As a company owner, one of my jobs is to build teams of experienced and talented people who are also savvy enough to work directly with our clients to serve their marketing agenda. When we needed to find a production maven who was not only detailed enough to support large scale long form productions, but organized and smart, there was one obvious choice. I have known Sylvia Kahn Versace since I moved to LA 25 years ago. During that time she has handled over $350 million in content production for 40 of the Fortune 50 companies. She is well respected in the industry for her love of storytelling and her detail to process, which makes her vital to the work we do at Blum.
After working remotely for the past 2 years, it was a treat to meet in person to discuss her interests, past work experience, and why she loves working at Blum Consulting.
WORLD TRAVELER TO PRODUCTION EXPERT
From world traveler to production expert, Sylvia has made a career of her curiosity to learn.
In her personal life, Sylvia has traveled the world, spending time in Burma, Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Thailand, and India, to name a few. “Having the great fortune to travel the world and choosing to take the less traveled path on the journey has allowed me to see the world from street level. The conversations and interactions with the people I have met along the way have had a huge impact on how I view the world,” she said.
This may, in part, explain her positive outlook and perspective she has on the world today.
Sylvia carries optimism into every area of her life, including her career as a Producer and Integrated Production SME at Blum. "If traveling the world has taught me anything, it has taught me to see the world through a child's eyes and to see the glass as half full and it is that optimism that I bring to my work and all of the productions that I have run on six of the seven continents.”
That type of experience and history comes with many stories. She smiles when she fondly remembers sitting in George Burns’ office as he smoked one of his famous cigars during a pre production meeting for Pepsi’s launch of their H20h! sparkling water.
She has shot other celebrity campaigns with Jerry Seinfeld for American Express, Blue Man Group for IBM, Tiger Woods for Buick as well as Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, to name a few.
But one of her favorite shoots was casting native people of the Arctic Region in Nome, Alaska for an Eskimo Pie campaign. They shot the first spot in Nome and then flew the key character to Hollywood to shoot on the frozen tundra set they built and had to freeze so the camera would see their breath when they spoke.
DECADES OF EXPERIENCE AND MANY FIRSTS
Commercials has been the mainstay of her professional career, but Sylvia has also been first to market with the internet when she developed non-broadcast content for Swatch, Sprint, and Sony. She produced one the first online chats with Ervin “Magic” Johnson for the launch of his Sony-backed eponymous theater chain and 3D spots with Technicolor for Google and Volkswagen. In partnership with Rolling Stone magazine, she Executive Produced a first-person guitar player CD-rom game with live action starring Roger Daltry. For Austin City Limits and Bonaroo she streamed some of the first YouTube Live events, sponsored by Dell and she was the first to license audio for online use from ASCAP for Swatch. She was on the ground floor of negotiating with SAG for mobile distribution and created a ‘choose-your-own ending’ content package for Verizon mobile.
As Executive Producer at Johns + Gorman she built a new media interactive division which was groundbreaking at the time.
Later, as Executive Producer at Anonymous Content she built V3, the company's new media division accessing live action directors such as The Bandito Brothers.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN INTEGRATED PRODUCTION SME
It takes a certain level of detail and experience to consult with large clients who want to take production capabilities in-house and work directly with creative partners, and Sylvia’s unique ability to maintain a high level perspective on overall client agenda and follow the day to day details of production is unique. She sees her job as providing an important service to clients who don’t have the same level of expertise. “I am the safety net so they can feel confident with their decisions,” she said.
“What I have come to appreciate most, after decades on the production side, is that my perspective of production is now being applied to the client side to solve the issues of getting content into the market. My job, as I see it, is to make the lines of communications between production and client be straightforward and as streamlined as possible.”