Producing an Emmy-nominated series

Matt King on working with the likes of Jon Hamm and Jack McBrayer

Matt King, founder of production company LaRue Entertainment responsible for shows such as Emmy-nominated The Amazing Gayl Pile, has operated on a BYOB — Be Your Own Boss — principle ever since he was in high school.

King, a Royal St. George’s College graduate, said one of his classmate’s parents came in to speak about his job while he was at school and that the acronym he taught them stuck with King.

“I thought, ‘I need to be my own boss. I need to start my own thing,’” he says.

After a stint at Much, working with his brother, and at Entertainment One, King did just that. He set up LaRue Entertainment in 2006 and convinced his childhood friend Andrew Ferguson to join him. They relaunched the company after leaving Entertainment One in 2011.

“What’s great about our partnership is that we’re kind of this push-pull. He was always a little more reserved, so he makes me justify decisions for moving the business forward before I do anything,” King says.

King says his interest in producing started with his brother, who is a writer, actor and producer, when he started working for him at Much. “I got to horse around and be on camera but also get people coffees, and lunch was paid for! I thought it was awesome. And I realized it could be like this every day,” King says.

King is especially passionate about artists making decisions for themselves, adding that LaRue’s mantra is that they’re a creator-driven, artist-driven company.

“When we worked at a big company like Entertainment One, we found that it was business people making the decisions, not the artist, and we said to ourselves, ‘This isn’t right.’ It should be the artist telling us what’s cool or what’s not cool.”

King and Ferguson decided to produce stories that interest them, so their process is to find creative people they trust and “go all in on their vision and make it happen for them.” So far, the system has worked for them. This year they produced Filth City, a series about a mayor running for re-election who was caught on camera smoking crack. Sound familiar?

“We wanted to make something that was going to be relevant to people, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s just a fun story. And in 20 years when people watch it again, people may not remember Rob Ford’s story, but they’ll remember Filth City.”

They’re also producing The Amazing Gayl Pile, currently airing on CBC. The show earned an international Emmy nomination for its third season which featured Jon Hamm (Mad Men) and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock).

“Jon Hamm actually said he [agreed to be on the show] because he watched the show and he liked the show. Of course, we couldn’t be happier to work with these guys because they shine a light on a show that would otherwise maybe get passed on because there’s so much out there to watch.

King and Ferguson are excited to head to the International Emmy Awards on Nov. 20.

And then later this year, LaRue Entertainment will be releasing Blood, Debt & Tears, a documentary about making Filth City (and how they almost went bankrupt doing so) that will air on CBC.

For King, the key to success is working smart and working hard. In all of his jobs on set, from lighting technician to production assistant, he asked questions so he could learn how everything works.

“So I kind of did everyone else’s job on set,” King says with a laugh.