As a teenage cadet at The Age and a Channel 9 sports reporter, Harvey Silver had no idea this would be his founding to become a successful TV producer. Heading up The Footy Show in its highly rated infancy, and then moving into his own company Silver Spoon Productions with his wife Debbie Hilton-Silver, Silver has created an impressive production agency.
RHM: How did you start in the industry?
HS: At 18, I started off as a cadet journalist at The Age, moved into the sports department and stayed there for about six years. After that I thought TV might be my calling. So I got what I thought was a fantastic opportunity to work at Wide World of Sports.
RHM: Why wasn’t it a fantastic opportunity?
HS: Well, it was a fantastic opportunity for six months until they closed the Melbourne office. I was left without a job, but luckily found myself in the Channel 9 newsroom in summer while people took holidays and at the end the news director asked me if I wanted to stay. I was a sports reporter and every so often I would read the sports news on the weekend.
RHM: Your journalism background helped you as a producer?
HS: Definitely, as a television producer I came from the creative side rather than from the technical side. This was actually quite unusual as many people progressed from being cameramen, floor managers or directors to go into a producer role. Even though being a journalist and words aren’t necessarily a visual medium, it helps you shape what people will look like when they hit the screen.
RHM: Did you know that your future was going to be in TV?
HS: I never thought I would be a producer; I went into TV because I wanted to be on camera and a host. I saw myself going into Wide World of Sports, progressing and hopefully being a host like Bruce McAvaney and Ken Sutcliffe. These guys were my heroes, but after a short while in TV I knew there is only one Bruce or Ken and they have that job. There were very limited opportunities and I actually got so
frustrated I was going to get out of TV all together before the production opportunity presented itself.
RHM: What was the opportunity?
HS: It presented itself in a one hour footy show that became the Sunday Footy Show. It only arose because Channel 9 had the Rugby League rights and wanted a show. They knew no-one would watch it in Victoria, South Australia or Perth, so they also needed an AFL show. Remember, Channel 9 didn’t have the footy rights then, but it was a very successful step and a forerunner to the Thursday night show.
RHM: Was having no game footage a challenge?
HS: The biggest blow in the lead up was Channel 7 told us that we couldn’t show any footage. In the end it was the biggest blessing because we had to find something else. What we found was comedy was
the entertainment and what it finished
up being was “footy-tainment” which The Footy Show coined.
RHM: What was your next step?
HS: I did The Footy Show for five years and went to Channel 7 with a two-year contract to do a new show called Live and Kicking. It was an incredible opportunity to do a show out of out my own production company.
RHM: What skills did you learn?
HS: Probably just the responsibility. I had an amazing responsibility on The Footy Show because I had the number one show every week. Live and Kicking was completely different – I was responsible for staff, talent, budgeting. You have to give of yourself to an incredible extent and I loved being the person upon who that ultimately is sitting on your shoulders.
RHM: Then you moved forward with Silver Spoon Productions?
HS: Yes, we were very heavily sports based for a long time. Our first major client was the Australian Open Tennis and we did all the vision from 2000 onwards. We also got the AFL contract to do all the online content. In the first year of the A-League we got the gig with Melbourne Victory to do all their content and run their match day, we also got that gig with the Rebels in the Super Rugby and the Renegades in the Big Bash league. We have been involved with a lot of start-up sports organisations, worked with them, moved on and then watch them flourish.
RHM: When did you move into more commercial work?
HS: We were doing a lot of commercial videos from the start at Silver Spoon and the change has been online, and the demand for vision. In the last six years we have moved into a lot more corporate and TV commercials.
RHM: Do you have to consider your clients’ needs and budgets carefully?
HS: You just adjust accordingly. Making vision these days is not expensive, but making good vision is still expensive. The hard part is that we’re competing with someone who has bought a laptop and a $3000 camera. The good work that takes heavy pre-production and a lot of skill and great execution, you can still see the investment in that. Silver Spoon sits somewhere in the middle, we certainly don’t do el cheapo stuff, but we don’t do huge commercials either. Our work is at a very manageable budget and we over deliver, which I believe is why we have so many repeat clients.
RHM: Where do you see the industry changing?
HS: All media is changing and none less than television. Where we are seeing television now compared to five years ago is going to have little resemblance to what we are going to see in five years time. When people realise that you and I can set up our own TV station and broadcast ourselves that is a massive change from ten years ago when four commercial networks and a government network owned that whole airspace. Now there is online and online channels like Netflix, Stan and Presto. Our kids are going to laugh at us when we tell them we used to watch this at a certain time.
RHM: What is the first thing you do when you get into the office?
HS: I grab a coffee and a copy of The Age and read that before work, I like to know what is happening in the world before I start my day. I go online and check the news of the day as well. I’m still a massive sports fan so I check out all the overseas overnight results and all the local updates.
RHM: How do you ensure your company remains positive and successful in such a challenging industry?
HS: Personally, I really love the chase and I think most of the guys at Silver Spoon do to. I enjoying chasing opportunities and coming up with our own ideas, not just having companies come to us. At Silver Spoon we initiate and ManSpace is a great example of that. There was no sponsor that came to us and said we would like to put some money into a show that hits this demographic. That was us saying why isn’t there something that advertisers who are aiming at getting to blokes might put a bit of money into and partner with us.
RHM: Was this gap the reason ManSpace came about?
HS: Absolutely, brand funded television is a really big part of what is on air at the moment. We sat down and thought who are the type of advertisers out there who might be looking for an avenue and lets build a show about that. ManSpace started as a commercial decision as opposed to a creative decision initially, but it became creative quickly especially when we got Shane Jacobson involved.
RHM: Were you surprised with how well it was received?
HS: No not really, because there are so many people and collectors who are into this, and so many guys who have man caves. Not everyone is interested in collecting rare and unusual things, but people are interested in seeing what people have and how they got it. I’m not surprised that there is an audience, absolutely not! It’s so enormous that we’re working on series two and beyond.
RHM: What do you do to tune out from work and relax?
HS: I watch a lot of TV, probably too much. I’m sitting here with my daughter and we’ve been going through the whole series of Entourage and we’re up to season six. Ari Gold is my favourite! I also love sport, so I watch a lot of footy and overseas sport as well; I’m a soccer fan so I watch the EPL and the A-League. The rest of the time is with the family, Deb (Debbie Hilton-Silver, Silver Spoon’s Television Commercial Producer) and I have two daughters. We like to get out and anyone who has a family knows they’re a great release from the day-to-day grind.
For more info: www.silverspoon.com.au