At Bravo, Kathleen Dore wrote one of TV’s great turnaround stories. Now comes the sequel. She’s established IFC Companies (parent of the Independent Film Channel) as the leading indie brand. Among its hits: Boys Don’t Cry and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Says Dore: “What Nike is to athletic shoes, I want IFC to be to independent films.”
President, IFC Companies
Jericho, New York
Additional Team Members:
Gregg Hill, Ed Carroll, Jonathan Sehring, Cynthia Burnell, Mary Martin, Caroline Bock.
FROM KATHLEEN’S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Kathleen Dore joined a struggling Bravo cable network in 1988 and quickly wrote one of television’s great turn-around stories, culminating with the network’s $1.25 billion acquisition by NBC in a deal expected to close by year-end. Kathleen did this by elevating the network’s programming to new levels of excellence, drawing upon her personal passion for the arts in making Bravo a leading destination for quality fare and advocate for the arts through grassroots community initiatives. Now comes Act II in Kathleen Dore’s business career. Having made her mark at Bravo, she has opted to stay at sister company IFC, which she has already built into the leading brand for independent film. Against all odds, Kathleen successfully launched IFC in 1994 and has built it into the entertainment industry’s only end-to-end independent film company, with involvement in film production, distribution, financing and airing (television), and publication of a related magazine. The question is, can Kathleen now take IFC to the next step and make it a $1 billion-plus business as she did with Bravo? Stay tuned.
What was your moment of truth?
Kathleen’s moment of truth is one that illustrates the leadership skills that enabled her to build Bravo into a $1.25 billion business, and which will serve her well in her efforts to do the same with IFC. A script was brought to the attention of IFC’s film production unit. It dealt with a controversial story on a tough subject with an inexperienced director attached, and a lead character that would be difficult to cast. It was a risky venture and, initially, Kathleen and IFC passed on the project. After the film received seed financing from another source, it began shooting and came back to IFC with ten minutes of footage. An IFC executive saw the footage and told Kathleen it was “amazing.” Based on her trust of the executive’s judgment, Kathleen green-lighted funding for 50 percent of what became the Academy Award winning “Boys Don’t Cry.” This moment of truth is indicative of Kathleen Dore’s leadership skills and goes a long way toward explaining how she built Bravo into a cable network leader. She is not afraid to take chances. She hires quality people and trusts their judgment, giving them room to do their jobs and think out of the box.
What were the results?
“Boys Don’t Cry” received rave reviews and won an Academy Award for its star, Hilary Swank. It further emboldened Kathleen to take chances, leading to IFC’s involvement in production and/or distribution of films such as “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” the highest-grossing independent film in history.
What’s your parting tip?
One of Kathleen’s top tips is to “proactively manage risk; people who manage risk appropriately expand the range of activities they will attempt.”