How Larry Namer is helping to make Film and TV more representative of the US population

This is no longer a US centric world. If we don’t want to end up blowing up the place, we better learn about our shared humanity and celebrate our differences without fear of them. As a part of my series about leaders helping to make Film and TV more representative of the US population, I had […]

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This is no longer a US centric world. If we don’t want to end up blowing up the place, we better learn about our shared humanity and celebrate our differences without fear of them.

As a part of my series about leaders helping to make Film and TV more representative of the US population, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Larry Namer. An entertainment industry veteran with over 45 years professional experience in cable television, live events and new media, Larry Namer is a founding partner of Metan Global Entertainment Group (MGEG), a venture created to develop and distribute entertainment content and media specifically for Chinese speaking audiences in China and abroad. MGEG recently launched the inspirational competition series The Bruce Lee Project in China, in conjunction with Company Films (co-owned by Keanu Reeves and Stephen Hamel), Bruce Lee Entertainment, LLC (Shannon Lee’s production company) and Benaroya Pictures. Mr. Namer was involved in creating the series’ original format and currently oversees sales and development for the project. The company also launched the MGEG Film Fund I and serves as managing partner. Mr. Namer is the co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, a company now valued at over $3.5 billion USD, and the creator of several successful companies in the United States and overseas. Among those companies are Comspan Communications that pioneered Western forms of entertainment in the former Soviet Union and Steeplechase Media that served as the primary consultant to Microsoft’s MiTV for developing interactive TV applications. His vision and direction garnered VCTV several Emmy and Cable ACE award nominations, as well as recognition by Forbes magazine as the national model for local cable television programming. In 1989, he was awarded the prestigious President’s Award from the National Cable Television Association. He was honored with the “Outstanding Contribution to Asian Television Award” at the 19th Asian Television Awards in Singapore, and most recently was presented with the International Media Legacy Award at the 2017 Elite Awards Foundation Gala and the Hollywood Lifetime Achievement Award in Entertainment at the 2018 Hollywood Tribute Awards in Celebration of the 90th annual Academy Awards®.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Having grown up in the cable business in the 70s at Manhattan New York Cable, I was fascinated by the potential for this new technology to bring a “voice” to groups that previously were underserved by mainstream media. As technology advances and made access to media more affordable, I could see how many groups could now be “included” in media. I was lucky enough to have the grandfather of public access, Bob Mariano, as a mentor in this area. Bob’s vision taught me to dream of unthinkable access to media and then making it happen.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

At Manhattan Cable, I was put on the censorship committee which would oversee the wide variety of programs coming through public access. I was not in programming but rather in operations. It wasn’t long before some of those access producers found they had a friend on the committee as I would find some redeeming quality in almost everything. I literally found nothing offensive. One day a public access producer named Ugly George shows up in our operations area and is there to protest some programming department policy. I explained (in my gentle and kind manner) that he needed to take his project to the floor below where programming lived and that he was disturbing the phone operators taking customer service calls. As he was hell bent on disturbing the entire operation of the company, he wasn’t leaving and he and his fellow protestors became louder and louder. I tried to escort him to the elevator but he decided it’s better to push me physically. Wrong thing to do to a Brooklyn kid and of course, I pushed back. His cameraman was filming the whole thing and after they edited, they made it look like I initiated the battle. On TV that night they showed their video with the description of how Manhattan Cable “hired a mafia thug” to assault poor helpless access producers. My aunts who saw it were horrified.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I came to Valley Cable in Los Angeles, I had programming reporting to me. It took me a while to really understand the wide variety of Latino subscribers we had and how they were all very different. I would often confuse Puerto Rican, Cuba and Mexican culture, food, language and I would say a lot of silly things. That period was actually good for me as it taught me to dig beneath the surface and not generalize so much.

Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?

For the past two decades, I have focused on creating programs in different languages for different cultures, most notably in Russian and now in Mandarin. Today, we are doing a major series titled Exploring China, which was created for US audiences to understand what’s going on in modern China. For most Americans, it’s a real eye opener.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?

At Metan, we have had a history of bringing in interns who were born in Mainland China but then went to graduate school abroad. They typically then work for us in Los Angeles for a year or two, and then return to China and stay in the media business.

Many are very successful and we frequently hear how their experience with Metan has changed their lives and given them the foundation to work on international media projects.

Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in film and television and its potential effects on our culture?

This is no longer a US centric world. If we don’t want to end up blowing up the place, we better learn about our shared humanity and celebrate our differences without fear of them.

Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?

All major production heads should be required to live outside the US for at least two years.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leaders inspire confidence and make their reports want to excel in everything they do. A good leader works hard, building the base for the leaders of tomorrow and leading the team through the tasks of today.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish someone would have told me early on about some of the things that make doing business in China quite different. It took me three years to soak it in and learn.

  • When you get a signed contract with a Chinese company that is where the negotiations actually begin.
  • There is no such thing as employee loyalty in China. Once they get a better offer they are gone.
  • Chinese business people will always say they understand something even though they may not have a clue. It’s a point of honor never to say you don’t understand.
  • The lack of creative thinking in China will take a generation to turn around. The folks in charge of business today went through a school system built on rote memory, not creative thinking.
  • Unlike the former Soviet Union after the fall, Chinese folks are very happy to be Chinese and don’t aspire to be Western or move to the West. They want to learn about us, but not necessary be like us.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I really think that our media leaders need to embrace change and stop fighting it. Whether it be a geographic shift in power and influence or a major change in technology, we need to learn how to accept change and incorporate it into our lives.

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