Agnes Chu on Making Condé Nast Entertainment a Hollywood Player – WWD

Bear in mind “Cat Individual,” The New Yorker quick story a few hookup gone improper that went viral in 2017? Effectively, it’s coming again — this time as a film starring Michael Gandolfini (James Gandolfini’s son), Nicholas Braun, Emilia Jones and Isabella Rossellini and directed by Susanna Fogel, whose different work contains “Booksmart” and “The Flight Attendant.”

That is all a part of president of Condé Nast Leisure Agnes Chu’s plan for the legacy journal writer’s leisure arm to be taken critically in Hollywood as inventive producers. As an alternative of merely promoting its mental property to a studio, she desires to be concerned within the course of from starting to finish. Within the case of “Cat Individual,” Oscar-nominated Helen Estabrook, who Chu tapped as head of improvement manufacturing for options and scripted collection, is on set with Studio Canal as we communicate.

“It’s not nearly coming to us for the rights kind and IP however that Hollywood desires to work with us as a result of we’ve nice individuals who know make nice movie and tv,” Chu boasted over Zoom, including that she desires to have the ability to announce movie and TV offers the identical day a narrative is printed.

Chu, a longtime Disney government who helped mastermind the Disney+ streaming service and at one level was a vice chairman in former Disney chief government officer Bob Iger’s workplace (a job that noticed her work day start at 4:30 a.m.), joined Condé round a 12 months in the past and seems to have taken tight management of the ship, serving to to proper what had been a list vessel. Earlier than she was introduced on board, its former president Oren Katzeff hit headlines for the improper causes, making offensive feedback about ladies and a Mexican waiter on Twitter previously and being mired in allegations that the division didn’t pretty remunerate journalists of colour for his or her participation within the standard Bon Appétit Check Kitchen video collection.

And whereas its funds weren’t made public, there was hypothesis in media circles that Condé Nast Leisure had didn’t change into the magic wand executives had been hoping for when it got here to creating up for the steep losses triggered by the nosedive within the too-heavily-relied-upon print promoting a development that was already in play solely to be exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Chu is working towards making Condé Nast Leisure a severe participant on a number of phases not simply the quick movies like Vogue’s “73 Questions” and Wired’s “Autocomplete Interview” that grew to become its bread and butter. Condé’s future depends to a big extent on how profitable she is in that objective.

Poaching the fitting expertise has been key to that technique. Along with Estabrook, a revered TV and movie producer whose work contains “Whiplash,” Chu has tapped Jennifer Jones, vice chairman of enterprise affairs for Disney+, as head of worldwide enterprise affairs and operations and Marvel government Sarah Amos as vice chairman of improvement and manufacturing. Most not too long ago, Stitcher’s Chris Bannon was named head of worldwide audio as Chu appears to construct a aggressive podcast providing. The staff has greater than 70 energetic function, documentary and tv initiatives in improvement and manufacturing.

Then there are the stay occasions, which Condé Nast Leisure is making an attempt to take management over and monetize. Hosted by Keke Palmer and Ilana Glazer, Vogue’s Met Gala livestream was essentially the most watched of any 12 months, in keeping with a Condé Nast Leisure spokesperson, who added that simply over per week after the occasion, Met content material drove 320 million world views throughout all world social channels.

Chu can also be striving to ensure the extra conventional editorial aspect is working carefully with CNE and never working as two separate entities, which has lengthy been the case.

She’s clearly dedicated to the technique: She relocated along with her household from her residence state of California to New York to tackle the CNE job. It’s her second time dwelling within the metropolis, having moved there after graduating from Harvard when she needed to be a movie director or cinematographer earlier than she moved to the company aspect and joined Disney.

“At occasions I feel I’ve an artist’s coronary heart, and it informs a lot of why I get enthusiastic about what it’s that we’re doing right here at Condé Nast. However I even have a producer thoughts, which is somewhat bit extra on the enterprise aspect of issues as properly. It’s been nice to domesticate either side,” she mentioned.

Right here, Chu talks WWD by way of the modifications she’s made since becoming a member of the corporate.

WWD: If you had been rising up, did you at all times image your self within the leisure enterprise?

Agnes Chu: I used to be a theater child. I used to be a very crappy actress, however I beloved it anyway. And I really received into directing loads in highschool and that’s what introduced me to this area. I assumed I needed to be a movie director or at the least a movie cinematographer. I studied movie manufacturing in faculty in order that’s actually the place all of this got here to life. I made an experimental movie for my thesis. I spent most of my time really in a basement at Sever Corridor at Harvard enhancing 16 mm movies on steam backs so I used to be very, very in it when it comes to the craft of constructing. Definitely I don’t assume I imagined being an government on this world, however now once I look again on simply the totally different milestones in my profession, whereas I couldn’t have charted out all the totally different roles it’s wonderful to see how they really do join in a form of by way of line that has been extremely helpful.

WWD: You had been at Disney for a very long time. What attracted you to affix Condé Nast?

A.C.: It’s totally different that its basis is in publishing and within the journal area, however there are a number of issues which might be very related. [Condé] is an organization that has a bedrock of simply true cultural affect and a capability to maneuver a dialog ahead and finally transfer the world ahead. It simply offers us a very sturdy hand as we transfer ahead into what the manufacturers may stand for for the following 100 years.

WWD: Will you be primarily based at 1WTC as a result of doesn’t CNE have another workplaces?

A.C.: It’s each. I needed to return to New York as a result of a number of that is about establishing that connection to the manufacturers. I’m actually inquisitive about how we’re uniting our manufacturers’ voices collectively and I had seen somewhat little bit of a separation of church and state between the written phrase and the way we categorical the manufacturers in movie, tv, audio, digital video. I perceive why that was mandatory previously, however I’m excited a few future the place they’re united and a few of the early work means me being right here in particular person and getting that work began. However, sure, we’ve workplaces in Los Angeles additionally.

WWD: Simply on the church and state and the collaboration, it’s been reported previously that individuals on the editorial aspect had been rubbed up the improper means or weren’t introduced in from the start or vice versa. So are you engaged on collaboration from very early on?

A.C.: Sure, completely. I do imagine once we plan and once we collaborate and talk early on we will discover the fitting means by way of that may be a win-win for everybody. Among the finest examples of that is what we’re doing within the movie and tv area. What we’ve carried out is definitely introduced all our groups collectively in order that we’re figuring out as that analysis is occurring the opportunity of one thing for movie and tv, aligning our timing across the deal-making so oftentimes we’re simply extra proactive with our initiatives even earlier than an article has been printed. That has simply helped to unlock a number of chance. It’s additionally simply made it somewhat bit simpler to work with us in Hollywood.

WWD: What are the primary abilities that you simply discovered at Disney that you simply assume are actually serving to you on this new place?

A.C.: At Disney, there’s a theme park, there’s a film, there’s a tv present, there’s merchandise, there are such a lot of totally different ways in which a fan can actually join extra deeply with a personality or for a narrative and we right here at Condé Nast have those self same varieties of contact factors that once we’re all aligned collectively can actually be wonderful, like what we did on the Met Gala. We had a stay occasion, we had a livestream, we had authentic content material on our social platform — some designed for Tiktok and a few for Instagram — we had pink carpet interviews with Emma Chamberlain, who’s a YouTube star, that we purposefully premiered on YouTube. Wherever our audiences are we had an particularly designed high quality content material solution to expertise the Met Gala.

WWD: Condé Nast is clearly a legacy model like Disney and also you’ve been introduced into increase and supercharge its leisure technique in Hollywood, which positively is just not a simple factor to do. What are your fundamental plans to attain this?

A.C.: Inside Condé Nast Leisure, I oversee the storytelling from our movie and tv, additionally from audio and our podcasts after which digital video and that is throughout all of our manufacturers. As we’re forging ahead, it’s persevering with the energy in digital video, however I’m tremendous enthusiastic about growing a slate for audio and for podcasts. Bringing on a pacesetter there with unbelievable expertise and observe document that may actually assist to translate all this IP that we’ve into the good podcast base that I do know you and I interact in regularly. For me, it’s all about this ecosystem and bringing in the very best individuals and leveraging the content material that we’ve in order that we’re lighting up that ecosystem.

WWD: In the course of the pandemic the recognition of podcasts continued to skyrocket. Do you wish to launch much more?

A.C.: We’ve had some nice successes already. We’ve had “In Vogue: The Nineties” and now we’re engaged on one in regards to the 2000s. We had some nice success with “Love Is a Crime” on Vanity Fair. However every a kind of has been very producorially heavy and bespoke in a sure means. It’s not making a quantity of content material that basically leverages all of the articles which might be commonly being written and in addition the personalities that we’ve in-house. David Remnick, for instance. Anna Wintour. These are all individuals who can name actually anyone to share their experience and so they do and it’s now how can we leverage that form of speak present dynamic right into a podcast slate that we will actually construct out. This upcoming 12 months a number of the main target is on simply creating extra, however not essentially content material that’s that heavy elevate. We definitely wish to do a few of these however it’s additionally that basis of giving individuals direct entry to a few of the most authoritative specialists that we’ve and interesting in that sort of dialog.

WWD: Up to now the Vogue podcast was made by contractors and it appeared like there was some confusion with the contractors themselves about their future on the firm. I’m to understand how you see the way forward for manufacturing of podcasts going. Are you in favor of in-house, partnerships with different organizations, contracting. The place do you stand?

A.C.: I feel we’re going to do some little bit of all of it simply primarily based on the mission at hand. Each mission has its personal sure wants and so what’s going to assist make the mission most creatively profitable. Additionally, what’s financially prudent clearly performs a giant hand in all of this. What’s been essential for me as a pacesetter right here at this firm for the previous 12 months is being very clear in my communication and proactive in my communication.

WWD: When every little thing occurred at Bon Appétit, which was earlier than your time, simply from being an outsider trying in it gave the impression to be very disjointed between CNE and the editorial aspect. Is it a precedence so that you can work carefully with Daybreak [Davis, editor in chief of Bon Appétit] and ensure you’re on the identical web page? How are you working collectively to ensure someday like that doesn’t occur once more?

A.C.: She’s been such a delight to get to know this previous 12 months. We really sat collectively on the Met Gala. Earlier that day we really did a Zoom assembly with our groups collectively so completely I feel it goes again to what we had been speaking about earlier, about that model stewardship, however doing it in a unified means the place it’s not us speaking about our org construction like what’s the format, is it video, is it an article. I don’t assume the customers and our viewers actually take into consideration issues that means. I’m completely in help of simply that seamlessness and connection and that unity finally.

WWD: Simply speaking in regards to the Check Kitchen collection, I do know that may be a large a part of CNE. The Alliance for Audited Media figures confirmed they had been down within the first half of the 12 months. Is {that a} concern? I think about that comparability might be as a result of everybody was locked down at residence, cooking, watching these movies. Additionally, manufacturing wasn’t occurring for some time.

A.C.: That’s the first factor. You hit the nail proper on the pinnacle. A variety of our video content material really was very depending on bodily manufacturing on units like within the Check Kitchen. Throughout COVID-19, our whole constructing was shut down. There was no entry to the Check Kitchen in order that sort of manufacturing was on maintain. A few of our greatest codecs for Architectural Digest rely upon the truth that individuals would allow us to into their houses to movie them. That definitely was not occurring through the pandemic. So there was a number of affect on our manufacturing quantity due to that. It’s additionally made us be considerate and take into consideration, oh, fascinating, we’ve a chance to increase our inventive portfolio. Are there codecs that we needs to be desirous about which might be much less depending on a few of these issues that had been instantly lacking as soon as we weren’t in a position to ship crews to individuals’s houses or attend a star junket or have entry to celebrities generally? In order that’s been useful to us to be progressive and take into consideration what the longer term alternatives are.

WWD: By way of the Met Gala, I do know the objective was to beat E!. Did you do this?

A.C.: I don’t assume I essentially mentioned out loud we have to beat E!, however it was actually an excellent alternative for us to have the pink carpet solely on It was the primary time we ever did that. It was the primary time we did it globally. We broke all our data internally for all of our content material on all of our platforms. We reached 16.5 million viewers. Not solely did we break data when it comes to the livestream itself the night time of, however afterward for seven days tens of millions of individuals had been replaying that livestream as a result of it continued to have a lot cultural relevance. That was wonderful to see. We had by no means created authentic social content material earlier than for our platforms. We did that right here. The weeks main as much as the gala we cleared 41 pop songs mainly so we may reduce actually enjoyable TikTok and Instagram Reel experiences to that music. We broke data there as properly. It’s actually a testomony to what occurs when all of our groups simply rally collectively in a united means.

WWD: Which designer did you put on?

A.C.: Jonathan Simkhai. I used to be so honored to put on a costume by him. He doesn’t sometimes do any atelier.

WWD: Was that the primary time you met a number of the Condé editors in particular person?

A.C.: Sure, you’re completely proper, I did. The humorous factor is I’m not monitoring anymore who I met in particular person or who I haven’t met in particular person. I feel as a result of I’m so used to Zoom now I really feel like I’m really assembly individuals for actual.

WWD: I do know that you’ve got a giant concentrate on studio and that’s your background. Do you assume there’s any danger that that might take the main target away from digital video?

A.C.: I get this query loads and I get this query internally, too. That it’s both one factor or the opposite and perhaps for me it’s the embracing of the multitudes of the human expertise however none of us are only one factor or the opposite and I don’t assume we expertise content material or storytelling as one factor or the opposite. Our strongest is once we’re really all of the issues in a very intentional means. So I hold speaking about this ecosystem. I hold speaking about all these alternative ways during which we’re bringing one among our followers into our ecosystem however that’s what I imply that every one of this stuff are essential. I desire a Vogue fan to get excited in regards to the stay occasion on the Met Gala. On the identical time I need them to get enthusiastic about an audio podcast about vogue within the a long time. On the identical time I need them to be following us on social feeds and watching the good movie star entry of “73 Questions” on YouTube. I need them to be doing all of this stuff. Consequently it’s not an either-or. We simply wish to be the place audiences are with the manufacturers that we’ve, so I’m actually not fearful neither is that the place my — it’s really the other of my imaginative and prescient, I’d say, to choose one factor and prioritize it over one thing else. It’s about unlocking all of these issues and having them really speak to one another and work collectively.

WWD: Condé hasn’t had a giant hit but on the studio aspect. Are you hopeful that can occur within the subsequent couple of years?

A.C.: Completely. I feel we’re taking significant steps. We’re not really a studio. We’re a studio in the case of our digital movies as a result of we’re bodily producing, we’re financing all of our digital content material and we distributed all of it on all of our networks. However in movie and tv as a manufacturing firm we’re primarily promoting it to different studios or streaming distributors so we’re not financing all the movie and tv ourselves. Perhaps at some point we might be however within the close to time period what it’s for me is simply proving that we’ve nice [producing] talents — that it’s not nearly coming to us for the rights kind and IP however that Hollywood desires to work with us as a result of we’ve nice individuals who know make nice movie and tv. Proper now we’re within the technique of doing that really. Helen is simply this week on set for “Cat Individual,” which was The New Yorker’s most shared, most viral story. Susanna Fogel is the director. We’ve got a very sensible forged and unbelievable heads of all the departments so it’s going to be a very great movie and it’s been nice to have Helen’s observe document and experience to assist to deliver that to life.

WWD: If you joined it appeared such as you targeted on getting large names to affix on the studio aspect of issues. Do you assume you’re carried out on that aspect of hiring or are you at all times trying so as to add to it?

A.C.: We did must do some little bit of reset and [a] reset [in terms of reputation] and actually solidify our place as a reputable manufacturing firm. One which has entry to nice IP however one which has the chops to develop an concept and produce it out into {the marketplace} to be plain. And it takes a short while to incubate movie and TV so it was about instantly bringing in the very best and brightest there and I’m thrilled the place we’re with having Helen’s management, Sarah and in addition the enterprise affairs aspect with Jennifer Jones. We’re going to proceed to construct out that staff and help that staff because it’s rising in these subsequent few years. In audio we haven’t had a pacesetter with [that kind of] expertise earlier than, so I’m actually thrilled.

WWD: What are you doing to enhance variety at CNE?

A.C.: In the beginning it’s in our hiring and I’m actually happy with the groups about that. We forged our nets very large to seek out the very best individuals and we do this as a result of as everyone knows having a variety of voices on the desk drives the very best outcomes. It means we’re representing the world as it’s. And it signifies that we’re bringing in the very best concepts which might be reflective of the world round us. We’ve additionally spent a number of time updating our manufacturing practices as properly and constructing in sure classes of mainly how we’re hiring people who find themselves behind the digicam and our crew. I feel it’s about actively searching for out initiatives that we’re bringing out into {the marketplace}, whether or not it’s our content material on YouTube and the hosts that we’re casting to tales that we’re growing in-house in movie and tv. It’s at all times been very intentional with this being a pillar of how we do our most inventive and greatest work.


For extra, see:

Media People: Dawn Davis, Editor in Chief of Bon Appétit

Media People: Jessica Lessin of The Information

Media People: Simone Oliver, Global Editor in Chief, Refinery29

Media People: Robin Givhan of The Washington Post

Media People: Graydon Carter and Alessandra Stanley of Air Mail | Agnes Chu on Making Condé Nast Leisure a Hollywood Participant – WWD


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