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Marrying Art and Business: Q&A with Producer and Entrepreneur Sean Buckley

Futurpreneur | December 20, 2017

For many creative types, starting a business can be a great way to have more control over an unpredictable career.

However, for some artists, being an entrepreneur may not come so naturally. That’s why we connected with Sean Buckley, founder and CEO of the international award-winning production company film production company, Buck Productions.

Having created content for companies like Kelsey’s and Futurpreneur Canada supporter Spin Master, as well as TV shows like Rich Bride, Poor Bride, Sean has a wealth of experience and knowledge under his belt about how to balance your artistic side with your entrepreneurial side.

Read on to learn more about Sean, his business, and his advice for aspiring creative entrepreneurs.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.

I am the Founder and CEO of Toronto-based Buck Productions. I was lucky enough to grow up in Oakville, Ontario, and it has remained my home even to this day. After graduating high school in Oakville, I went on to study political science and business at The University of Western Ontario.

Immediately after completing my undergraduate education, I was one of two selected to work at Maclean Hunter in Toronto. While working as an advertising manager at Maclean Hunter, I had a growing desire for more. After three years, I knew it was time to say goodbye to my corporate responsibilities.

I spent a year and a half travelling the world, experiencing different cultures and people. It was during this time I truly fell in love with people and telling stories. In 1992, I started Buck Productions with a focus on directing music videos and commercials so that I could learn the ins and outs of the business.

I quickly added feature films and television to my portfolio while simultaneously hustling to build relationships and find the right partners and investors who believed in my dream. I am humbled to say that I am now CEO of one of the most successful production houses in North America but it hasn’t come without its challenges, as I am sure most entrepreneurs can understand.

Tell me about your business.

Buck Productions is an international award-winning production company with an expansive portfolio that spans feature films, television (scripted/unscripted), documentaries, branded content, and commercials. It prides me to say that Buck is considered one of the most diverse production houses in North America.

With Buck, I wanted to create a concept-first culture where ideas and end products are paramount. I firmly believe that a successful production model is based on the currency of ideas, rather than the “bigger is better” model.

Our film credits include hit horror-comedies Wolfcop and Another Wolfcop, Milton’s Secret starring Donald Sutherland and Michelle Rodriguez, Defendor starring Woody Harrelson, and Pretend We’re Kissing with Zoe Kravitz, to name a few.

Throughout the years we have also continued to build our television portfolio. In 2017, we teamed up with US cable network powerhouse REELZ to produce four 10-part series. This marked the largest block of production that REELZ did with any single production company in North America that year!

We have worked hard over the past ten years to tap into branded content and the digital space with projects like MTV’s McMorris and McMorris (Red Bull), Our Family Vacation (Canon), The Project: Guatamala (Group M), The 2008 Mitsubishi City Chase (CBC), Canada’s Best Beauty Talent (Rogers Media and L’Oreal Paris), and most recently Like a Tourist (Hilton Hotel Group), Two Minutes to Transform, and Young Money with HuffPost Canada Studios and AOL.

What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit within me. It was great to get experience in a corporate job right out of university as it helped me realize that the corporate lifestyle and structure wasn’t the right fit for me.

It was important to me to never settle in a job that I didn’t love, so when I realized that the company culture, process, and ideals that I wanted to be a part of didn’t exist it was up to me to build it myself.

As an artist and an entrepreneur, do you find it be difficult to align your artistic goals with your business goals? Why or why not?

I haven’t had any difficulty aligning my artistic goals with my business goals because I have always approached the concept of being an artist as not having to sacrifice the concept of building a business.

I am always trying to find the middle ground between these seemingly polar opposites. I am in the business of telling stories and to be successful in this business your artistic goals and business goals have to be in harmony.

My field is creative, organic, and artistic but I always have to remember that it is still a business. You have to put your artistic passion and skills behind projects where you know your potential ROI is higher. After over two decades in this industry, I feel confident in knowing what works well and what doesn’t.

The film industry is constantly changing. How do you ensure that your company is adapting to new trends?

Now more than ever the audience determines your success. Thanks to technology, there are exponentially more content streams available. There are more people out there producing content and more platforms where content lives. Your content has to capture the audience and make them want to lean in and listen. At Buck, we believe that all engaging content starts with a great idea. Once you have that great idea, it comes down to the execution. A good idea that is poorly executed frustrates audiences, but a good idea executed extremely well captures their attention.

What’s next for you and your production company?

We have focused so much over the past few years on diversifying our content and continuing to build our portfolio that now we have to be more selective and show restraint when choosing projects.

Volume has never been our secret to success. The quality of our work and stories have always been at the cornerstone of Buck’s success and growth. We are fortunate enough to be in a position where we’re working on a colossal amount of content that we are passionate about. We now need to be more conscious of our decisions and move forward with the best stories that are close to our values and mission.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

My advice for entrepreneurs is simple – never give up. Entrepreneurs are the modern day pioneers of the world. You are often there first and it can be a challenging journey but one that is more rewarding then you could ever possibly imagine. In the early days of Buck, I was driven by blind optimism and fear. Sometimes it can be easy to let the fear and the difficult days get the best of you but you always have to remember to never give up.