Fenton Bailey | CEO, World Of
Reality TV at its best should bring us all the
wonder of the world. And in that spirit, we share
with you our chat with Fenton Bailey, Executive
Producer and CEO of World of Wonder
As a pioneer of docu-style programming, World of
Wonder broke ground with this hot genre long before
the "reality boom", and have taken viewers inside
other worlds of both the obscure, and pop cultures.
"Million Dollar Listing", "Tori &
Dean", "Being Chaz", "Ru Paul's Drag Race", and
dozens of others. With such an eclectic, yet
specific taste in concepts, Mr. Bailey brings a much
needed voice to television, and we're happy to have
him share his time with us.
Thanks for being with us. How are things rolling out
at World of Wonder this season?
Fenton Bailey: We are gearing up for Season 5 of RuPaul's Drag Race. Best season ever! We are also
publishing our first book The World According To
Wonder. It's a big coffee table book of original
portraits of some of the wonderful people we have
been lucky enough to work with over the past 21
years. From Imelda Marcos, to Tammy Faye, from
Monica Lewinsky to Pamela Anderson. It comes out Feb
5th and you can get it at amazon.com
SM: World Of Wonder has been a pioneer in docu-style
content for a long time. Long before the “reality”
boom. What was it that first drew you to the genre?
FB: It may be a cliche but truth is stranger than
fiction and we were especially fascinated with the
way cameras were having such a dramatic social
impact. Los Angeles burned in the LA Riots because
someone videotaped Rodney King's brutal beating at
the hands of police. When OJ took off down the
freeway, the whole world tuned into watch. People
were drawn to television and to participate in it -
ourselves included. It was a seismic shift.
SM: You’ve been extremely successful in bringing
programming to viewers that explores the obscure, or
“fringe” of society and world, across an eclectic
fabric, from the dark side of the world, to the pop
side of our culture, and always deeply compelling to
watch. How do you know what subjects will capture a
FB: If only we did know, we'd be zillionaires! If it
interests us we just hope it will interest someone
else. Sometimes it does - though not always. For
example the kind of drag we saw at the Pyramid club
in the early Eighties completely captivated us, and
today it appeals to a world wide audience thanks to
RuPaul's Drag Race.
SM: Can you tell us about any new project you’re
especially passionate about?
FB: We are going to be shooting a doc in North
Korea. But we can't talk about it! We are thinking
of making a documentary about our amazingly
unsuccessful prior career as a wannabe pop star duo.
Fact is that most bands never make it, and we were
no exception. It was hard to stand by and watch
Madonna, The Pet Shop Boys, DeeLite all explode on
the scene while we couldn't get arrested. And what
makes that story possibly worth telling is that Fame
is a cruel taskmaster that actually seems to bring
no one much in the way of happiness. The famous and
unfamous have so much in common; discontent.
SM: How did you get your start in the Industry?
FB: Randy worked in an advertising agency on Madison
Avenue and I worked in the film and video department
of a Wall Street investment bank.
SM: What was the pivotal moment when you knew you
had “arrived” as a Producer, and knew you were on
the right path?
FB: In terms of arriving, there was no such moment.
Never is and never will be. Unless perhaps it's on
one's deathbed. But have you arrived or are you
departing, is it the end or a new beginning? But in
terms of making television and telling stories we
just loved it.
SM: What has been the greatest challenge about
Producing for television today?
FB: Network executives are always a challenge. They
have so much to lose if they make a bad call and
pick up a show that bombs. And because their jobs
are on the line risk-taking and innovation are the
first things to go, and developing shows takes
SM: What do you love about Reality TV? Is there
anything specific you don’t like?
FB: What I love about reality TV is that it is
television's first completely original genre. All
the others came from cinema or radio or theatre. And
what reality TV does more than any other genre is
explode the myth of the ordinary. There is no such
thing as normal. Everyone is unique and everyone is
a freak. And for us there is no better way to
celebrate that than working in non-scripted.
SM: In bringing new projects to the table for
development, is there a specific mandate you have
for WOW, or is it a “know it when you see it”
process in discovering new projects?
FB: No mandate. We like to think we know it when we
see it. But sometimes we don't see it and sometimes
we don't know it!
SM: What advice can you give to new Writer/Creators
who are pitching formats and projects for Docu-Style
FB: Do whatever turns you on and don't stop doing it
- which you wont, if you really love it.
SM: If you weren’t producing for Television, what
other career would Fenton Bailey’s alter-ego have?
FB: It might be fun to be an heiress. Or an interior
SM: If our readers want to tune-in and experience a
World of Wonder, what show would you suggest?
FB: Hard to pick one. We like to think all our shows
- from Drag Race to In Vogue, and Million Dollar
Listings- show that it really truly is a world of
wonder. Perhaps the best thing to do to get a taste
is to go buy our book The World According To Wonder
SM: Thanks for all of the great insight. We're
looking forward to your continued success with World