Pocket Square’s Russ McCarroll on Partnerships and Team Building

In this series, real screen spotlights producers who are reinventing their approaches to their craft – revamping their business models, exploring new genres of unscripted and non-fiction content, moving into multi-platform territory, or all of the above. Here we talk to Pocket Square Productions’ Russ McCarroll about the company’s growth since its launch in 2019.

In an industry that oscillates between opportunity and uncertainty, production companies of all sizes must stay at the forefront of new approaches to creative development and business practices.

New York-based industry veteran Russ McCarroll, who launched Pocket Square Productions in 2019 after a long stint as a buyer for networks like Discovery and History, does this by expanding the range of genres in which he works and partnering with content companies that can advance its goal of “slow and steady growth, while looking for new stories to tell and ways to get those stories out to the world.”

McCarroll (pictured top) is using the latter strategy through a co-production pact with footage company Shutterstock, which announced its move to original content through its Shutterstock Studios in June. Pocket Square partners in the development and production of several projects with Shutterstock, with the feature doc The money shot and the docuseries Boy bands: treasure or tragedy already prepared for the market.

The money shot, which McCarroll also directs, explores the intertwined relationship between celebrity photographers and their subjects, and how it has evolved and become commoditized in recent decades. The boy band project chronicles the evolution of this pop music phenomenon, from the Jackson Five and the Beatles to today’s K-Pop.

Both projects make extensive use of Shutterstock’s vast archive catalog, and McCarroll says that in today’s buying climate, with documentary on the rise, partnering with a company like Shutterstock makes sense both from a business perspective and creative.

“What really attracted me to the deal were the assets, the records,” he says. “A lot of what’s happening in the documentary world now focuses on archives and access to them.”

Having this catalog at his creative disposal is not only handy for production, but also for sparking ideas to develop, he says.

Beyond creating creative partnerships, another important consideration for a fledgling prodco is growth. In June, McCarroll brought on another production veteran — Sarah Whalen (pictured below), who has held EVP-level roles at Original Productions and Super! Entertainment – ​​as Executive Vice President of Production and Development.

“We had the pleasure of working together some time ago, and as I wanted to continue to grow the business and move into these different areas, it became clear that I needed a partner,” says McCarroll.

Having a partner with Whalen’s experience lineup will help expand Pocket Square’s slate. The company came out of the gate with two lifestyle projects – format reboot Sell ​​this house for the A+E FYI network, and Country house for Magnolia Network and Discovery+ – and is now moving into other areas such as history (The Devil Speaks: Eichmann’s Lost Confession, produced with MGM Worldwide Television Distribution and Sipur of Israel, and currently purchased for the US market) and scripted. But this amount of growth must be carefully planned.

“The biggest challenge everyone is facing right now is figuring out where the content world is going with consolidation and mergers,” he says, pointing to HBO Max’s recent loss as an impromptu buyer as evidence.

“There’s a lot of turmoil in the industry right now. We’ve been pretty diligent about growing. Ultimately what makes a business successful is finding the right stories about which ones to focus on, so I’m very comfortable that I grew up slowly.

McCarroll’s time as a buyer informs his production process, as he says he naturally seeks out the types of projects he would have purchased, which he identifies as content that “defines or changes your perception of the world “. But he admits he’s happy to be working on the sell side of the fence now.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with some really good people,” he says of the idea of ​​returning to buying after running his own boutique. “But I always remember what [former A+E Networks topper] Nancy Dubuc told me: ‘More than anything, choose your boss.’ »