Bodega Pictures co-founders follow their instincts
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Sometimes the friends you make in college can change the course of your life.
Take Bodega Pictures, a California-based independent producer who started out as a business between two college buddies, Benjamin Nurick and Joshua Ackerman, who met when they were 18 and quickly became friends. They eventually started Bodega in a garage in the San Fernando Valley in 2008 and turned it into a production company engaged in diverse content and stories, with Nurick (pictured left) as president and Ackerman (pictured) right) the creative leader of the officer company.
âHe was the brother I never had, and we had the same creative ideas and we were helping each other with student films and school projects,â Nurick said. real screen. “This energy of storytelling and being creative with your friends has really been the start of our working relationship as adults.”
The duo wrote screenplays and came up with ideas for documentaries and reality shows, filming and producing sizzling reels for established producers.
âA few tried to wrap us up in those early days, but we felt strongly that we had our own voice and wanted to do our own thing,â says Nurick. “So we made the decision to stop working for other people and dig in and put all of our energy into our own ideas.”
Ackerman says the vision for the company hasn’t changed much from the start. âOur philosophy back then was very similar to what it is today: to produce unmistakable television in a creative and supportive environment. This has remained true and our first two employees who started in the garage with us are still major factors at Bodega – one is doing post-production and the other is our long-time Creative Director.
Among Bodega’s latest projects is Kendra sells Hollywood, which releases today (November 17) on Discovery +, and finds the reality star and former Playboy Model Kendra Wilkinson is pursuing a new career as a real estate agent in Los Angeles. Other Bodega series include Extreme Sisters, sMothered and You, me and my ex for the CCM; Moving and towing for A&E; Girl Meets Farm with Chef Molly Yeh for Food Network; Rehab Addict Rescue and Tiny Luxury for HGTV; and the popular South Beach Tow from truTV.
Bodega’s co-founders are also committed to telling stories that reflect diversity in the world. Moving and towing, for example, features Tyler Smith, a transgender man, among its main cast. Working with Smith and other cast and crew members had an impact on Bodega’s leadership.
âWe can always do more to promote diversity and we all learn, whether in the context of the content we produce or more broadly as an industry, and we are committed to being part of that mission at the level of the company and industry level, âsays Ackerman.
real screen spoke with Ackerman and Nurick about the growth of Bodega Pictures, the importance of inclusion in the stories they tell, and how they’ve grown from two college kids with a dream to successful producers.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What was the company’s initial vision when you launched Bodega in 2008?
Joshua Ackerman: I convinced Ben to join me and work in my detached Valley garage. This is where we produced the driver for South beach towing, which became our first series, for truTV. We were very fortunate to have a partnership with Jennifer Lopez’s production company on this show – we featured them successfully, and became partners for seven seasons and learned the value of a brilliant press release! It was a very big deal for two young producers.
How did you go from that garage in the San Fernando Valley to producing television for major broadcasters and streamers?
Benjamin Nurick: By trusting our instincts and developing a reputation for high quality work. Our partners know that quality is most important to us and that we are personally committed to delivering the best episodes every time. Everything we produce receives a lot of attention from Josh and I. Our partners know they can count on us to deliver, which is why we have had multiple shows and projects with the same networks and streamers for many years.
JA: Trusting our instincts remains important. Have the instinct to spot a show concept that viewers will love, to identify compelling talent with a great sense of history. Molly Yeh from Food Network girl meets farm is the perfect example of a great storyteller, a storyteller using her world, her artistry and her love of food, someone we are thrilled to collaborate with on a much loved and beloved show. Our mission is always to tell great stories and deliver entertaining shows that viewers won’t click or walk away.
There is quite a bit of diversity in your shows. Is it something that you consciously pursued when you first developed concepts, or did things just evolve that way?
BORN : We’ve been fortunate to find compelling and diverse voices from all over the United States and beyond, and we have a great casting department that made this possible. Diversity tends to come naturally when looking for interesting stories in a holistic way.
JA: This year one of our most significant storylines was in A&E’s Moving and towing, which tracks towing companies across America, including a family-owned Kentucky company one of whose employees is a transgender tow truck operator – Tyler Smith. He had the opportunity to share his experience. We learned a lot from Tyler and it was important to our team that we could play a part in getting his story out to the world.
What kinds of things are you looking for when developing an idea or a pitch?
JA: We’re looking for that undeniable factor, and again, it’s all about instincts. What’s a concept we’ve never seen before, or a particularly good example of a format we can give a new twist to, and what do we think audiences are going to love? We are fortunate enough to produce content in many categories, from docuseries to food, lifestyle, and relationship content, so we can play in lots of sandboxes and have a lot of fun with the content we create. We have a wonderful and creative team at Bodega who are crucial to the development and creation of great concepts and pitches. To circulate these ideas and keep the corporate culture true to our roots, we favor open doors, creativity, constructive feedback and discussions, and most of all we love to celebrate people’s eccentricities.
What process do you have to ensure that when presenting topics from diverse backgrounds, you do so in a respectful manner?
BORN : We are engaged in a permanent quest for authenticity and honesty in the storytelling that we pursue, and for us, this is the key to respectful interactions and representations. We present many aspects of the human condition – people from different walks of life who want to share their experiences with the world. The most important process, we believe, is listening and committing to authenticity. Let your subjects and collaborators teach you as you work together.
How did you overcome the challenges of production during a pandemic, especially as a small business?
BORN : The answer is always safety first. Our talents and our teams are our priority, and we scrupulously follow the COVID protocols every day. We continue to do this, as we currently have several series in production. We’ve all had to adapt, and our entire community in unscripted production has responded very well to the changes we’ve all had to make in response to the pandemic.
Kendra Wilkinson is no stranger to reality TV. How did the new show with her come together and how did she land on Discovery +?
BORN : Kendra is in an exciting phase of her life. When we found out that she was wholeheartedly pursuing a new career in real estate, we really wanted to get involved in this journey. We mentioned authenticity earlier – she’s an authentic, approachable protagonist and we watch her try something she’s never done before. She’s a single mom who’s stepped into this new direction no matter how difficult it is, and she’s earning her real estate stripes every day. She has wonderful mentors and she is in the orbit of a terrific cast representing people both from the real estate community and from her personal life.
How has producing a series for a streamer like Discovery + changed the approach to the show or its production?
JA: We’ve taken the same approach we’ve always taken: committing to quality in the stories we tell. Of course, with a streamer, it’s important to consider the potential for âbingeabilityâ of a series depending on the deployment strategy, but other than that the process is the same.
BORN : Kendra sells Hollywood represents a successful collaboration with the Discovery + team, and we are delighted to have a docuseries in the lineup for their inaugural year. We are in good company. We envision Bodega as a forward-looking company that includes substantial work with digital streamers, and we’re very happy to have this partnership with Discovery +.