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Talent, relationships, and independence are the pillars Jane Featherstone is (again) betting her business on.
The veteran U.K. producer, and former CEO of Kudos, whose long list of credits include such groundbreaking, and global, shows as Broadchurch, Life on Mars, Spooks, Utopia, and Chernobyl, gave the keynote address at the MIPTV 2023, where she outlined the philosophy behind Sister Pictures, the company she runs with executive chair Elisabeth Murdoch and CEO Stacey Snider.
“When I set up Sister in 2015, it was about content and talent,” said Featherstone. “For me, that drives everything we do. It’s about working with the creatives we get to work with, and how we tell stories with people that innovate and break new ground. [It’s] always about the people. Everything in our business is about people and relationships.”
She noted that it was good to be back in person at MIPTV, “breaking bread with people and having a drink and a sit-down and a conversation, is critical to our European business.”
Featherstone and Snider took Sister to the next level in 2019, expanding the company from a British TV producer to a cross-platform global content hub, with deals with British animation film studio Locksmith Animation; Pamela: A Love Story producer Dorothy Street Pictures; the podcast company Campside; publishing group Zando; comic book and digital media publisher AWA Studios; and even a stake in iconic London music venue KOKO.
“In 2019, with Liz [Murdoch] who has been my friend and investor for many years, we were just talking about what’s next. She had been talking to Stacey Snider about how storytelling had evolved, and the way we were now listening to podcasts, more IP coming from comics, coming from all over the place,” said Featherstone. “We wanted to create a global studio that was about storytellers who could come together and find collaborative ways of working, and give a voice to people from all kinds of storytelling, as well as doing scripted. I’ve always been fierce and independent. We can be nimble and a buffer to the buyers who are brilliant partners but occasionally talent wants to have someone to look after them and support them and do their best work.”
Sister is not just about the human touch. Technology is behind one of the company’s recent ventures, an investment in Richard Bacon’s TV and tech entertainment group, Yes Yes Media.
“Our business is driven by technological change,” said Featherstone. “We like to work with creators that are innovative and see the future, and Richard is one of those. He’s an incredible format innovator and has brilliant ideas about using technology and creativity to come up with new ideas. We need to keep surprising our audiences.”
But technology can only take you so far, Featherstone said, telling the MIPTV audience the true key to success was to trust your gut. And do the work.
“Follow your instincts [but] be informed,” she said. “I read everything. I watch the first episode of everything. Be ambitious. Don’t just email people but meet them. We were just talking and telling our young colleagues to go out and get pissed with their colleagues.” Featherstone paused, before adding: “That’s so British.”
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