Published Sep 07, 2023
Faculty Spotlight: Peter Gordon (Course Director, Business of Film – Film Production MFA)
Film Production MFA course director Peter Gordon worked at Cinemax and NBC and helped launch the Golf Channel before he came to Full Sail.
“If [students] want their creativity to sustain them – which is what we all want, we want to make enough money from our movies so that we can make movies full time – then it's really important to spend time thinking about the business end of [the film industry],” says Peter Gordon, the Course Director for Full Sail’s Business of Film class in the Film Production MFA program. Luckily, Peter can teach his students about the practical side of filmmaking by calling on his decades of professional experience at major networks like NBC, Cinemax, and the Golf Channel.
Throughout his career, Peter was present for several major changes in the television industry. He was working at NBC when the network was purchased by GE, and he was an assistant in the NBC legal department when the network was negotiating their deal to stay at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Peter was also at Cinemax when the network and its sister channel, HBO, became two of the first cable networks to offer multiplex channels.
“I was the Assistant Manager of Programming at Cinemax when HBO decided that we were going to start the multiplex, which meant three channels of HBO and two of Cinemax,” he says. “We had to figure out what that meant. How do you schedule the second channel of a movie cable system? How do you put those systems in place? How do you make sure you're not duplicating stuff? Now, of course, everybody's got multiple channels, so it's commonplace, but at the time, it had never been done before.”
Peter was also part of the team that launched the Golf Channel, one of the first television channels dedicated to a single sport. Programming was his primary responsibility. In addition to scheduling golf tournaments, Peter and his team developed a 30-minute news show called Golf Central, an instructional show called Golf Channel Academy, and a reality competition show called The Big Break. Peter helped get documentaries, golf history shows, a live interview show called Golf Talk Live, and more on the channel’s programming schedule.
“We had to figure out what [a niche sports channel] was from the beginning, and we didn't have a lot of models on which to base it,” he says. “Essentially, all the programs that we did were the first time anybody had ever done them… I also had to figure where they went in the schedule. How do you create the schedule? How do you create the repeats and how you put things together? We did a lot of experimenting in those days.”
Peter gained professional experience with negotiating, pitching, contracts, and collaboration when he worked in programming. That background grants him a unique perspective that benefits students in his Business of Film class. The course covers essential business components of the film and television industry, like raising money for creative projects, negotiating deals, understanding taxes and intellectual property laws, marketing, and submitting to film festivals.
“In the jobs I’d had, most of my time was spent negotiating licensing deals and drafting contracts, and of course, making long-term plans… I teach the importance of having a plan, the importance of negotiating, how to read a contract, how to pay attention to what goes into your contracts.
“[I also talk about] working with creatives, working with writers and directors and development people, taking a lot of pitches,” he continues. “I was the guy who got pitched all the time when I was in charge of programming, and also when I was running production companies, I did the pitching. I'm able to work with the students on pitching and development, that's one of the things we talk about.”
Although his time at major networks led to plenty of exciting moments, Peter’s time at Full Sail has brought him some of his most rewarding experiences. He recently celebrated 10 years with the Film Production MFA program, and he loves staying in touch with students who are making their mark on the industry.
“I still get calls from students who used to be in my class. I'm always thrilled when they call up or email and say, ‘Hey, I learned a lot in your class. I'm thinking of starting a business.’ I just got an email today from students who graduated a couple years ago; they completed a feature and were asking me to help them, to give them advice on marketing, for example. I do a lot of that. I’m always thrilled when that happens,” he says.