RTF alum pushes boundaries of TV's Bravo Network
Andrew Wang helps usher Bravo out of the 'Housewives' era towards original scripted series
From "Celebrity Wife Swap" and "The Greatest Catch" to "Jersey Shore" and "Swamp People," reality television shows continue to scrap for a gimmick that will attract a strong audience at a low cost to producers.
One of the networks that's relied heavily on that model is Bravo, best recognized for its "Real Housewives" franchise and other offerings such as past hit "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and longtime mainstay "Inside the Actors Studio."
However, relying solely on reality programming for so long has made some at Bravo feel the need for change. Following the key acquisition of College of Communication alumnus Andrew Wang, B.S. '02, the network is now shifting directions from its all-reality platform toward its first original scripted series. Wang, a graduate of the RTF program and native of Sugar Land, Texas, is a new hire to fill Bravo Media’s inaugural role of vice president, scripted development and production.
"Andrew has helped develop some of the most entertaining pop culture hits and we look forward to him bringing his creativity and experience to the network as we break new ground and move into scripted content," said Eli Lehrer, vice president of development and original programming at Bravo.
Because scripted series are a new phenomenon for Bravo, the network may spend several months on vetting all the possibilities for its first scripted series broadcast. The cable outlet already has plans to increase programming 27 percent this year by adding 11 new and eight returning series that are unscripted.
Wang began his career at Storyline Entertainment where he held various positions. During his three years there, he oversaw scripted and non-fiction series under ABC Studios, and developed long-term projects under Sony Television Pictures including ABC's "A Raisin In The Sun," HBO's "Coco Chanel" and A&E's "Wedding Wars."
"I was actually hired by another UT alum," said Wang. "I started out reading as many scripts as I could get my hands on and watching everything on television – both as a fan and as someone with aspirations to work in the business."
Wang and his staff at Bravo are charged with poring through dozens of scripts and choosing a select one or two to shoot as pilots, with Wang acting as primary liaison between writers and producers, a post he previously held in his last position at Alloy Entertainment where he developed such hits as "The Vampire Diaries," "Gossip Girl," "The Secret Circle" and "Pretty Little Liars."
At Alloy, Wang found a home for hour-long drama and half-hour comedy series by pitching them to networks that include NBC, ABC, The CW, ABC Family and Nickelodeon.
The 33-year-old said that scripts arrive for review from all walks of life, including old projects that were shelved to new spec scripts. He also hears pitches on new angles that can be used for a script, reads books and watches different television formats searching for ideas.
"I look for a clear creative point of view and a unique voice – I look for that person who can write with a modern voice, someone that has something to say and is not afraid to say it," said Wang. "I think you should always think about how viable a concept or show is with the TV viewers, but ultimately the first thing that has to work is the concept and execution."
While many viewers complain of shows that copy each other, Wang said that shows that create a different take on similar subject matter can co-exist in the entertainment universe. "We sold 'Vampire Diaries' when the first 'Twilight' was just being released in theaters and 'True Blood' was just about to end its first season," said Wang. "All three went on to become their own phenomena and create their own fan bases."
Currently at Bravo, one scripted series is set in a fictional private rehab center, while another concerns the poor behavior of parents whose kids attend an exclusive private school – with each episode containing a lavish birthday party.
It will likely take time for the network to find what it's looking to showcase. Bravo intends to broadcast at least one scripted series by 2013.
Wang credits UT's RTF program in helping prepare him for his career, including a class taught by associate professor Richard Lewis in which the students were tested on the names of all the current executives at the major networks and studios.
"One of the best lessons I learned in the RTF program was that it's not just about writing a great script or directing a great short. It's about being educated and constantly re-educating yourself on the business," said Wang. "A big part of my everyday duties is to track what's happening outside of our own company."
The young executive also said making trips to Los Angeles and making contacts with people as soon as possible is important for those looking to break into the entertainment business.
"It's never too early to start seeding your passion and point-of-view with people in L.A.," said Wang. "You never know where an opportunity will come from."
Wang also said that students should have a clear notion of what they want to do and where they fit in the industry.
"Are you more production or development, more teen soap or more procedurals?" said Wang. "Keep an open mind but really stand by your opinion as it's the one thing that's truly yours and that can separate you from everybody else. Your point-of-view is what people are investing in so make sure you are clear on it yourself."
In conclusion, Wang said that at the end of the day, he and his crew are making television – and that's pretty cool.
"Despite whatever stresses and hardships you may have to endure to get there, once you're there, you should be having fun doing it and you should love it," said Wang. "I know I do."
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182