I’ve done quite a few of these 5×5 interviews over the years, kids, but today is a milestone of sorts – and hopefully, a turning point.
The greatest challenge to interviewing anyone in the film/television industry is actually reaching them; most folks are so gosh darn busy they have to be selective when it comes to granting interviews. In other words, if you’re a nobody like me… you’re pretty much screwed. This is especially true when it comes to publicists. PR reps have to weigh their firm’s standards and their client’s best interests and career trajectory carefully when responding to interview requests.
So when someone like Sue Baldaro shines her social media light in your direction it’s a true godsend. You see, my friends, Sue brings a unique perspective with her today. She travels to the places that exist behind the cameras we all adore so much. She walks in the shadows cast by the glare of the spotlights. She whispers behind the microphones that record the voices we treasure. She is the bridge between what others create and a world desperate for an escape from an increasingly-hostile and fragile environment.
If it isn’t clear yet, Sue Baldaro has worked in Public Relations for the past 25 years putting her particular set of skills to good use in film, television and publishing. Yes, I said TV, kids, so get ready for plenty of behind-the-scenes pics of your favorite shows like Cardinal and Saving Hope.
Yes, I am the best. You’re welcome. Here’s a shot of Sue on the set of the nail-biting hit drama Cardinal:
Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie.
(Who says Canadian TV isn’t glamorous?)
And one more, this one is a bit more revealing:
Courtesy of Brooke Palmer.
Before we get too far into the illustrious history of Sue Baldaro, let’s take a quick look at just what she does. She currently lists her occupation as Communications Specialist, Unit Publicist, Event Planner and EPK Producer, but the truth is, Sue is the person you want in your corner when you want to get the word out – about anything. I’d literally kill to have her in my dusty, neglected corner.
But I digress ( I do that). The unit publicist works on the film, TV series or movie while it’s in production to provide the broadcaster, distributor and production company (in other words, the folks with the $) all the publicity and marketing materials they’ll need when the show or film launches, ie. Gallery photography, social media videos, arrange EPK shoots (behind-the-scenes electronic press kits). The unit publicist also books/manage EPK crews, chooses all the episodic photo days, books photographers, and works with the cast on their photo approvals, photo selects with captions, delivers press kit materials (bios, synopses, character descriptions, production notes, etc) and organizes and manage all on-set media visits (to be banked for launch.)
Sweet Zombie Jesus, a production would never get off the ground without people like Sue!
Behind-the-scenes of Designated Survivor, care of Sue. Damn it! (That makes sense if you’re a Kiefer Sutherland fan.)
I know you were told there would be no math, but at last count there are about 20 unionized UPs in Sue’s home base of Toronto who belong to IATSE 667 (the same union that the unit photographers and anyone working in the camera department belong to.) And yes, I am pulling back the curtain on the Canadian TV/film industry, thank you ever so much for noticing. Sue’s presence here today is a rare educational opportunity that I’d be foolish to waste.
But back to Sue. She spent over a decade in publishing working for Bantam Books, Macmillan of Canada and eventually ended up at Key Porter Books as Director of Publicity, Promotion and Advertising. (Way to climb that corporate ladder, Sue!) In 1998, the television industry called out to Sue in a dream, possibly brought on by a bad egg roll (we just don’t know) and she began her career in television, beginning with a contract position at YTV as the Media Relations Supervisor. Once there she rebranded the network, launching the kids’ network’s fall schedule while crafting a “Keep It Weird” media event that was so epic the authorities, including SWAT units, were called in after eighteen hours. (Oh, that Hook!)
Since 1998, Sue has also been a freelance Unit and Launch Publicist on numerous U.S. and Canadian television series and movies, loaning her talent to clients like ABC, Alliance Atlantis, Showtime, and Entertainment One (eone). Sue’s been an integral part of the TV movies Crossed Over with Diane Keaton and Jennifer Jason Leigh; Life with Judy Garland, staring Judy Davis; North of Hope starring The O.C.’s Kelly Rowan; and Diverted starring Shawn Ashmore and David Suchet (Agatha Christie’s Poirot.)
Skipping ahead to August 2003, Sue joined Shaftesbury Films (getting excited yet, Murodchians?) where she was the Communications Director for eight years and raised the company’s fortunes exponentially. Sue worked on the corporate, launch and unit publicity for most of the company’s productions, including the internationally successful series Life with Derek, The Listener and a little show I may have mentioned on this blog before… Murdoch Mysteries.
Sue Baldaro also worked on one of my daughter’s favorite made-for-TV movies Terry, starring Shawn Ashmore as Terry Fox.
In 2012 Sue worked with the good folks at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF to us cool kids) to coordinate an appearance by Juliette Lewis for the In Conversation with… series and coordinated her media interviews to promote this event. In 2014, she also produced the Bill Murray Q & A and live panel with the cast at the premiere of St. Vincent at TIFF.
Fun Fact: Bill Murray is one of my all-time favorite actors, so Sue is my hero for that achievement alone.
At this point in her journey, Sue runs her own public relations business in Toronto where she represents individual actors. Now that my boundless admiration for Sue has brought us this far, let’s turn the wheel over to the lady herself: Take it away, Sue!
ONE) It’s safe to say that social media is integral to a publicist’s efforts; in your opinion, what’s the greatest challenge of trying to connect with potential viewers on the web?
Once the unit publicist has done their job and provided the broadcasters with the appropriate content they require to conduct a successful social media campaign (e.g. photography, press materials, videos, etc.), it’s up to the broadcasters and social media teams to get the info out on the appropriate social media platforms. This can sometimes include the help of “influencers” to reach the target audience. Two of the newest dramas from CTV and CBC, Cardinal and Workin’ Moms respectively – have effectively used “influencers” as part of their marketing and publicity campaigns.
Social media has been a game changer for the relationship between fans and their shows. Broadcasters now depend on this virtual water-cooler – with real-time conversations around TV shows – to enhance and drive ratings. Though one challenge remains: how to quantify and tell to what extent the conversation is driving ratings.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is ensuring that content and conversations are interesting and fun, while at the same time giving viewers insider information that feels authentic, real and engaging. It’s a great way to reward viewers for spending time on their favourite shows.
(If you haven’t seen Cardinal yet, get on that! It’s an amazing show. Saving Hope rules too.)
The set of Saving Hope with director Jason Priestley and Erica Durance. Photo credit: Steve Wilkie.
TWO) You watch A LOT of TV for work, but what was your favorite Canadian television program growing up?
Because my dad, Barrie Baldaro, appeared in comedies in the ‘70s, we would stay up late on Saturday night and catch the shows he was on after Hockey Night in Canada. We watched Comedy Café, Comedy Crackers, Zut! and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Orff. I also watched him in the children’s series Coming Up Rosie! with Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Catherine O’Hara from 1975-78.
After growing up with a comedian, I love comedies and two of my favourite Canadian series are Made in Canada (starring Rick Mercer) a parody of the television production industry, which ran from 1998-2003, and Ken Finkleman’s TV series The Newsroom, which ran on and off from 1996-2005. Both series starred Peter Keleghan, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on Murdoch Mysteries and Saving Hope.
THREE) If you could visit any fictional universe in any genre where would you go, Sue Baldaro?
This might not be a “fictional universe” but I think I would go back and visit the ‘60s and work at Sterling Cooper on Madison Avenue!!
I’m a huge Mad Men fan and credit that series for me lusting after the fashions, the architecture, the cars, the music and liquid lunches.
FOUR) You were the unit publicist for Murdoch Mysteries for a few years; did you ever appear on-camera as an extra?
No I didn’t, but the Murdoch Mysteries art department asked me if they could name a circus act after me. I think it was the Baldaro Bros. and they made a poster that was placed in a scene – wish I could get a copy of it now!!
FIVE) As the ultimate insider, what’s the coolest thing about the modern Canadian television landscape, Sue?
The coolest thing about the current Canadian television landscape is how strong the writing, acting and filmmakers have become over the past few years. And the Canadian conspiracy continues as actors, directors and writers have been able to work here, at home, while also infiltrating productions around the globe. Additionally, over the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed many trends come and go and come back again. We’re currently experiencing a return to event television, with premium limited series programs, like Cardinal on CTV, and live TV musical specials on the U.S. networks.
This truly is the golden-age of television in Canada.
(No argument here.)
Another cool perspective of the Cardinal set, care of Sue again.
I know I’ve taken up a lot of your time, friends (can you tell I’m a huge fan of Sue Baldaro?) so I’ll take my leave of you now. My thanks to today’s guest for the most enlightening 5×5 ever.
See you in the lobby, kids…