TV Writers Vault -
Industry Executive Interview
Vin Di Bona
President & CEO
Vin Di Bona Productions
Television Writers Vault is honored to
welcome legendary television producer, Vin Di
with Scott Manville
in our continuing series of conversations with key
Mr. Di Bona is a pioneer in television
programming, producing reality-based formats
long before it became
”Reality TV”. Hit franchises created and produced
include, “Battle of the Network Stars”, “America’s
Funniest People”, “Entertainment Tonight”,
“MacGyver”, and “America’s
Funniest Home Videos”. In the midst of
today’s reality TV boom, he has continued to
rise above the commonly exploitative reality
stunts, to deliver quality family entertainment
with fun and clever content, often blending
reality and game elements.
Vin Di Bona is a four-time Emmy
producer and recipient of the prestigious George
Foster Peabody Award for his work in documentary
We hope all of our members enjoy the privilege of
his perspectives, as he truly knows good
It's wonderful to have you with us. I know that
many in the industry, including our Writers and
Producers at the TV Writers Vault, will find
And many Producers and Format Creators could only
dream of the success you've had with America's
Funniest Home Videos.
Vin Di Bona:
I should say at the start, the success of AFV is
due much in part to the writing. Todd
Thicke and his staff add smart, often,
counterpoint comments that make an inherently
funny video twice as funny.
Collaboration in creativity always helps. If I can
roll back a bit- I loved growing up watching “Battle
of the Network Stars” on the weekends with
my Dad. Or hearing the “Entertainment Tonight”
theme playing in the evening… Mom was cooking
dinner, Dad was home from work, the family was
together… it was a good feeling. A lot of
us who grew up in the 70’s should say thanks for
the good feelings.
I produced the last big Battle [“of the Network
Stars”] (Battle 19) and had the luxury of using
clips from all the previous shows…it was a blast
to produce. With Entertainment Tonight, it
was like being in The Wild West…a lot by the
gut, and a lot of experimenting.
I’d love to know how you came to developing and
producing reality-based TV back then, in a time
when programming must have been very narrow…
with only scripted series’, or live sports
coverage, and news. How did you discover what
was essentially "reality tv" in a time where you
really had no reference to work from?
I started a WBZ-TV in Boston…I was responsible for
producing a four hour special every month for
two years. The first hour was a
documentary on changing community needs followed
by a live three hour call-in show based on the
issue of the evening. I produced and
directed both the documentary and the live
call-in as well. It was a great
experience. First and foremost, our
formats had to entertain. I did an hour
documentary for KCBS about the play Zoot Suit
and I convinced Gordon Davidson to let me shoot
parts of the play to include in the documentary.
how far reality programming has evolved, with
shows often pushing the envelope of privacy and
appropriateness, what do you feel about reality
Many thrive on obnoxious people in outrageous
situations…not my cup of tea…I believe in a
great format that offers tension and ways to
Do you have any favorites?
“Battleplan” (Military Channel), “Shark
Tank” & “Iron
of my favorite shows that
you produced and
aired right at the thrust of the new reality boom
[A family is given a limited amount of time to
master unique stunts or talents that they must
successfully perform on live TV to win cash].
I loved it. You had the reality aspect of it,
seeing the families at home with all the
frustration and fun of practicing, then the
pressures of the live performance, and the
variety of it all. Was it as fun to Produce as
it was to watch?
It was a favorite of mine…loaded with challenge,
fun and tension….my favorite moment of all time
is the housewife who hasn’t been able to pull
the table cloth out from under the dishes all
week and gets it right on the show.
I remember that! Comedy being universal...
if I can ask about foreign markets. During the
past decade we’ve seen a healthy exchange in
formats- Developing shows for foreign
territories, and adapting proven formats in
foreign arenas for domestic distribution. Have
you taken any of your shows overseas? Is that an
area of exploitation that you pursue with
We have been to London several times…offering
formats…some have sold, but none really
We've seen a huge evolution in television over
the decades, with so many changes. What
A good idea still makes a breakthrough show!
Copycats always fade quickly.
What advice can you give to the aspiring format
Writer or Producer starting out in this
Look at trends…check out the newsstands to see
what popular magazines report about.
How would you measure the amount of opportunity
there may be in Hollywood for new writers today,
versus aspiring writers and producers of decades
In our business, it has become increasingly more
difficult to become an entrepreneur…and to own
one’s own material & format. The sad news
is that today’s young writers have much less
chance to succeed than writers in the past…ideas
have to be sharper and more unique to cut
through the maze.
So much of success is a result of overcoming great
challenges, or failures, especially in this
industry. Can you share with us any monumental
challenges you may have had to overcome, that we
may not know of, but that may have been a
catalyst in your ultimate success?
When I sold my first network series (Animal
Crack-ups), that sale was the result of 138
pitches. My second show (AFV) was
sold in four minutes on the first pitch!
What do you look forward to experiencing, as your
Staying current, creating new family shows and
continuing to have fun.
Mr. Di Bona, It’s been a true pleasure. Thank you
so much for sharing your time with us. I can’t
wait to see more great shows from you.
Good luck to all…if you believe in your projects…never