Jim Kiriakakis | Executive Producer
The Television Writers Vault congratulates Executive
Producer, Jim Kiriakakis of Buck Productions on his
recent successes with two shows airing as a result
of his scouting and collaboration with Writers on
projects he discovered at the TV Writers Vault.
"Deals From The Dark Side", a Docu-Style Reality
Series explores escape artist Steve Santini's
unusual and bizarre world of macabre historical
artifact collection. Buck Productions has produced
13 episodes (as of this interview date), currently
airing on A&E Australia, with U.S.
broadcast premiere on SYFY Nov. 7
Kiriakakis and company also bring us the world
premiere of "Saw Dogs", with back-to-back episodes
on Discovery Channel. The series
takes viewers on a wild ride with world-class
chainsaw sculptors as they battle deadlines and
conflicting creative views to deliver mind-blowing
works of art commissioned by high-end clients. 10
episodes have been produced in its first season
currently airing. Buck Productions is a producer of
cutting-edge reality-based programming, with offices
in New York and Toronto. Jim Kiriakakis joins Scott
Manville at the TV Writers Vault for a brief chat
about his current productions:
Scott Manville: Jim, it's great to finally have a
chat with you and catch up, with all the great
projects you have going now. But first,
congratulations on "Deals From The Dark Side", and
"Saw Dogs". How many episodes are in the can? Any
announcements coming up?
Jim Kiriakakis: Thanks Scott. Saw Dogs will have
it’s World Premiere Jan 7th at 9pm ET on Velocity
Discovery and on OLN January 24th at 9pm ET which we
are really stoked about. "Deals From The Darkside"
has its U.S. series premiere on SYFY this fall.
SM: As we understand, you discovered the Creators
and their concepts from scouting the TV Writers
Vault, and through development they morphed into the
shows we now see. How was that process?
JK: I am sometimes amazed and how quickly people
feel TV deals are made. The creators that I had the
opportunity to work with were up for the task of
hurry up and wait, and ultimately their patience and
hard work paid off with legitimate shows that have
really good broadcasting partners behind them.
SM: Was it challenging to cover content for a
narrative for each episode, or did you have enough
to work with knowing post-editing would pull
together a focus for the story. Or is this really a
JK: I think with the doc-reality type series, that I
believe both Deals From The Dark Side and SAW DOGS
would be categorized as, you plan as best you can
with storylines A, B and C but a number of times you
end up combining good planning with learn-as-you-go,
as the reality of the world throws things at you
that shift those storylines and character arcs.
SM: Can you tell me a bit about the process for Mike
Harris and Steve Santini, on each show,
JK: First off working with both creators was great.
They really worked hard at getting all the elements
that I needed to pitch these out. With Mike Harris
and SAW DOGS it was an interesting scenario. He had
a world (wood chainsaw carving) that had not been
explored yet as a series, and we went back and forth
with what the best format to bring it to market
would be. Ultimately, we decided that using Steve
Blanchard (co-creator and master carver) as the lead
vehicle, and creating a doc reality series that
would focus on commissions and characters would be
the best way to go. As opposed to a competition type
series which is where the initial concept was
From there we came up with the title, shot a
character demo with Steve, and teamed up with our
Distribution partner Cableready to pitch the show.
Velocity wanted the show and had us shoot a proof of
concept demo, which we did, and in short they were
good to go. We still needed to get another
broadcaster on board to complete the financial
scenario so we pitched OLN in Canada and the rest is
history. Two networks, one show. that’s the great
thing about TV math there are a number of ways to
make it all work.
With Steve Santini and Deals From The Dark Side, we
had a concept that was a twist on the treasure
hunting genre of reality. The initial concept was a
Pawn Stars / American Pickers like show with a
paranormal twist. We needed more, with questions
like - what elements would make this show different?
And what aspects of, and how much of Steve’s life
would be a part of it? We decided that the Escape
Artist side was definitely something that should be
in, and made his character different than what was
out there already. We also knew that the dark nature
of the objects was going to be a sell. But, we had
to get the tone right, so we strayed away from too
much paranormal, and focused on the macabre world
and quirky characters that the objects would lead us
to. We put together a great treatment package
outlining some Dark Deal scenarios and a character
demo. Pitched that to OLN and they loved the
character and the world but really wanted us to push
the escapes, and more shopping scenarios so that the
show would not just depend on one object’s journey.
SM: Looking at Steve Santini's "Deals From The Dark
Side", that must've been a wild ride. How was it
working with an Escape Artist who has such a
peculiar profession hunting those relics?
JK: Steve was, as you can imagine, full of
surprises. The Escape Artist side was pretty
intense. Especially when trying to decide what
escape to film and which would be less likely to
kill him if it went wrong. I think what we all got a
kick out of was how amazing the characters we met
along each journey were.
SM: I love the style of shooting and editing done on
both shows - a very specific style. How involved are
you from start to finish? Can you give us a general
birds-eye-view of that process?
JK: For both series I had the privilege of
developing concepts with the creators and getting
the shows commissioned. From there, my job as the
Exec Producer was to bring the right team together
that would help achieve the wants and needs of the
series, including content and style; from working
with the DP on Deals From The Dark Side, to decide
on using the Sony F3 to shoot reality, to working
with the director and story team on Saw Dogs to make
sure we had the right recipe of process and
character story points. I’ve had a part in all
aspects of what makes it to air, but the
collaboration process on both series was, and I
believe always is a big part of any successful
finished product. And I truly give the kudos to the
production teams of both series.
SM: You produce shows for distribution in both
Canada and the U.S. How do the Networks differ
between the two markets? Are the mandates and tastes
for programming similar?
JK: It seems like at this point the mandates of
networks both in the US and in CAN fall in the same
zone as far as what type of content they want, e.g.
big characters, new worlds etc. I think where the
tastes differ is shooting style, graphics and
storytelling structure…I find that the way Canadians
view TV is different then the way US audiences view
SM: Can you share with us any details of new
programs coming down the pike from Buck Productions,
or are they under the golden cone of confidentiality
until Network announcements?
JK: We have an exciting year ahead and Buck is going
to picture Jan 15th on a new series as well as in
development with a couple networks on new projects.
SM: Your company is really hot right now with
expansion into the U.S. broadcasting market. Share
with us the current Mandate and Agenda for Buck
Productions. Where do you see the company heading?
JK: Buck will continue to create great programming
for our Canadian broadcast partners while we expand
and use the momentum of series like SAW DOGS and
Deals From The Dark Side to build more properties
commissioned from the US. 2012 will be a big year
for Buck as we move towards world dominance.
SM: When you're scouting projects for reality TV,
what are you hoping to find?
JK: I am looking for something that makes me say “I
would watch that.” I feel if I would want to watch
it then it would be good TV. I know that might sound
cocky but you don’t get anywhere in this business by
doubting your sensibilities. Now that sounded cocky.
SM: Can you share any perspective on our service,
and how the TV Writers Vault serves the Industry?
JK: What I like about your service Scott, is that
it’s always being updated and I can come in one week
and not see something that I like, and that will
change a week later when I come back. You offer what
I would say is a one of the only places that
creators out there can put up their concept and
reach a producer in a user friendly manner. That’s
how it serves the industry. As a producer, I do a
lot of researching and I'm always looking for the
next great concept. The TV Writer’s Vault makes that
process a little bit easier. It gives me a solid
go-to resource that is now a part of my research
SM: Again, congratulations on your current shows.
We'll be tuning in!
JK: Thanks for the support Scott.