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Andrew Wilk

2/12/15

“The Live From Lincoln Center” Executive Producer, Andrew Wilk claims to have a Walter Mitty character that resulted in a varied and enjoyable career.  Mr. Wilk grew up in Summit, NJ loving science as a child.  His intended career, at that time, was to become a medical doctor.  This continued with him volunteering for emergency response teams and other medically related activities until a patient threw-up on him.  That experience quashed all desire to follow a medical path.

Instead, Mr. Wilk took up studies where film and music were the focus.  When at NYU, Mr. Wilk pursued his musical studies.  This proved fortuitous as his NYU mentor initiated the Young People’s Concert programs at Lincoln Center.  Dutifully, Mr. Wilk attended these performances lending a helping hand when needed to his mentor.  When the music coordinator failed, without notice, to show-up for a performance, Mr. Wilk was drafted for the job and later was given it on a permanent basis.  This, in turn, led to his gaining the technical training and experience to become a producer in his own right and winning his first Emmy in the process. 

Not to be daunted, the ambitious Mr. Wilk began to work two differing jobs; one as the director of multiple shows while also conducting musical groups in the evenings.  The conducting led to his slotting in as a temporary conductor for symphony orchestras.  Mr. Wilk claims that this gave him leadership training because as a temporary conductor he was the leader of a group of musicians that basically resented him as an outsider.  Yet, he had to make it work and learned to do so by giving the musicians all the credit. 

In 1991, Mr. Wilk was directing a museum piece when he received a call from National Geographic.  National Geographic wanted him to direct a series of Bob Ballard specials.  Bob was a famous sea explorer and underwater archaeologist, but a mediocre television host at best.  Mr. Wilk was able to improve Mr. Ballard’s communication skills to some degree, but they still proved less than scintillating.  Consequently, Mr. Wilk recruited the actor, Robert Urich who had the looks and voice to perform as an on-camera documentary host.  But as it developed when on-site shoots were required that presented a degree of danger from animals, insects, or sea creatures, Mr. Urich  was less than Navy Seal-like in his approach and preferences. 

Notwithstanding any shortcomings, Mr. Wilk remained with National Geographic for 15 years.  During that tenure, he produced the Really Wild Animal series starring Dudley Moore.  This proved to be a tremendous hit that generated a great amount of cash.  This cash was then responsible along with the Fox Network for the launching of the National Geographic Network, which has developed into the greatest source of funding for National Geographic

While Mr. Wilk is of the opinion that television is not undergoing a precipitous decline, he notes that 70% of viewers watch programs On-Demand.  Mr. Wilk feels that there will be an unbundling of the cable networks that will allow viewers to obtain programs on an ala-carte basis.   In addition he notes the development of the so-called over-the-top networks that circumvent the cable providers and carry their signals over the Internet.

Q&A

Q.  How do you raise money with this new content approach?

A.  Nobody knows for sure.  Everything is going to be done on a subscription basis and investors are going to take flyers on what shows will be popular as subscriptions.

Q.  What will be the effect of the Avery Fisher Hall renovation?

A.  There will be a renaming of the hall.  The naming rights were bought back from the Fisher family for 15 million and the new naming rights will probably be sold for close to a half billion.

Q.  What control do you have over an orchestra as a conductor during a performance?

A.  Most of a conductor’s work is done during rehearsals.  The actual performance is for show.  The musicians do pay some attention to the conductor, but a good orchestra really finds the conductor almost superfluous at that point and can play without him or her.

Q.  The video performances of opera are very popular and much cheaper than going to a live show.  Do you see this approach expanding and are you involved?

A.  Yes and Yes.  I am involved now with taking a film approach to ballet performance and hopefully getting these films shown in movie theaters.

Q.  Can you comment on the futures of Brian Williams and Jon Stewart?

A.  Both men are brilliant.  Jon obviously has a very bright future.  For Brian there is now the issue of trust.  A news anchor has to have trust.  Six months is also a very long time in this industry.  He may be able to come back.  I hope so. 

Q.  When will HD performances from the Met be available on demand?

A.  They are available now on their own Website.  The real issue is how do you monetize such performances.

Q.  How can you get good sound out of all our electronic devices?

A.  The sound is usually crappy.  Some improvement can be achieved with the purchase of special equipment.

Q.  How many people are involved in your productions?

A.  I have a core of six people, but remember most of our productions are funded with donor dollars.  We can customize our staff for individual productions that may take them up to 60-100 but it definitely is a team effort.