Producer Gigi Pritzker on Staying Nimble and Embracing Risk

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A few years ago, veteran indie film producer Gigi Pritzker had a stroke of “Genius.”

Pritzker had been trying for years to get a movie biopic of Albert Einstein off the ground but the script and other elements never quite gelled. She eventually realized the problem was that Einstein’s remarkable life was too unwieldy for a two-hour format. But it was ripe for execution as a limited TV series.

Welcome to “Strictly Business,” Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Today’s guest is Pritzker, CEO of production banner MWM.

The Einstein project, produced in partnership with Imagine Entertainment, became the basis of the National Geographic Channel’s “Genius” anthology series, which is heading into its third season next year. The “Genius” experience encouraged Pritzker to reorganize her erstwhile OddLot Entertainment banner from a film-centric production entity to a focus on developing stories that will seek their natural level whether it be in film, TV, short-form digital, VR and AR, theater or live location-based formats.

“We didn’t want to be stand behind technology or changes in the industry,” Pritzker said. “We wanted to be nimble enough not to be knee-capped by that and to be able to pivot when we needed to pivot.”

MWM stands for Madison Wells Media, which refers to the intersection in Chicago where her great-grandfather once sold newspapers.

“It occurred to me three years ago as Netflix was growing and Amazon was coming into the space that we really needed to orient ourselves around story. Whichever way that story gets executed, all of those opportunities to express story are available under one roof now at Madison Wells media,” Pritzker said. “We’re really not dependent solely on our film business or our live business. We really are a group that can express story in a lot of different ways.”

Pritzker discusses the state of the independent film business and her company’s experiments with VR and immersive entertainment ventures. She’s come along way from her roots making industrial films in New York in the early 1980s.

“That’s what everybody did back then,” Pritzker said of the indie production scene at the time. “A company would come to you and say ‘This is the caster on this chair, and we need a video to sell it.’  Trying to tell the story of the most boring piece of equipment ever known to man and make it interesting — it was great training.”

Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous episodes featuring FX’s John LandgrafAMC Networks CEO Josh SapanShowtime’s David NevinsSpotify’s Dawn OstroffBankable Productions’ Tyra BanksHBO’s Richard Plepler, and Entertainment Studios’ Byron Allen. A new episode debuts every Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, and SoundCloud.

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