Recently I got the chance to watch TLC's new hit show Craft Wars with producers Cathie Filian and Steve Piacenza. Did I also mention judge Jo Pearson was there? It was quite the event cheering with a crowd of crafters. I have known Cathie and Steve for years. We were all hosts for HGTV and DIY Network. These two never cease to amaze me. Whether they are in front of or behind the camera they do a stellar job. Their latest endeavor Craft Wars is no exception. All season we have got to check out their handiwork as producers, but on the season finale you will get to see Steve in the role as host back in front of the camera. Since I have only ever experienced one side of crafty television I decided to pick BlogHer network blogger and Emmy nominated producer Cathie Filian's brain about the whole thing.
You have a very crafty background. Can you tell us about that. Do you have TV in your background? How did you get into hosting and producing television?
I have been crafting my whole life. I started sewing when I was 8 and was smitten with the stitch immediately. I studied textile science and design in college and parlayed my degree into the film and TV business. I worked in the costume department for 10 years. I did everything from smaller films like Bottle Rocket and Rushmore to big blockbuster films like Twister and Vanilla Sky. After 10 years, I was getting burned out and wanted to take a step back. At that moment, I met Steve Piacenza, my partner in crime and business partner. We opened a boutique / art gallery that focused on handmade and local arts. We began hosting craft parties at the shop and soon after we had the idea of teaching crafts on TV. We shot a pilot and within 3 months we sold 26 episodes and a holiday special to DIY Network. The show was Creative Juice. We hosted, produced and wrote the show. We ended up making 104 episodes of the show and it aired on HGTV and DIY Network. We were nominated for multiple Daytime Emmys in the category company of Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse and Paula Deen. It was a pretty amazing experience.
Do you prefer being in front of the camera or behind it?
I like both. This past year we produced a pilot for VH-1 that was about convention models. It was so fun to produce, the models were so sweet and it was really different from producing crafts. For Craft Wars, it was a blast behind the scenes. I got to craft challenges and really sink my craft knowledge into a project. We just sold a new project that has opportunity for both producing and some on camera hosting.
We all know what hosting a show is, what exactly does a producer do?
There are so many different producers on a TV show. Some producers oversee the creative, some producers are just number crunchers and some are story producers. In reality TV, one producer might just produce the interviews. Craft Wars was interesting because it required many different brains. The executives from Super Delicious (the production company) are so talented – they are all about competition and are all very creative. The Co-Executive Producer on the show, Fred Birkhead is a specialist at designing challenges for television. Steve and I were the craft specialists. We helped in many different arenas including designing challenges, testing challenges, stocking the craft closet and producing webisodes.
I heard a rumor that your producing partner and Creative Juice co-host, Steve Piacenza is hosting the last episode of Craft Wars. Give us the scoop!
Yep – Steve jumped in and saved the day at the last moment! That is what a good producer does….makes it happen. Tori was sick and we were loosing the set so Steve filled in. He had a blast and the crafts are TOP in the show. Thankfully, Tori was feeling better and on the mend quick.
Seems like all at once new craft programming ceased to be produced for obvious networks like HGTV and DIY Network. Why do you think TLC was receptive to the idea? Do you think other networks will be following suit and sticking their toes into crafty waters?
TLC is smart! They know that the craft industry is a 29 Billion dollar a year business. Steve and I have saying that is borrowed from a famous movie….”If you make a craft show, the crafters will come!” I do think it has made an impact on other networks and I can only hope it will continue to do so. I want more creativity on TV. That is been our main mission since day one. We have been in development with something for a while and I hope we can get t to the finish line.
How do you come up with TV show ideas? How many shows do you pitch a year? How do you guys pick a network to pitch too? Do you guys produce anything besides craft shows?
I look at pop culture and trends for inspiration. I try to think “around the box” and not so far “outside the box”. Networks are comfortable with safe. That was my longest lesson to learn. I still remind myself to keep it safe. I also pitch shows I would watch. We hear “NO” more times than “maybe” and I count the “YESSES”. Our agent helps us craft our plan of attack – she is an amazing help and we couldn’t do it without her. We have produced tons of odd shows….but our heart is in handmade. We pitch about 20 shows a year and develop about 40 ideas internally. Sometimes we are developing shows for specific people and they don’t even know it.
Enquiring minds want to know – how does one apply to be on Craft Wars? How many applicants did you get and how did you select the contestants?
We were slammed with applicants. If a season 2 happens you will find casting notices at the TLC website and of course they will spread like wildfire on the internet. Craft Wars casting department and TLC cast the contestants.
Cathie Fillian is a woman of many talents. Television is not your only endeavor you are one of the busiest ladies in the craft biz. Tell the readers about all the other swell stuff you do like run Etsy stores, write books and create product lines for major craft companies.
I loved owning a brick and mortar shop but when we sold our first show we had to close the doors. Etsy allows me to run my shop from the house and I LOVE it! I love the buying and selling. My customers are amazing and I love seeing what they make with my supplies. We also have a line of products for Mod Podge and more on the way. Proudly we are in every Michaels in America and Canada. We also invented Hot Glue Gun Helpers. They are truly my little pride and joy!
Seems like there is a lot of chatter on Twitter and Facebook about Craft Wars and the judging. Do you get a say in the judging? If no, do you always agree with the Judges?
The judges are 100% responsible for the crowning the winner. I don’t always agree with them….and they usually don’t agree with each other. It is hard! The contestants are so very talented – all of them were amazing. Without them and their talents we would have no show.
What is on the horizon for Cathie Fillian? Any more exciting projects in your future? What about season 2 of Craft Wars?
I am so dang excited about the future and I wish I could spill it all. All I can say is that we have something in development that will benefit the entire creative community and I can’t wait to share. We also have more goodies coming to Michaels and holiday products too! As for Craft Wars we will have to stay tuned.
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