Banff Boss Talks Emmy Campaigns, Dealmaking at Hollywood Rocky Mountain Retreat

Jenn Kuzmyk - Banff World Media Festival - Publicity-P 2018
Courtesy of Banff World Media Festival

"There's so much of a community feeling. People don't call it 'Camp Banff' for nothing," executive director Jenn Kuzmyk said of the annual event, the 39th edition of which kicks off Sunday.

If you thought a secluded mountain paradises are just for jet-setters, think again.

The Banff World Media Festival, nestled in the Canadian Rockies, makes for surprisingly intimate dealmaking in an alpine setting, according to executive director Jenn Kuzmyk. A chance conversation with a high net-worth individual on a mountain gondola, or in the Banff Springs Hotel's Rundle Lounge, can lead to TV's next big thing.

"There's so much of a community feeling. People don't call it 'Camp Banff' for nothing," Kuzmyk insists. Before the industry retreat gets underway Sunday, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with the Banff chief to chat about why dealmaking is in the air at the annual event and why launching mile-high Emmy Award season campaigns in the Rocky Mountains makes sense for Hollywood studios.

Banff has always been more of a market for new ideas for new TV seasons than finished product. Are fresh ideas just what an increasingly fractured TV business needs?

Original ideas are what drives the industry. It's a never-ending market that needs to be fed. And Banff is a very special place, and one of the most unique things about it. It may be the setting, but it's also the mindset and the festival's reputation for being where people can make formal pitches and also just have conversations with people and form relationships that turn into new projects. So it's a market where we want to promote new ideas, and celebrate shows that are already made as we do with the master classes and awards.

Banff looks like it's doing more to get onto the Emmy Awards campaign trail, helping networks, especially NBCUniversal this year, promote their shows at home and worldwide.

The festival is uniquely positioned in terms of timing in the year to allow for Emmy Award campaigns to kick off. We've heard from different studios and networks and production companies looking at the festival as a place where they can add to their campaigns. Banff has been in June for 39 years and, as award campaigns grow and adapt, people are looking for new ways and places to highlight their accomplishments and get more recognition, and Banff allows them to do that.

You're also bringing more Hollywood stars and talent to the festival to tout their TV series, and there's even paparazzi on the red carpet.

It's both onscreen talent and behind. Writers, showrunners and producers and actors are an important part of the festival. Every year we highlight talked-about shows, and we are doing that this year with Ralph Macchio coming for the Cobra Kai series, Chrissy Metz is coming for This Is Us, and we're doing a focus on The Good Doctor. These big shows having talent coming to the festival is important because the talent is an integral part of the creative, and it gives the festival just a little more glitter and stature.

Away from the glitter, business-wise, Banff always seems to be going beyond hurried 15-minute appointments to a more informal setting for conversations and dealmaking.

People do tend to take more time in their schedule for others. We really do want it to be a place where you can be excited about what you do, and you should never come away from the festival feeling stressed. You should come away invigorated and excited. You can't be in that stunning place and not be inspired.

Is it the seclusion of the Canadian Rockies, and the host Banff Springs Hotel, where, in a business driven by relationships, you really have little alternative but to come together for conversations?

You really are far away from the office and it feels like it. And that has an effect, and how people are open to each other. Banff has also offered good access to industry players. For producers, they can meet with people and get meetings with people that might be difficult to secure anywhere else because Banff is so relaxed. And in that secluded Banff Springs Hotel, everyone, from indie producers to studio heads, they all gather at the same cocktail parties and networking events. There's so much of a community feeling. People don't call it 'Camp Banff' for nothing.

Banff does have its own market, even if it's mostly without big exhibits and booths.

Things have to be made and have to be sold. There's a lot of business that happens at the festival. Over the years, billions of dollars of business has been done. The business has been there, but in terms of being a market, we know nothing is made for one country only. In that sense, the business side of Banff is being a market to co-produce, whether that means co-ventures or pre-sales. That's key, so it's not just fresh ideas, of which there's a lot. People need that last little bit, or a co-production partner, or a distributor to come on board. That's necessary as it's more and more competitive to secure those top shows. And if you can get in at the early stage, in Banff, all the better.