Miscellaneous / News

Q&A with WIFT-T’s Prentiss Fraser

McClung’s Magazine blogger Nancy Barnett interviews Prentiss Fraser, chair of WIFT-T’s board of directors at its Crystal Awards on Dec. 5.

McClung’s Magazine blogger Nancy Barnett was invited to attend the Crystal Awards on Dec. 5 held at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The 24th annual gala luncheon hosted by the not-for-profit Women in Film and Television Toronto Division (WIFT-T) recognizes and celebrates the achievements of women and men in film, television and digital media. Here, she sits down with Prentiss Fraser, chair of WIFT-T’s board of directors, the second of six interviews with winners and the women behind WIFT-T to come at McClungs.ca.

By: Nancy Barnett

Feature image via Nancy Barnett.

Prentiss Fraser is the senior vice-president of world sales and acquisitions at Entertainment One Television. She heads international TV sales and manages sales to the U.S. She represents The Walking Dead, Call Me Fitz, Rookie Blue and Hell on Wheels to name a few. Fraser also oversees acquisitions and consults on project development and financing.

How did you get started in the industry?

I was working in [public relations] for a very short period of time and I was offered a job over at Oasis International. It was a distribution company based in Toronto and the job was reception. I just literally battled my way through all the different jobs in the distribution company. So I went from reception to contract administration to deliveries to contracts again and then over to sales and I started to run the sales division there. Then eOne purchased Oasis and my career started to move forward progressively since then.

How long did it take you to get where you are today?

It has been twelve years since Oasis International. It’s been an extremely valuable experience, taking a chance on a totally different industry. It was actually a more junior position but I think that’s given me the opportunity to really understand the business from every different angle and the people that I work with. I understand what they go through on a daily basis because I’ve done that job myself. I can relate to them, which helps me as a leader.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry in today’s climate?

You need an opportunity. You have to network and get your name out there and maybe try something that’s out of your comfort zone. Maybe not something that was your exact goal but could open another door. Once you get that opportunity, make the most of it and work as hard as you possibly can to achieve success. You might do something for two years and make a switch or you might be lucky enough just to land in the industry that you were planning on. You might get on a production that you’re not really passionate about, but it’s a great experience and you never know who you’re going to meet. So, as soon as you get those opportunities, work as hard as you possibly can and make yourself known through that work – really take ownership for the contributions that you’re making.

You’ve probably heard of the documentary, Miss Representation, which focuses on the lack of female representation in the U.S. media industry. In your experience, is this also the case in Canada? Is it as bad here?

Overall, it’s not as bad here as it is in the U.S. but it’s just a few percentage points better. It’s not great. Definitely there are companies who have boards with no women on them. There’s actually even a book you can buy in Canada that lists out female board members that you can put on your organization.

A catalogue for corporate token representation. That doesn’t bode well. How do you react to this?

It’s something that I’m passionate about and would like to change so that’s part of the reason I’ve been working with WIFT for so long and I’ll continue to do so. We’ve done the research and for me, the next step is to show people what the monetary value of having women on boards. This has already been regulated in certain countries around the world. For example, in Scandinavia, you have to have a certain percentage of women in senior management on your board. There’s a direct correlation there to the profit bottom line. So I’d like to start doing that research in Canada as well and to show people that you’re not just doing it as a goodwill service, but you’re actually doing it for the betterment of the company and for your bottom line. At the end of the day that’s what people are concerned about; hitting their targets and exceeding them and all those fun things.

Like you said, there is a profit for having women at the top. Can you go into more detail about that?

It’s just adding another dimension and rounding out the perspective. I mean, 52 per cent of the population are women so when you have a group of decision-makers who are only speaking on potentially only 48 per cent of the population, you’re selling yourself short. I think that’s really what we need to focus on. It’s not about equalization, which we’ve heard for so many years. What I’m trying to say is, it’s better for business to have a diverse group of people, all different perspectives, not just men and women, making these decisions and contributing to the best possible solutions.

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