Q&A WITH NINA LEDERMAN ’77


 

Media Maven

As the EVP of Global Scripted Development at Sony Television, Nina Lederman is riding a huge wave of new interest in international storytelling. 


After taking center stage while at Pomfret, Nina Lederman knew she'd be involved in the entertainment industry in some way. Through hard work and building upon her professional relationships, she is utilizing her diverse background and experience to take the international streaming industry by storm. She is currently the Executive Vice President of Global Scripted Development at Sony Pictures Television and always has the best recommendations on what to watch next.


As Executive Vice President of Global Scripted Development at Sony Pictures Television, you must get to see a lot of great television. What show are you watching? 

How much time do you have for me to list them?! There are so many shows that I watch and would recommend that I couldn’t possibly name them all. Sex Education and The Crown are phenomenal — and not just because they are produced by Sony-owned production companies. One of my all-time favorites is Shtisel about an ultra-orthodox family in Jerusalem, and it’s in Hebrew and Yiddish. My favorite shows change all the time because there are so many to watch. I have three kids and my partner is a talent agent so we have many different demographics in one household and a variety of content to discuss and share!

Nina Lederman in the November 1975 production of The Rimers of Eldritch

How did you get into the entertainment industry?
While at Pomfret I took theater with Bob Sloat and I loved it. I always thought after Pomfret I would be involved in theater, in acting, or in the entertainment business in some way. I went to Mount Holyoke and during my junior year did some acting while also attending the Université Paris Panthéon-Sorbonne. When I graduated from college, my first job was as an assistant to a Broadway producer. I soon transitioned from Broadway to working on television series in New York before moving out to Los Angeles to work in the entertainment industry in the late 80s — and I have been here ever since.

Constance Zimmer and Nina (right) at the premiere of UnREAL.

How did you move up the ranks to where you are now?
I started at the bottom as a production assistant, then worked as an assistant to a director; I made friends on every production. The whole entertainment business is about relationships. If you are good at what you do, don't have an attitude, and work hard, people want you around and they'll think of you for the next job. One job leads to another, and each job can introduce you to new and different people. Eventually, I was hired at NBC Studios and I stayed there for five years. After leaving NBC, I joined a management/production company where I worked for two years. Then I ran a production company before taking a seven-year job at Lifetime as head of scripted programming. When I saw that streaming and global television were on the horizon, I joined the UK-based All3Media Group, and then came to Sony.

I have loved all of the positions and jobs I’ve had, and the numerous people I’ve worked with. I believe it is critical to love the team and your colleagues especially since you will be spending a lot of time together. I have gained so many friends and formed so many relationships from the various jobs I’ve held, and I cherish all of the experiences we had together.

What does an Executive Vice President of Global Scripted Development at Sony Pictures Television do?
I head up a team that creatively helps Sony Pictures Television’s international production companies with development, packaging, and sales strategy. We also develop new material and existing IP, review formats, foster relationships with buyers both in the US and abroad, and act as the link between the US Development and International Production teams. And we bring international co-producers and buyers on board for SPT Domestic projects.

What made you want to focus on international productions?
I'm a first-generation American, my mother was from Austria, and my father was from Poland. I grew up on the Caribbean island of St. Martin and spoke Dutch, French, German, and English. I was an outlier in the domestic television business in America for a long time because of where I grew up. Having grown up immersed in West Indian culture, I've always been drawn to other cultures and international stories. As I saw the entertainment industry landscape changing, it was a natural fit for me to be able to work in a field where I could use my languages and international upbringing.

Nina (left) with Eva Longoria at the Devious Maids premiere party. 

Why is diversity in storytelling important to you?
People need to see themselves on screen — whether they're BIPOC or LGBTQIA. As we all know, there hasn’t been enough diversity in content, and that will always be a focus for us, especially on the international side. We're all "other" to someone else, and we have to celebrate that. It's our responsibility to reflect on the very people we are and the world we're living in. I have so many favorite series that I've watched that taught me something about a different family, culture, or tradition. In the world of media, you can tap into stories that make you want to immerse yourself in both the storytelling and the culture.

How has the emergence of streaming changed your work and opportunities? 
Streaming opened the door to allow series — which were once only accessible on local channels in various countries — to become a global experience. We have acknowledged that everyone can read subtitles. Streaming has united us and made us realize how similar we are. It's opened our eyes to other cultures, stories that are universally relevant, and characters that we can relate to and love — whatever language they're in. So I'm very grateful to work with international production companies who make series that can be seen in any language all over the world.

What would you tell young people who want to go into the television industry?
I think my advice applies to any business — it's about relationships, responding to emails, answering the phone, and really doing the research before you talk to people about jobs you might be considering. It's about asking the right questions and not expecting somebody to just open doors for you. You've got to put in the work to get those doors to open! Don't expect to jump up the ladder just because you think you're entitled to do that. And remember that people enjoy being with people they like. Sometimes you can get another job just because people liked having you around and valued your opinions and work ethic. Also, thank you notes don't hurt!

What is one thing that you learned at Pomfret that has stuck with you today?
I value so many things I learned while at Pomfret. In addition to the education, I learned resilience and how to get along with people from all cultures. There were so many people from different backgrounds that saw the world differently. That diversity at home and at school prepared me for the world we live in, enriched my life, and made me a better person.

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