Switching gears to succeed

Joy Rosen and Lisa Olfman are the founders of Toronto production and distribution company Portfolio Entertainment, an award-winning producer and distributor of youth and primetime programming. Stolen Miracle, a Portfolio-produced MOW, is up for two 2002 Gemini Awards.

Joy Rosen and Lisa Olfman are the founders of Toronto production and distribution company Portfolio Entertainment, an award-winning producer and distributor of youth and primetime programming. Stolen Miracle, a Portfolio-produced MOW, is up for two 2002 Gemini Awards.

There is a glut of children’s programming saturating the current international marketplace. We at Portfolio Entertainment anticipated this years ago and have taken steps to expand the kind of programming we produce and distribute in order to continue to prosper in these seemingly uncertain times.

When Portfolio launched 11 years ago, it was with the goal to be a leader in children’s animated and live-action TV. Many other independent companies had the same idea, but what has likely allowed us to survive and remain profitable is our ability to recognize that learning to adapt would become integral to a strong business model.

It took some white-knuckle risk taking and leaps of faith to meet the challenges of a tough international marketplace, and the process continues.

Over the years we have produced kids shows such as the animated hit RoboRoach and the award-winning Groundling Marsh. And then, last year, we found our groove in primetime drama with the TV movie Stolen Miracle for CTV. It might have been our first such venture, but from our youth programming we could always recognize a good story and understand the importance of assembling the right talent in order to make a project gel.

With the likes of director Norma Bailey, star Lesley Hope and DOP David Frazee, our first MOW might have been an anxious experience, but it proved a highly successful one. Stolen Miracle garnered high ratings for CTV, and our collaboration with them continues with the TV movie Tracking the Hunters.

Stolen Miracle also aired on Lifetime in the U.S., where it was the highest-rated cable program aired that night. Sales to European territories have exceeded expectations as well.

Experience, ambition and a realistic approach to growth are the fundamentals that have guided the company to consistent profitability. Being small allows us to react immediately to changes in the marketplace, giving us an advantage over larger companies that, by their very structure, require more time to switch gears.

As well, as a private independent we have not been sidetracked by mergers and corporate restructuring. This has allowed us to move forward faster, developing new projects, uncovering new sources of financing and acquiring new productions for our distribution division.

As the distributor of such children’s series as Klootz and Igloo-Gloo, we have also become increasingly aware of the need to diversify our youth library and seek out product that positions us to take advantage of new trends in daytime programming. We recently beefed up our distribution division with reality, lifestyle, travel and sports programs, and have also moved into the primetime area.

We recently acquired the worldwide rights to Taipei Diaries, an unscripted drama series that is attracting substantial international interest. It’s a new concept in Canadian drama, but one that holds great promise – one need only look at the phenomenal response to the unscripted U.S. comedy The Osbournes.

Portfolio intends to grow this area of its business by acquiring more unscripted reality drama series, the hottest new genre in primetime. The very nature of its content breathes excitement and anticipation. It’s the stuff of great programming and we believe it will continue to thrive and grow in a marketplace constantly searching for the next big thing.

Recognizing and acting on trends in viewer tastes and changes in the marketplace has given depth and width to our program stable and allowed us to broaden our financial horizons and potential sales markets. While some large entertainment companies struggle through production slowdowns, Portfolio, as with other small and profitable private entertainment companies, has taken advantage of its business position and readjusted its thinking to branch out with confidence.