News & Press

August 27, 2019

Dany Garcia on building Seven Bucks Productions and putting the audience and authenticity first

No one ever does anything worthwhile totally on their own; behind (or, more likely, beside) every incredibly successful person is at least one incredibly talented individual integral to that success… yet out of the spotlight.

Prime example: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Surely you know The Rock.

But you may not know Dany Garcia, his co-founder of Seven Bucks Productions (named after a low point in his career left Johnson down to his last seven dollars).

Dany is also the founder, CEO, and Chairwoman of The Garcia Companies and TGC Management. She’s an executive producer on movies like the recently released blockbuster Hobbs & Shaw and the HBO series Ballers.

She’s one of the most successful producers in the industry as well as an investor, philanthropist… and if that’s not enough, she’s also a world-class professional bodybuilder.

I first wrote about Dany three years ago. And since Seven Bucks recently announced a new comedy series for Quibi called Last Resort in partnership with Powderkeg’s Break the Room, an initiative designed to foster writer’s rooms made up of underrepresented voices (in this case, Polynesian and Hawaiian writers), it seemed like the perfect time to catch up.

You co-founded Seven Bucks Productions in 2012. Looking back, what would you do differently?

I would do something very similar to what I did in building out Dwayne’s enterprise and filled more positions internally.

I would have made an investment into the future and not taken the approach of “build as you get there,” but would have gone in with the mindset of “build it because they are coming.”

I would have definitely appointed a CMO and would have invested heavier on the digital side, even though that came along, I would have moved that up front – maybe a few years earlier.

I would have leaned heavier into the idea of owning IP and acquiring libraries.

With Dwayne, I was so specific in knowing I needed a full corporate structure surrounding him. I would have done that with Seven Bucks Productions – knowing that this was going to be built-out into something that is sizable and important, I would have recognized the pieces I needed to put in place now.

Because our culture takes a moment to acclimate, it takes an investment in time to learn the thought process and the way we view the audience and talent. Making that investment earlier allows talented people to come up to speed sooner.

We now have 52 projects on our slate and a talented team in place who help bring it all to fruition.

You frequently credit the people that mentored you.

Mentorship has had a tremendous impact on me. When I was growing up, I had no exposure to CEOs or corporate leadership. My father was a very hard-working immigrant from Cuba who worked at a body shop and eventually became the manager. He was salt-of-the-earth… and while he didn’t have the opportunity to graduate from high school because he had to flee Cuba at a young age, he did teach me the value of discipline and hard work.

When I went to the University of Miami, I worked in the Dean’s office at the School of Business and the women executives who ran the executive education program, the alumni program and various other programs, became my mentors. They were the first women I was exposed to in executive roles who were leading their teams, executing strategy, and truly immersed in the business community. They shaped me immensely: From what business attire looked like to how I was drafting emails and memos. Aside from the university, the majority of my education came from their mentorship.

When I joined Merrill Lynch I was fortunate they invested heavily in their young financial consultants. There was an extensive training program: We were exposed to Carnegie Mellon’s methods, were taken to Princeton… whether it was financial planning, communications or building relationships, I appreciated the formative business education.

Another mentor who has impacted my life in a meaningful way is my husband, Dave (Rienzi). Training, professional bodybuilding and athletics are such an important aspect of my life. He taught me that I had an incredible physical capacity. If I was working out in a range of “1 to 5” and I thought my “5” was a “10,” he showed me that I wasn’t even close. He took me 5 levels higher and opened a door for me.

He untapped a resource that I didn’t even know existed inside of me physically. What he has taught me in the gym about – myself, my strengths, what I can build, who I can be – has made an unbelievable impact.

Speaking of impact; what is your approach to creating content that resonates and inspires a broad, global audience?

If you’re making stories that you want to reach the world… you have to be committed to the world. You have to be committed to the community. You have to be committed to the people and the markets you are serving and truly understand them.

You can start from the other end and bank on your opinion that a story is great, and hope that it will go all over… or you can understand the marketplace and bring that with you as you develop or create stories.

At Seven Bucks we like to say, “We do not create stories or develop stories alone.” We’re not just in a room saying, “What do we want to do? What story do we want to tell today?”

We see the audience as collaborators. They’re constantly in our minds: What is the experience? What can we share? What can we bring them? What will delight them? What will be exciting to them?

Start with that mindset, symptomatically look at projects that actually have large scopes… that’s how we aim to attract global appeal.

Let’s look at a specific example. You executive-produced the unscripted docuseries Finding Justice. How did the series impact the conversation about equality and socioeconomic justice?

With Finding Justice, we thought critically about how we could tell the stories so that as many people as possible could hear them. With such a racially-charged subject… having the type of support from BET, and our partners and producing partners allowed us to broaden the audience.

People often turn off the TV when they hear about subjects like these. They’re loud and scary. What the docuseries allowed us to do is bring the narrative down to a human level — to make it less about the noise and more about the issues.

Doing that requires a certain level of storytelling. You have to be able to step over the hurdle and earn the right to tell the story in a way that people will listen.

I love the fact that documentaries carry that responsibility. That they need to address these important issues while also recognizing that need to earn your attention with compelling narratives. I love the ability we have to do that. The fact we now are moving in that space is important for us.

We prioritize inclusiveness. We want to get the message out to everyone. When we tell a story, our bar is, “We want everyone to see it. We want this to go to as many markets as possible.”

A lot of creative people set the bar at, “I’m just going to tell the story.”

Our goal is to tell a story… and have it seen and heard.

Every year you hold a two-day “Global Domination Summit” with Dwayne and a team of executives. What does that involve?

We’ve renamed it the “Benovelent Global Domination Summit.” That’s kindler and gentler. (Laughs.)

The summit involves over 50 people. In addition to Seven Bucks Productions, Seven Bucks Creative, and Seven Bucks Digital Studios, there’s also the relationship with Under Armour and other individual corporations, as well as partnerships that are being established.

First we assess not so much who we have been, but who we will be in the next 3 to 5 years. We’re take a forward-facing look at where we are in the U.S. and also globally.

What concerns do we have? Where are the markets that we have relationships? Where do we want to deepen our relationships? Where do we want to move the needle? Where can we impact people?

We start with the general idea of who we want to be to the world — then we figure out which one of our expressions needs to be adjusted, needs to be invested in, or needs to be added so we can be that entity to the world.

I do the same thing for my other clients as well.

And I don’t know anyone else who does this in our business.

I absolutely credit it for allowing us to have so many partners who all face the same direction, who understand what the mission is and what we’re trying to accomplish.

We also always want to make sure that everything ties back to what we do in the film and television space. When you look at the entire Dwayne Johnson portfolio, you can thematically see the time and conversation. Rarely is there anything unexpected — it all makes sense.

With everything else we do, we also want to make sure it makes sense and connects back to the audience.

We never lose sight of the relationship that Dwayne has with his audience – a lot of what we do needs to resonate with them.

Since you’re constantly looking forward… what opportunities do you see in the entertainment space?

For me it’s less about forecasting opportunities and more about carving out a space for ideas — and an approach that has not been done before or attempted.

Much of what we’ve done, and much of what we continue to do, is uncharted. There is no clear model or mold. There is no clear pathway or next steps.

Trusting our instincts, always keeping the audience in mind, approaching each project and partnership with authenticity, humility and diligence… that’s our “secret sauce.”

Imagine you have two minutes to give advice on building a business. What would you say?

Here are three things:

1. Building a business is about sustainability. You must build models that can run without you. Your job is not to run everything, but make sure everything runs.

Set a vision, and work to make sure everyone aligns.

2. Embrace the power of saying “no.”

3. Create space in your life to discover what inspires your passion, ignites that spark of curiosity and motivates you to invest in your own life – because it will absolutely impact every aspect of your career.


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