Sept. 28, 2021

How to Go from Concept to TV Shows and Feature Film Ep. 37


Jenny Feterovich is an award-winning TV and film Producer known for the hit TV show “START UP” and the feature film “The Russian Five” along with many other projects.  She is the Executive Producer of Muse Production House and co-founder of Parliament Studios. She’s a lifelong entrepreneur and small business advocate, focusing on empowering women and immigrants in business. Jenny also made a name in the music world as the globetrotting DJ Jenny LaFemme and co-creator of Girls Gone Vinyl, a project that highlights and advances women in electronic music. 

Jenny arrived in the US with 6 suitcases and $100 to her name. Her family fled their native Russia and landed in Detroit in 1989, immediately jumping into small business. Since then, she has created several corporations, worked with several Fortune 500 companies (including American Express, General Motors, State Farm, Jaguar Land Rover, UPS, Microsoft, GoDaddy), and had travelled as a motivational speaker. She has spoken at DIG South, SUP-X, and Detroit Startup Week, SXSW and is currently a board member of EO Detroit and incoming President for 2022.  She also does nonprofit work around the world, from Habitat For Humanity to Godmothers Detroit. 

Jenny is currently working on a series of books on entrepreneurship based on the hundreds of small business interviews her show has conducted over nine seasons.

Where to Find Jenny Feterovich

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Transcript

[00:00:00] Jenny: We make television we're in the business of storytelling. We're never going to run out of stories. There's a million stories, but it's continuously to find funding for this project, whether we're talking to a network, whether we're talking to sponsors, because yes, today we'll have it at season nine and for nine seasons we've been successful. But can I guarantee that there's a season 10? 

[00:00:20] Natasha: Welcome to Fascinating Entrepreneur. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life? Are they building to exit these and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and Fascinating Entrepreneurs.

If you'd like to know how to scale and grow your business and make more profits. Sign up on my website, natashamiller.co to get on the wait list for my entrepreneurial masters course.

On today's episode, I talked to Jenny Feterovich and Parliaments Studio. She's an award-winning TV and film producer known for the hit TV show START UP and the feature film, the Russian five, along with many other projects, we discuss how she gets shows on TV from concept to sponsor and what her biggest challenges are in her business. Today. Now let's get right into it. 

[00:01:27] Jenny: So I was about 19 years old and I opened a retail store in a really bad neighborhood. And it was called a Sortie. And nobody could say that name. I mean, obviously I had no idea what I was doing, but that was my first epic business failure. 

[00:01:43] Natasha: But you learn so much. Okay. First of all, what was it called? 

[00:01:46] Jenny: Yeah, exactly. Right. Nobody could say it. It was called Asortee, which is like a French word for like an assortment of different things. But in retrospect, I just had no idea what I was doing. I think somebody said, start your business with an "A", so people can find it on yellow pages.

I'm just dating myself now. Yeah. So I went with that. 

[00:02:07] Natasha: That's funny. How long did that stay up a year? 

[00:02:12] Jenny: Probably about a year, again, I didn't know a location. It was in a bad neighborhood. The store kept getting robbed and they would cause more damage to the actual, like physical property than in things that they would steal.

So it just became such a headache. I wasn't making any money. Then the police would call me all the time. So yeah, about a year is when my patients ran out? 

[00:02:34] Natasha: Right, and so that was retail and 19, that's a big bite to take off at that young age, but it doesn't sound like you had any imposter syndrome keeping you from doing something of that magnitude. What was the engine that was running inside of you? 

[00:02:54] Jenny: I always think about like all this different, crazy things that I get myself into. And I would say my whole life has been a serious of wine. Not like I just go, why not? And I just started doing it, honestly. I would probably think it was my mother because she was so brave.

And she has started her life so many times over and over again, like just the whole idea that when we left the Soviet Union to come to America, we had nothing. We had to leave everything behind. We came here. Six suitcases or the a hundred dollars. And I think on a subconscious level, I just saw her as such a fearless bad-ass that that's just like, I'm hoping genetically somewhere landed in me because I would just always try new things.

[00:03:36] Natasha: Well, I know you're a bad-ass so it did transfer. So I'm really intrigued about the show START UP. How did that come to be? And not only how did it come to be, but how did you find the deal for it to be produced? But also, I don't know what the term is in show business, but licensed to air. 

[00:03:55] Jenny: So that's another serious of why nots about 12 years ago, 12 and a half years ago, roughly there was film industry that came to Michigan was incentives.

So a friend of mine came to me and he said, we should open a business around the film industry. I said, why not? That's interesting film industry, something different. I like films. So I opened my first business, which was called Filming in Detroit. We supplied extras, cars and locations. I quickly learned.

It's not something I wanted to do is like the bottom of the totem pole is just not a lot of competition. So I opened up my own production car. So at first it was really working with commercial clients and then a friend of mine who I knew through deejaying and techno came to me with this idea. He showed up one day.

He said, I have an idea. I know how people do this because I have a friend who does a local Michigan PBS show. Let's do a show, but entrepreneurship we'll go around, ask people how they started a business and we'll cherry pick for information. Oh, we'll become better business people. I like that. Let's do this.

So we shot a pilot, we took it to a local PBS and they said to us, oh my God, this is so great. We want to do it regionally, go to Chicago, shoot another pilot. We ended up doing that, came back and they said, we're going to take you guys nationally. So we're popping champagne, we're celebrating. And then they looked at us and they said, now go find.

Which then we found ourselves, cause we had no idea how any of it works. We found ourselves just like any entrepreneur proof of concept. But when I needed financing behind the show, PBS is a slightly different model. All of the content is untouched by anybody. You control it, but it has to be sponsored whether it's foundations or corporations.

So we set out in a very difficult journey or finding a lot of money, which would add up eventually finding and launching our national PBS show where we are now in season nine. And we've done a hundred plus episodes of this television series. 

[00:05:50] Natasha: That just brought back a memory. My uncle Dan, Dan Miller was the Programming Director for Iowa public television forever.

And he passed away four years ago. But programming on PBS is typically excellent. So they told you to go out to get the money to fund the production. But where does any revenue come in for you and profit? 

[00:06:15] Jenny: Yeah. So the gap is like, let's say. And find a million dollars and I make the Shoal for eczema, whatever, half a million, 800,000 doesn't matter.

So that gap was really the revenue for our company, as well as once we have content and we own it, we actually sell it and license it to other networks and overseas. So we're not 

[00:06:35] Natasha: Not necessarily just PBS? 

[00:06:37] Jenny: So we're an Amazon Prime and we are licensed to lots of airlines and we're in like 40 plus countries right now.

And the bigger your library of content is obviously the more licensing you can do and the more you can sell the show. 

[00:06:52] Natasha: That's really exciting. So when you had this idea to start your production company beside DJ, which involves audio did you have any experience in film production? 

[00:07:05] Jenny: Absolutely. No. And just like, at some point they had no experience in DJ, playing music running multiple other businesses. I ran. I did not. So I started it. I believe you need common sense to run a business and the product is a product, and obviously you can learn things or you just hire really, really good people. Right? So outside of technical skills, obviously I don't shoot on cameras. I don't do any of the technical stuff that is required to make a film and television.

I'm a producer. So my job is to put all the right pieces together. 

[00:07:38] Natasha: You're the get shit done, girl.

[00:07:41] Jenny: Yeah, just pure experience.

[00:07:44] Natasha: Okay. So when you figured out how to get the show going, how to get financial backers, how to license it, then does that make your brain explode and want to come up with a whole line of different projects? What's the next step? 

[00:08:01] Jenny: Yeah. So, I mean, it took us a while to really figure out the whole machine and PBS machine and how to properly make a show because to your point, I didn't know what I was doing.

Neither did my business partner. And the first two years of our show really reflect that. Honestly, when we look at it now and we'll look back, like for instance, we decided that. Three businesses. In one episode, we now have one and we shot that in the same amount of time. So it took us probably about three years or four years to really get the shoulder to the point where like, okay, now it's where it needs to be.

We understand how those machine is oiled. And of course, naturally I've moved on to doing this show, several other shows and we stepped out of the PBS model. We have a show on HDTV DIY network. 1 20 19. And I had the, one of the top grossing documentaries in the box office worldwide. So I started reaching out and into other projects and just outside of the PBS scope as well.

[00:08:59] Natasha: Okay. So what is the ultimate next, or hopefully next TV, film project you'd like to do not having to do with you don't think you can get the funding for it. What is the dream project? 

[00:09:13] Jenny: Well, currently what I'm working on in is my dream project is to tell stories about immigrants that came to him. Yeah. And there are pockets of that in every single city in their very specific pockets.

And my goal is really, I would like to host the show and ultimately the viewer would learn about different cultures. How in white people get here, what are they all about? And ultimately what has been their contribution to America? That's my dream. I want people to understand who we are. As immigrants as refugees, why would come here?

And we're not just some random people with accents that are here to take people's jobs. So that's really my dream. 

[00:09:54] Natasha: I was just interviewing another ELL member from New York and he's from Mexico and has built an incredible company and his story about being an immigrant and now helping other immigrants and people with accents get a leg up is incredible.

I would love to connect you. So for your business, what are you doing and what are you planning to scale and grow? For this year, the year 2021. 

[00:10:23] Jenny: So at the scale and grow for us, it's all about having multiple shows. So particularly in this moment, we're scaling up into two other projects. So that's the biggest challenge because some projects we do want to stay in the PBS model, which is all about educate and inspire people, which is what we cannot do on traditional networks.

So to get the two shows before the end of the year sponsor, then kind of off the ground and to be there.

[00:10:49] Natasha: Right. So talk to me about the sponsorship. How do you source the sponsors? Are you showing them a razzle-dazzle pitch deck? What is the agreement between the two sources that really work for both of you? 

[00:11:03] Jenny: Of course. So we're an entrepreneurship space, so it's obviously eyeballs, light spots and that, so it's immediate. Not immediate why it's also a brand play for a lot of people because we do experiential. We do a lot of things with our sponsors. So it's really for START UP, we identify who are the companies out there really saying we want to support small business.

And that just in a way where they say it, because we actually turned people away before that just want to play in this arena. But we feel they really ultimately truly don't care about the end-results. So that's not somebody we're going to put in front of millions of people that watch our show. So it's to identify who aligns with, or the content that we're producing.

Then it's a never ending game of getting to the right people and pitching them hoping not to get stuck in either middle management or an agency where they don't like things that are not their ideas. So we like to go directly to CMOs and CEOs and hopefully our goals align and we're in front of them and they love what we do.

And they come with a ride with us, which successfully like this year. And for the last three years, it's a Land Rover. Jaguar has been our prime sponsor for automotive. We're actually the first team you showed the premier the new defender for 2022. 

[00:12:12] Natasha: Wow. 

[00:12:13] Jenny: Osstell premier that this the print go, daddy. So companies like this, spectrum charter cable, this people are with us and they've been with us for several years.

They sponsor the show. So as we move on to other contents and other projects, we're just looking for those companies that want to be in front of millions of people with their messaging. Are these 

[00:12:32] Natasha: sponsors measuring their ROI or is it really like a branding play? 

[00:12:38] Jenny: It's branding play as well as there's definitely ROI involved. I mean, we do have, again, spots and dots, eyeballs. We produce branded content for them, which is an added value social campaign, digital campaign. So all of it is there. 

[00:12:52] Natasha: And for a show, like for instance, on PBS, when you're trying to find investors or sponsors. Are you looking for one for the entire show or can it be for, or what is the limit or what's the max?

[00:13:06] Jenny: So we get 60 seconds up front, 60 seconds in the back. They have to mirror each other. If one person wants to come in and write us a million dollar check world for it, that would make our life much easier. But typically it's four people for companies that we're bringing on board yet. 

[00:13:22] Natasha: So today, as you're sitting here, I'd like to talk about the scaling and growth. The big wins. But as you know, in the EO, we kind of dive deeper. We don't need each other in the middle. And do chit-chat. We talk about our incredible top-line and our really difficult bottom line. And I'm wanting to know, to share with everyone. What is the biggest challenge that you're facing today in your current business?

[00:13:49] Jenny: Honestly, it's always done certain to have the finances. It's what it is. Right. We make television we're in the business of storytelling. We're never going to run out of stories. There's a million stories, but it's continuously to find funding for this project, whether we're talking to in that work, whether we're talking to sponsors because yesterday we'll have it in season nine and for nine seasons we've been successful.

But can I guarantee that there's a season 10? My optimistic self. Yes. But every year it's still a challenge. And especially last year, I mean, we were sitting March in a pandemic kid and we watched every single sponsor take a step back and we we're sitting there going, how are we going to make the season?

It wasn't like, we're not making it. If we have to make it with our own money, we would because that's probably one of the most important seasons. This is when you step in and say, this is what people are doing to survive. But March and April, it was very stressful for us because we didn't know what was going to happen.

And we really took that time to take what we do well, which is corporate sponsorship. And we started helping people and nonprofits and connecting them with companies and their needs. It was just something like completely off keel, not something that related to our show, but finances it's always like who is going to fund the next project.

[00:15:06] Natasha: So how big is your core team at the production company? 

[00:15:09] Jenny: So our core team is about six people. And then it was scale up and down, depending on how many we're shooting and each production requires different people. Technically to be involved, somebody who works in documentary or a feature films are typically two completely different.

[00:15:26] Natasha: How do you keep the six of you engaged and culturally intact, especially in the last, almost two years now, what is it that you do? Do you do team bonding as the leader? Like maybe everything that you do is so cool that they're just happy as it is, but as a CEO leader, what is it that you look to do to help make that tapestry strong?

[00:15:51] Jenny: You know, I learned something super important about myself as a leader, through a horse in season four, I was in San Francisco, actually outside of San Francisco, filming this company called Circle of Experience where they teach you about leadership sort of horse interaction. But when I cast them for the show, I was like, I don't know about this.

I was very skeptical. I often do this. And when I showed up, she had us preform every person on our team perform the same past and she watched us. And then she gave us feedback and that'd be as easy as like putting a thing on a horse or the biggest exercise was to walk into the ring and make the horse run.

And she did that right before we did that. And some people would walk in and make the horse run. Some people couldn't even get it to move. So I walked in, I had a very interesting interaction with a horse. I was like, come on four smooth in a horse. So then she pulled me why the horse wouldn't move.

Eventually. She said the horse is not moving because you didn't make a connection with a horse. She's like, you're an alpha, you're super task oriented you on your shit. But horses don't like. They like for you to get to know them. She said, just think about as you lead. And for years that has stayed with me.

I am super personal. I have conversations with everybody on my team. I make sure it's not, I don't ever start my conversations, business-related it's about them merely knowing and caring about what's happening in their life or their weekend. And I think that's the biggest attribute of the white people want to do what they do is stay in companies because there is that personal connection.

And of course, when you don't have a team of six and it's much bigger, it's probably harder. For me personally, this works. That's great. 

[00:17:29] Natasha: Okay. So the last question I have for you is about deejaying. You've been a DJ for a long time. I've seen you DJ for EO events. I'm assuming that you were making a living at one point doing it, and now it's kind of sprinkled throughout. What does that mean to you to be able to have that creative outlet? 

[00:17:48] Jenny: So I was a professional DJ for many years. I made a really great living doing this, but it required me to travel the world in order to make really good money. So at some point it just gets very tiring because a party becomes a party, whether you're in Brazil, Tokyo, Moscow, it's all the same.

So my last tour was with David Guerra and econ. It was in South Africa. And then I was just done one moment that I was like, I don't want to do this for a living unless I show up, I'm not making money and I'm just tired. But I never get tired of music. My vinyl collection is extensive, so I took a break. I now play for my soul.

I play for my community. I been playing a lot lately because three months ago I broke my arm. I had a horrible accident. And when I. And I said, that was like, what makes me really happy? That's going to get me through this. And it was music. So I said, I'm going to play all summer with one arm until it heals, then I'll play with too.

So music is just something I love tremendously. I love that energy. I love the stage. I love being able to take people on a journey, so I'll never stop playing, but now it's more like my vacation money and something for my soul. 

That was Jenny Feterovich media mogul, vinyl collector, and motivational speaker.

For more information on Jenny, please go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast

for more information about. Got on my website, natashamiller.co. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast. Now I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to Fascinating Entrepreneurs.

Jenny Feterovich

Film/TV Producer / Motivational Speaker

Jenny Feterovich is an award-winning TV and film Producer known for the hit TV show “START UP” and the feature film “The Russian Five” along with many other projects. She is the Executive Producer of Muse Production House and co-founder of Parliament Studios. She’s a lifelong entrepreneur and small business advocate, focusing on empowering women and immigrants in business. Jenny also made a name in the music world as the globetrotting DJ Jenny LaFemme and co-creator of Girls Gone Vinyl, a project that highlights and advances women in electronic music.

Jenny arrived in the US with 6 suitcases and $100 to her name. Her family fled their native Russia and landed in Detroit in 1989, immediately jumping into small business. Since then, she has created several corporations, worked with several Fortune 500 companies (including American Express, General Motors, State Farm, Jaguar Land Rover, UPS, Microsoft, GoDaddy), and had travelled as a motivational speaker. She has spoken at DIG South, SUP-X, and Detroit Startup Week, SXSW and is currently a board member of EO Detroit and incoming President for 2022. She also does nonprofit work around the world, from Habitat For Humanity to Godmothers Detroit.

Jenny is currently working on a series of books on entrepreneurship based on the hundreds of small business interviews her show has conducted over nine seasons.