December 8, 2015
SCA Alumni Stories: David Freedman
By Eileen Kwon
Continuing to learn the ins and outs of the television business, David Freedman ’10 has made great strides as a producer and writer since graduating from SCA and has successfully headed Just Seen It, a movie and TV review show screened on the nationwide network PBS. Freedman recently shared about his start in the television industry, his experience as the show runner of Just Seen It, and his plans for the coming year.
How did you come to pursue an education and career in the Television industry? I was a literary agent representing screenwriters in the 1990s and also ran technology for USC in the 2000s. I met Marta Kauffman, the show runner for “Friends” around 2006, and decided that producing TV was something I really wanted to do.
Since graduating, how have your skills as a producer evolved both creatively and technically? Producing a weekly nationally televised half-hour show, 52 weeks a year, for PBS was an unbelievable experience. Creatively, we had to make the show fun and in some way unique every week, and technically, I learned to do everything, from camera operator and lighting, to sound design and editing. While I had an amazing cast and crew, I essentially turned into a one-man production company. There is a saying about producers that I now know to be true: “A producer is knowledgeable about everything and an expert at nothing.”
Could you walk us through the creation of Just Seen It, a public-Television-based movie and TV review show originally hosted by a group of SCA students? I was sitting in Café 84 having dinner and listening to a table of film students sitting next to me arguing vehemently about a movie they all just saw. It was fascinating to hear their very different takes on the same film, and thought there was a place for such discourse, especially since it had been a while since Siskel and Ebert had left their oeuvre. When we were asked to join the Broadcast Film Critics Association (which sponsors the Critics Choice Awards), we welcomed many esteemed guest reviewers onto the show.
As the showrunner for Just Seen It, what were some challenges you confronted and how did you overcome them? There were so many challenges, I am not sure where to begin, but the biggest one is always the biggest one — funding. Once we got picked up by the local PBS station and the started to go nationwide, I put a sales team together to try to sell ad space for our shows, which unfortunately is very restrictive when it comes to public television. Two years into the show, even though we were on 441 stations nationwide, I had to “self-cancel” it because the revenue simply was not there. Ironically enough, my decision was vindicated when a few months later, “Sesame Street” announced a deal with HBO.
Which movie or TV show has inspired your own style of filmmaking and your aspirations regarding the impact of your work on its audience? “Siskel and Ebert.” Enough said.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your early-twenties self? You will need every penny of your own money to produce your own stuff until you make a name for yourself. So, invest, invest, invest and don’t buy anything you don’t really need.
What projects are you currently working on? I decided to give myself a full year off after living and breathing Just Seen It for four years. Come January, I am going to start shopping my TV shows, which are fully developed, or find an agent to do it for me.