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Face in the Crowd

“CityTripping Productions has been widely praised by the media and consumers alike since its founding last year. Generational prognosticator David Lauren (yes, son of Ralph) called the Company’s first book `informative . . . . with real insights about what it’s like to be young in New York.'” For those of us skeptical of Lauren’s ability to prognosticate, Rolling Stone called CityTripping.com “the scrappier and hipper counterpart to corporate behemoth Citysearch.”

Tina Hay gives the impression of being as far as one can get from a technophile. To add to the exotica of not being either a banker or a consultant, Tina worked at a major Hollywood studio before going the internet route:

Did you major in film at university? What made you decide to go into film after UCLA?

I’d always had a passion for film and started by working at the Cannes Film Festival after which I worked at Miramax doing feature film acquisitions, and then moved on to the Paramount, Scott Rudin production company.

You go to a lot of parties and hang out with the latest and greatest glamour pusses, but the social aspect becomes tiring quite soon. The real reason the movie business attracts so many people despite the monumental egos of the people involved is that you work with, on average very talented, thirsty people where success is determined by capitalizing on opportunity. That’s the great equalizer for people who flock to the business from all sorts of backgrounds.

A friend of mine wrote American Pie as a complete lark, was fortunate to have it optioned and became a millionaire overnight. Even though he only got paid four or five hundred thousand dollars for the American Pie script, subsequent projects came to him as a result of his first work.
What was working in the industry like? Somehow, given what I have experienced of you, I almost find it hard to picture you in the movie business.

Have you seen the movie Swimming With Sharks? Rudin was the inspiration behind the sadistic studio executive character, so you can imagine what sort of environment working with him constituted. When I used to tell people I worked for Scott Rudin they used to tell me they would pray for me. But despite his eccentricities, he was one of Paramount’s most prolific producers and consistently worked with some of Hollywood’s best acting talent and creative minds. Good place for me to learn about the business.

How did you pick Rudin? Surely his reputation preceded him.
Because he worked on a diversity of film genres ranging from South Park – the Movie, to Sleepy Hollow and the Truman Show. By way of anecdote, the creators of South Park were two guys with no money for a fax machine when we first signed them on to a movie based on a 5-minute sample of their work called The Spirit of Christmas. Now they don’t return phone calls and make about fifteen million a year. But aside from his “discoveries,” Rudin was also involved with producing Broadway shows and film projects based on recently acquired novels – all this meant that the quality of writers and directors we worked with was fairly high.

Would you go back to working for Rudin or some other movie studio as a script editor? Will you stay in the media business in the medium term?

Working with Rudin was a life-altering experience that’s best now that it’s behind me. So, no I’m not planning to go back anytime soon. I learned a great deal about the movie business and affirmed my interest in pursuing a career in the media industry but, having followed up my script editing stint with a start-up company, I am looking for the next step in my progression. I’d like to stay involved with the media business broadly. The convergence of traditional media and the internet interests me a great deal.

So what prompted the switch to the internet and how did you find your partner?

I was moving up in the ranks below Rudin but have always wanted to own my own venture and the time seemed right to move into new media. My partner was also involved with media and had the original idea for CityTripping Productions. The compelling thing about CityTripping for me was using multiple media types to deliver content. As a result, CityTripping is a multimedia operation with an internet presence, an online TV show, and city guides in New York & Los Angeles. The online show is House of Style meets Eye on LA and provides snapshots of what’s hot in LA. This is a younger, hipper version of Citysearch focused on youth lifestyle trends in NY& LA. My partner dealt with NY and me, with LA.

To the outside observer, the two worlds couldn’t be more different: success in the movie business is determined by who you know while the internet world is open to anyone who seizes opportunity (and finds money dumb enough to fund them).
I don’t think I would have ended up doing CityTripping without my movie background. CityTripping’s success was definitely determined to some extent by the relationships I formed in studio land. Would I have done things differently? Definitely not. CityTripping allowed me to use knowledge garnered from moviemaking to different, new media.

Have you remained involved with the company? Will you go back to CityTripping after HBS?

I’m not really operationally involved with the business any more but retain my equity interest. The NY guide is in its 4th printing, the LA guide just released recently and so things are going quite smoothly. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the LA guide, which was really my baby, already:
actor,culturalist, game show host, and all-round wise guy Ben Stein can’t get enough of CityTripping’s thorough examination of LA. He can’t indeed, saying “CityTripping LA takes you to what counts in food, sex, buying, sleeping, and looking in every part.”

To be honest, I don’t know whether I’ll go back or not. While I am focused on media, career confusion still reigns at the moment.

February 26, 2001
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