By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Sean O’Malley was not born here although he had made business trips to Knoxville as the Owner of O’Malley Productions, a full-service video production company he founded in 2005 in Los Angeles.
“I dreamed of working in LA,” the New Orleans native told us during a recent interview. “My wife and I decided to move to the city in 2002 without jobs. She’s in public relations, so she landed a job first.”
Now, after 18 years of living in California, O’Malley is about 12 months into being a resident of West Knoxville, moving his production company to the city and locating it in the commercial space adjacent to the Gettysvue community.
The company has team members located throughout the U.S., although O’Malley says he has hired 10 people locally with some working in the West Knoxville office and others being remote. “The talent pool in the production community here is very robust,” he says. “It’s really rich.”
So, you are no doubt wondering the impetus for uprooting from production rich Los Angeles and moving to Knoxville. O’Malley explains that it was for personal reasons. He grew-up in New Orleans, and his wife’s family is from Ormond Beach, FL. They wanted to move closer to both families. When COVID-19 shutdown much of California, they had the motivation to do so and the opportunity to raise their two children is a less congested area.
“I also relished the opportunity to be in a wonderful city where Discovery has a significant presence,” O’Malley added.
After all, the videos that the company produces are shot on location, meaning anywhere in the U.S., so location for him was not as important as it had been. Final production before a show airs is done locally.
As described on its webpage, O’Malley Productions “creates premium primetime unscripted content.” That includes both series and specials on networks like Animal Planet, History Channel, Cooking Channel, Destination America, and Food Network. One of its best-known shows is “Food Paradise,” a nearly 200-episode series on the Cooking Channel for which post-production is being completed for seasons 15 and 16.
“I worked for a few years at a company that produced for the Discovery Network,” O’Malley said, explaining his local ties with the company that bought Knoxville-based Scripps Networks Interactive in 2018.
After several years with that company, he pitched a show to Scripps about cocktails. O’Malley did not know if the show would be a special or a pilot for a series, but it showcased food and cocktails. Scripps liked the idea and used it on its Fine Living Network that featured documentaries, reality, and how-to shows related to home, cooking, travel, lifestyle and health.
“It was a marriage of two things I love,” O’Malley explained. One was food, and the other was production. The Times-Picayune (New Orleans) featured some of his early work in this article about the debut of a Cooking Channel show called “Eat This, Drink That.”
He says the shows that he produces today tend to run 60 minutes, are process-driven, and focus on craftsmanship, whether it is about building homes, boats or cars and creating amazing food dishes.
“I love the stories that restaurant owners have to tell,” O’Malley says. “We’re following people doing amazing things, (telling) the how, why and what inspired them.”
That said, he adds,” The food is the star.”