all of our forums and summits, we want that to not be the title of our conversation, but to be the conversation: “look at all these different people up here, look at all these interesting backgrounds.” So, it’s about the community. People have inspired me to continue to pivot or to grow and learn myself and offer education and networking where maybe they didn’t have it before.
Do you ever get critical feedback from your community on events or choices?
A lot of people did question when we decided to do Saudi Arabia this past December. It was controversial. Because I have such close friends in the industry, some people were straight shooters and were like: “Amy, what’s going on? Have you considered this?”
The truth is, you have to look at this from not a political perspective because there is a creative community that lives there and all they want is for their stories to get out into the world. So I had to look at the initiatives that they are doing for women, which was really impressive to me.
It was about getting stories heard. For example, the producers I was bringing in to speak, the financiers and agents from the U.S. and from the U.K., meant that now they were in front of these people who could actually listen to their story. And then maybe there is an opportunity for something to come to fruition or a conversation to be had or a connection to be made. Maybe it’s not this story, but it’s the next story. Now you have that connection, and you can move forward.
It was the easiest thing for me to make my decision when I realized that this community had been underserved. They had been not given any of these opportunities for I don’t know how many years. And I’m like an underdog, too. So it just made sense, and I really love it. I’d love to go back, hopefully, this year doing something. It sounds corny, but it’s so true: I saw so much excitement there.
I had one of my speakers, Michael Uslan, who owns the rights for the Batman movies, who sold his comic book collection years ago and is now attached to Joker, Batman, everything. He was telling the story about how it took him even 10 years to make that first Batman, because no one believed in turning a comic book into this big, dramatic film. And people in the audience were hanging on every word. They just loved it. And when I was looking around, instead of videotaping with my phone everything that Michael was saying, I was just looking at the people in the audience and their expressions and their gratitude. People came up and were so thankful to have this moment to sit and listen to all these different types of speakers. So, I came away with a very good feeling, and I felt like we did good.
Winston Baker previously organized events in Beijing and Shanghai. Did you ever face criticism about putting on events in China back then, too?
Even when I first started going over in 2011 to look at doing events in China, and I went to Beijing and Shanghai, I never got pushback here from speakers about why would you do it there or anything about the political environment. If anything, I had a lot of people that wanted to jump on that bandwagon because they thought, “Oh, we’re going go there, and they are gonna give us millions of dollars to make our movies.” So some of those people I tried to weed out, too, because we are all looking for opportunities, but I didn’t want people to look at it as their cash cow. These are your partners, these are productions. So I wanted people to look at it as we are making this bridge, creating this bridge. And I always felt like we were helping to build this bridge, and I do feel satisfied with the way that we did that.
There were some events though… Moscow was a one-off, and Katherine and I did that. And we said “that was interesting.” And we understood why they were trying to educate their investor base on making smart investments and mitigating risk and things like that. But it didn’t make sense for us to do this annually.
Zurich though was such an amazing partnership. The festival was beautifully set, right in downtown Zurich. But then our conference was up on the mountain. It looked like we were in a castle and it was a weekend thing with a fun tennis tournament sponsored by Head, so we gave everybody the whole outfit. And then there was a big dinner with festival VIPs and all the celebrities and the producers. It was a partnership, we had like our own little bubble, and so many deals came from that. I still see movies sometimes and remember when they were talking about them at the dinner. We continued to do it year after year for nine years.
I think that if it hadn’t been for COVID we would still be going to Shanghai, which seemed like it was such a melting pot for people from all over the world. Beijing, where we did one big event, was definitely a financial center, but more China-centric, whereas Shanghai had a more international focus.
Let’s turn to Cannes, your company’s longest-running international “love affair,” so to speak. How long has Winston Baker organized events there now and how did that collaboration come about?
This will be our 13th year there. It’s the best.
Actually, we did it independently for the first seven years. We were invited to Cannes to do a big investor party on a yacht. We thought if we are going to be there, then why don’t we just book some space, and we’ll see what happens. So we started at the Majestic with a small room upstairs that only fit 95 people. It was sold out, it was packed, and it was a big success. So then the next year we did it again. And then we did it at the Majestic for few years, and then we moved to the Carlton, because we needed a bigger ballroom and some more space, and it just grew and grew.
And it’s funny, because Jerome (Paillard) when he was running the Cannes market, now he is retired, talked to us for years. “Why don’t you do it here?” And we were like, “no, we’re good where we are, we have our own thing – we’re still friends.” But it made sense. We started partnering when in the morning we were doing an immersive summit, which was more focused on technology and things like that. So the first 100 people who were market badge holders could attend our morning program, complimentary, as part of the Marché program. And that’s how we, little by little, started dipping our toes in the water and working together. And we loved it. It was great and was bringing in a lot of interesting people. And we would give them a huge discount if they decided to stay for the afternoon, which would be our International Film Finance Forum. We didn’t move over to the Palais until COVID, because the Carlton was also on renovation, and I was very hesitant, now being the sole owner of Winston Baker, about taking on a big risk. Do I pay $30,000-$50,000 and get a big hotel as the venue; we didn’t know if 100 people would want to even sit in the room next to each other.
Jerome and (his successor) Guillaume (Esmiol, head of the Cannes Marché du Film) and Anahit (Ordian, head of conferences) we have now been working with for years. Jerome said, “come, we have a stage, we are going to be recording everything, it is going to be streamed live for all the people that can’t travel because of COVID.” This was our first year back, 2021. We all had to do a (COVID) test every day. I personally didn’t want to go sit in a room with 300 people. (Winston Baker used to have 300 attendees when it held events at the Carlton.) But we said, “okay, we’ll do the stage,” and people could still wear their masks. So we tried it for the first time in 2021 using the stage of the Palais, and it went really well, and our relationship went well. I loved the fact that it was available to everyone all over the world who wasn’t in Cannes but was part of the virtual Cannes.
We acquired so many new followers or people to add to our database. And then last year, 2022, was the second year there, and it was great. We had more people, and we had Rob Reiner who was amazing and really good other speakers. So it’s just been wonderful. The main stage at the Palais holds 225, and we have been packed, standing room-only.
This year, the Carlton reopened, and I was in contact with them. But my first conversations were with Anahit and Guillaume at the festival market, because it’s just been working so well. I’m like that, and Winston Baker is also known for this, these relationships that we build. It’s very important to me that the people that I work with I like and I want to make sure that everyone feels that they are getting value from our relationship. Relationships are key. That’s my life, I’m about relationships.
You mentioned this community focus before. Any long-established relationships that may help with new event ideas?
The relationships that I built in China over the years are now coming back (to help) because China and many parts of Asia are coming back to Cannes this year for the first time in years. I have been brought on to partner with some Chinese companies, and we are doing a China Summit in Cannes (under the theme “Reimagine China, Revamp Global Collaboration”). So it’s like their welcome back. It is going to be very interesting and going to also have a whole component of sci-fi, which is a very commercially successful genre for China.
Without giving away your secret sauce, how does Winston Baker make money and how is that changing or has that changed?
It has definitely changed over the years. In the beginning, it was mostly the registrations, and then we would start bringing in sponsors. Luckily, our sponsors would continue to come back over and over again. So then we knew we can plan an event, the sponsors are going to cover the overhead of the hotel, the food, the beverage, and then it was the revenue from the registrations that was going to basically pay and compensate us for all those months of work. And then that dynamic changed a bit. Sometimes we have more sponsorships, sometimes more registrations.
When I work with festivals, a lot of times we don’t get any registrations, because as long as you have the badge for the festival, you have automatic access. A lot of times with the festival, you do a revenue share, or it depends. I have also been brought on to festivals to produce content, and the festival pays outright, they pay you and hire you. And that will be “in association with Winston Baker,” because I always say not just my name has value, but the Winston Baker company name has value. Just like when we did Red Sea 360° in Association With Winston Baker (in Saudi Arabia). Because, yes, I’m being brought in to produce this, but you still have a partner, and I want to work together.
I do get white-label offers a lot. If I really believe in it, I’ll still say okay. But it’s not going to be a white label if you want to do it with me. Then it’s going to be “in association with Winston Baker,” because you should want the value of my brand. Also, if I’m going to stand behind something and invite people and if my reputation is already behind it, I have to be very selective about that as well.
During COVID, with the Zooms we didn’t make money. That was just to engage, connect, inspire. And that was more about “now it’s our turn to give back to everybody that gave us so much over the years.”
Tell me about the smaller events you have been doing as of late…
I have done a lot of events in the past year, which were private investor cocktails or investor dinners. It is an invitation-only thing, maybe 30 people, maybe 50 people, but it is still my Rolodex that I am using to call on these people. So I still have to put myself out there. If I’m going to put myself out there, I really have to believe in it. And if I believe in it, I also want you to include me as a co-host or something like that.
When Katherine left the company, did you two ever think about changing the company name to just Baker or something else?
It was a five-minute conversation, or maybe two minutes. We knew before COVID, it wasn’t because of COVID, that Katherine wanted to transition out and do something else (and ended up at an analytics company changing the way people value and invest in residential real estate). She’s always been interested in technology. She’s the geeky, beautiful, brainy girl. At one point, she goes: “But is it weird that it would still be Winston Baker, and I’m not there anymore?” The first thing I said was: “No, we built this company together. We built this brand together, and I’m going to move forward with the brand. And she totally understood and was like, ‘Yeah, of course.” Because it wouldn’t be the same. It’s our story, so that conversation lasted two minutes, and it was squashed.
And it’s funny, because I lost Katherine in the sense that she is not with me every day, and I miss her all the time. But my new right hand, who started as a volunteer, then she was an intern and then an at-will consulting, or I forget what we called her. Now she does my operations and our social media. And her name is Katie, but her full name is really Katherine. So it was like I couldn’t get away from Katherine.
Is it just you two or how big is the rest of your team? And where do you spend most of your time when not at one of the Winston Baker events?
It’s the two of us full-time, every day, all day, 24 hours. We are actually eight people, but the others also do other things. Some act or work in the film industry, but whenever there is an event, or if we just need all hands on deck, they work with his. I brought six of us over to Saudi.
We used to have an office in Santa Monica (where Winston was before moving to Seattle), and I had my home office in Pennsylvania. I am in New York City three days a week. Katie was in London when she first started working for me, then she was in Bermuda, now she’s in Toronto.
I am curious to find out more about the smaller events you have been organizing as of late. Are most of them based on a theme, say, financing documentaries, or music catalog sales or what’s their focus?
Most of those have been investor-focused with different themes for investors or executives in entertainment. There could be a host who puts on the dinner, we put it on together, but it is their dinner and maybe they are talking about what they are doing in Web3 right now and storytelling. It’s funny you mention music catalog deals, because we had a music event that ended up focusing on that. It wasn’t supposed to be. It was originally just going to be a music dinner for people at a firm with that specialty. But then it really turned more into a catalog deal discussion because some of my finance guys actually buy catalogs.
How big is the Winston Baker database and how many people typically come to your events?
It depends on the topic. When we were in Zurich, or we are in New York, for a very heavily finance, high-level type of event, you are looking at 200 people, maybe 150-200 people, while in Cannes, there are 300 people. The reason is that it’s very tailored towards a higher-level conversation. It’s not that a new filmmaker or a producer wouldn’t want to hear that. It’s just that these are people who have already been doing deals and are veterans in the industry. They are sometimes also more expensive, because we are doing them at a fancier venue, and there are dinners included and things like that.
In China, at the Shanghai Film Festival, we had a space that was for about 300-350 people, that was always sold out, always packed. We did another event in China in Beijing, there were 1,000 people. It was massive.
I prefer 150-250 people for regular events for when we were in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York. It’s manageable. You can even get around and maybe meet 50 people, quality contacts that you would like to have dinner with or have coffee with or something. The sweet spot, it is different in different countries and different depending on topics, would be 150 to 250 this sweet spot.
I would say our database is well over 50,000 specific to the entertainment industry, whether that’s film, television or music. Now we are starting to get, especially over the past 18 months, almost two years, some of those Web3 and techie people in there. But I would say that’s still probably about 1000 or less.
With 15 years in the books, what’s next for Winston Baker? You mentioned your Cannes event and the China summit there, maybe a return to Saudi Arabia. Anything else?
Thankfully, after COVID, we see the light, and we are moving forward, and we are excited. We are talking to other territories and countries and seeing what makes sense. So yeah, the future looks bright.
What’s your take on your future focus in terms of in-person versus online events?
Definitely live events. These intimate, curated dinners and cocktails that I’ve been doing this past year have been really interesting and very successful with the clients and attendees because you have that one-on-one time. So I do think that there’s something more to that. And I’ll continue doing things like that.
I do think that there’s definitely something to educational online, such as things that are recorded. I had some Zoom sessions that were very well attended. And afterwards people would keep sending messages about Web3 and blockchain technology. So I think that there are masterclass-type of situations where we can do videos, or you could just sign up for a series and then watch a bunch of different videos or do a Q&A. There’s something there. But in terms of a business plan, when you’re doing a lot of Zooms, I don’t think it’s financially viable.
We are looking at trying new territories, such as in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) region, like I’m doing with Saudi. Being in these regions where maybe we’re not hearing from the creatives as much or they don’t have those platforms, is really interesting to me. It’s nice to think let’s go to Malta or something and hang out on the beach and do a film festival, of course. Who doesn’t want to do that?! But if we could go to Indonesia or something like that and create something where they don’t have big huge budgets, but they have this talent and community and desire, I’m willing to work with these communities. It’s exciting to me being able to be that bridge.
It’s about bringing people together, including different people who usually don’t have conversations, such as technology people with the entertainment people. That’s happening more now. But when we first did our event in Silicon Valley, the tech people that I was working with were so impressed. Sam Raimi was up there talking about his first film where he was making his own blood. And people like YouTube’s (co-founder) Steve Chen was in the audience, and he said, “Sam Raimi is so cool. And then I have people like Sam Raimi in the audience.”
Putting together some people sometimes may seem strange, but I have done a lot of events lately with athletes talking to people about the metaverse or athletes talking about blockchain, and you don’t normally connect the two because you may be thinking “oh, that’s a jock.” But nerds are also really cool. I love bringing together people from different areas that you wouldn’t normally put in a room together. But it makes sense and who knows what can come from those conversations, something really exciting.
I’ll even give you an example that has nothing to do with entertainment. I’m on the national board of advisors for the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. It’s the only board I’m on. I really believe in cancer research as it obviously affects us all. Has nothing to do with entertainment. But one of my friends in the industry, Ted Schilowitz, who’s the futurist-in-residence at Paramount Pictures. He has the coolest title ever. When I grow up, I want to be Ted. He is also just an amazing, brilliant, beautiful human being and just really cares about people. Because of that, over the years, I had little by little told him what I was doing with Moffitt. Ted is from Florida and knew Moffitt. So I connected them about two years ago and he joined the board of advisors. Because he sees all this technology all the time and entertainment, he started bringing that into the conversation with Moffitt about virtual reality and AI and all these things. So now Moffitt is implementing some of these things, for not just their cancer research, but also to educate other people about what they are doing.
Any favorite speakers who you and your team have booked more than once?
I have had David Linde multiple times. I think he’s just a beautiful human being, a good person. With Stuart Ford I have worked l since the beginning, and he’s been a big supporter. Don Hahn, the producer of such Disney movies as Maleficent, is a nice guy and breaks down storytelling for the audience. There are some good guys in Hollywood. So many friends have such great information, and they are so generous with their time and information.
And I did kind of fangirl out a little bit when I had Rob Reiner in Cannes last year. He was real and sweet and warm. I was very, very happy.
Is there anybody you would love to have as a speaker at one of your events who you have never gotten or who has never had the time?
There are a couple of very talented people, like Charlize Theron, I think that she’s a brilliant businesswoman, and Reese Witherspoon, a brilliant businesswoman. And they are creative talents. I have tried to get Ryan Coogler back over the years because he was at our events in Zurich, but we haven’t been able to get him to get up on stage yet. I’d like to though because I’ve heard him speak. I had Alfonso Cuarón speak in Beijing for us once so many years ago, and I still keep reaching out all the time. And I’d like to get (Netflix co-CEO) Ted Sarandos back. He spoke for me in Los Angeles many years ago. But I have been so lucky and fortunate over the years. We have had so many incredible speakers at Winston Baker events.
Do you have any long-term plan or vision for yourself beyond Winston Baker?
Actually, before COVID happened, with everything that Winston Baker has been able to offer, I have been able to connect so many people, for example, money with talent, with the creative. There have been so many businesses and friends that found their first investors at my events. One of our first examples was back in 2010 at our New York Film & TV Forum. My friend Courtney Lauren Penn met her first financier and went on to produce with them Gallowwalkers with Wesley Snipes and Dark Hearts. Now she is partnered with Thomas Jane, and they own Renegade Entertainment.
I have always been this middleman, this relationship builder, connector, and I decided that I wanted to produce.
So I think I started telling friends in the industry around February 2020, maybe January, I knew that I was going to start producing because I have already been putting together people for all these years. But only something that makes sense to me. And then, of course, within six weeks, I think we were shut down because of COVID. But at least it did help me start to think more about that and development and things like that.
So yes, Winston Baker, I want to move forward, I want to see where it goes. I want to see the people that come on board, like Katie, who has just turned 28, maybe one day want to do something more with it, or they will come up with new things. They’ll come up with ideas that 28-year-olds find very interesting. And then, not that I would move away from Winston Baker, but then I also want to pursue my passion of really now putting my name onto something, really putting together some pieces and producing content, whether that’s film, television or whatever it is.
Are there any topic areas you would like to produce content for?
I am working with my son (30), and we are committed to creating art that not only entertains but also sparks conversations and drives positive change. It’s funny because he was a college athlete and happened to get the “content creator” bug while traveling with me to festivals around the world for many years. We strive to produce impactful content that inspires, educates and empowers audiences to take action and make a difference.
Interview edited for clarity and length.
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