Josie Crimi isn’t just a strong woman behind a successful man – she’s making things happen for a pair of prosperous men. Working in television production and development for Scott Brothers Entertainment, she does everything from finding and managing talent to creatively budgeting and problem solving on a daily basis. She’s drawn to the passion of authentic professionals who are following their dreams, and easily smiles reminiscing about the people she’s worked with. She still hears from fans about The Heat, a show starring a Top Chef Mark McEwan, and it’s working with people like him and Matt Basile of Rebel Without a Kitchen that’s kept her engaged and excited. These days she strives to keep up with her bosses – twins Jonathan and Drew Scott – who never cease to amaze her. Watching this duo make their mark on a space never gets old, even in the highly competitive reality/lifestyle TV genre. As she observes how people are now watching programming – on cell phones, tablets, or on demand – she doesn’t feel discouraged about the industry at all. Enterprising, ambitious and courageous, she simply works harder to pitch new ideas across varied networks. Like many successful female professionals, life can be hectic and a little tricky when you’re Josie the mom of two young kids, but being ever industrious and respectably seasoned has allowed her to prevail and figure out an unconventional type of success in both her professional and personal life.
Courage to embrace changes
Healthy food & exercise
A great team with great leaders
My kids bring me endless joy
The support of my partner
An organized closet
I love my sleep
A willingness to always take on more
Can you tell me about what you do?
I work for Scott Brothers Entertainment as their EVP of production and development, so I have my hands in everything. In terms of day-to-day, I work with our VP of development to lead a creative team in hunting for talent and figuring out what the networks want. From the production standpoint, I oversee the teams to make sure they have what they need; I create budgets and schedules, review creative and make sure that everything keeps running on track.
Tell me more about Scott Brothers Entertainment.
We produce several shows with the guys and we also produce content without them. We pitch to several networks including HGTV, Travel, Food, TLC…just to name a few. Our specialty is obviously the home space, but we pitch across all genres. Our development team is well versed in food, design, social experiments and even documentaries!
How did you know you wanted to get into television?
I originally wanted to be a photographer; I knew I wanted to do something creative. My sister was working in commercials and so I kind of dabbled in the production side of things and ended up really liking it.
So how did you land a career in television production and development?
Well, like I said, I started in commercials, which was while I was in school. I was an assistant producer and then made my way to a very small Latino network. From there I slowly figured out what kind of content I wanted to get into; I worked for Alliance Atlantis for three and half years in their factual department, then when the opportunity came to produce more lifestyle/reality content, I took it and never looked back.
Was that a natural progression for you or was there a hard-and-fast choice at some point?
Honestly, it was where a lot of the work was and it was the kind of content I was consuming the most. Home shows and food shows were becoming more popular, and so that’s where I shifted my focus.
You mentioned school - where did you go and what did you study?
I went to York University and then I moved to Seneca (Toronto) to study radio and television.
Can you tell me about what it’s like to work in reality/lifestyle TV?
It can be a lot of fun! We just finished a season of a reno show based out of Toronto, so I got to see these talented designers basically create magic in a super tight timeline. You meet tons of really great people along the way; it’s cool, and I actually think that’s probably my favourite part of the job.
What else do you like about your job?
I like that things are always different. I don’t think I’ve ever had two days that are exactly the same. I like that I get to be creative while dealing with money as well; not everyone gets to do that and not everyone can. I love the great team that I get to work with; I work with so many amazing people it makes coming to work a lot of fun.
What’s a regular day at the office like for you?
Again – no two days are the same! I just got back from being in LA for a TV conference and I kind of stepped into a whole bunch of stuff – so it’s an especially funny day to ask me that question. I have a creative background paired with a strong line producing background, so I flip between both. Today I had conversations about marketing and PR on a show, I’m working through a budget and a schedule for a new show, and I’m also looking at the talent and how to creatively make the concept work – I have my hands in everything every day.
What kinds of challenges do you face in your work?
I think that the landscape of TV is changing. Our team needs to reevaluate and pivot to match what these new type buyers want, and we have to look at how audience behaviours are shifting.
Is the way the TV industry changing a concern for you?
Not exactly. It’s obviously less about appointment television, but people are still watching, just the when where and how looks a little different – they’re watching on their phones or laptops for example. Everyone has been so freaked out over the past few years about TV dying; it’s not, it’s just changing. TV will always be a great way for viewers to sit back and engage in content in a passive fashion. The point is that people are still consuming content, so there are plenty of producing opportunities.
Interesting that you say it looks different because it quite literally does; in the past TVs were huge boxes housed in massive entertainment units - very different from devices like smartphones. How do you watch TV?
I still have a big TV mounted in my family room. Of course I also consume some content on my laptop, but at the end of a long day, when time allows, nothing beats sitting on my couch in front of the TV.
Looking back some more, can you recall what the real game changer was when reality/lifestyle television first took off? Was there a television show that really set the stage?
In terms of HGTV Canada it was talent like Mike Holmes, Debbie Travis and Sarah Richardson. In the U.S there were hit shows like Trading Spaces, which I think is coming back! People just loved it back then and they still do now.
Let’s talk about the process of making a show; talent or storyline first, how does it work?
It depends. It can start from a really strong format, or it can stem from finding great talent. I think it’s much easier to sell something though when you have amazing talent attached – the show kind of naturally progresses to a better product.
What do you think makes good reality/lifestyle TV?
I love great characters that allow a show to naturally come together. For example, a few years ago at my previous gig, we found a guy who was launching a food truck and pop-up business, back when pop-ups first started. He was so passionate about what he was doing and the struggle was real – the show just wrote itself.
What would you define as the difference between reality/lifestyle TV and regular television?
Reality and Lifestyle TV share one thing – they both fall under unscripted TV. Reality TV follows real-life situations wherever Lifestyle TV most often follows experts as they aim to educate and inspire an audience.
Does that add more of an element of excitement to production?
It’s exciting to see real life situations and character development from start to finish. It also super exciting to see talents/experts grow.
What’s your favourite show and why?
Brother vs. Brother, of course! I’m biased. I do really love home-grown talent. I was a huge fan of the guys before I started working with them and I’m still a fan. Even more so now after seeing how hard they truly work every single day. I also love the Masters of Flip. I think hosts Courtney and Dave Wilson are adorable and their transformations are incredible. In the scripted space, I’m a fan of Suits, House of Cards and Girls.
How do you attempt to balance work with home life?
With a lot of help, let’s put it that way! I have a spouse who is super helpful, and we lean on family a lot. We have a nanny as well. I honestly never really saw myself having one – it’s actually still really tough to wrap my head around. I have a hard time with it because it means that someone else other than me is there for them when I can’t be. I get a little jealous actually – I’m not going to lie. I always saw myself being super mom. I think as a parent you have to be okay with not being perfect all the time; my kids know they are loved, so that’s what’s most important. They also see the benefits of working hard.
Point taken; who’s to say what the perfect mom looks like in modern times, right? Do you think there’s still a tendency to picture the iconic mother figure as being in the kitchen with a roast in the oven and brushing Barbie’s hair, or do you think that’s totally unrealistic, especially for working moms?
I didn’t grow up that way actually. My mom worked full time because my dad injured himself at work, so he took care of us at home. My dad cooked, cleaned, picked us up from school and did whatever he needed to do to help out my mom so that she could go to work.
Do you consider your career path or lifestyle unconventional?
I guess my career paired with my life is unconventional because I travel quite a bit and I’m not always putting the kids to bed or taking them to their t-ball games. In that sense, when the worlds collide, my life is definitely unconventional and hectic but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What projects have you helped produce that you’re the most proud of or enjoyed working on the most?
Sometimes the smaller projects are the ones you’re most proud of because you have to really figure things out creatively and financially. One of my favorite projects was a show with Mark McEwan called The Heat. I still to this day have people tell me it was their favorite shows on Food Network. The show followed Mark’s catering business and his journey as he grew his restaurant empire.
Rebel Without a Kitchen is another one of my favorites – I mentioned it briefly earlier. We didn’t have a huge budget to work with, it was more of a docu-follow where we watched Matt Basile grow his company Fidel Gastro. He never stops. He went from a pop-up, to a food truck, to a catering business and then a brick-and-mortar restaurant all in under two years.
I now have some new favorites too, since I’ve stepped into such a well-oiled machine here at Scott Brothers. We have an incredible team that has managed to pull off miracles with huge projects like Brother vs. Brother, Brothers Take New Orleans, Property Brothers At Home, and Reno, Set, Go! The transformations on these shows are stunning – now if only I could apply this knowledge to my own house!
Sounds like the people are really the ones making a lasting impression on you. Anyone else you’ve met in the business who’s made an impact?
Yes – I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of talented women in the industry. Some notable examples range from Barb Williams of Corus, who is a powerhouse in Canada, to people like young producer Kyla Zanardi from Benson + Oak who has really embraced change to become a leader in branded content.
As far as landing a job and then getting ahead, do you think the television industry is based on who you know?
No. I think who you know will only take you so far. You need to be able to do your job well, be a good person, and definitely be someone people can really count on.
What kind of personal traits do you think are necessary to succeed in the business?
You have to have a thick skin because you are constantly pitching new ideas and the response is often “no.” You need to have a good attitude and be nice; I like to think I’m nice. It’s important to be a good listener and have the ability to manage teams. There are lots of fires that come with production, so having the ability to problem solve on the fly is crucial in this industry.