February 11, 2022

New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the honor of hosting a live video Q&A with Liz Miller and Madeleine Nimoy of Paramount Pictures Studios to discuss the art of production with NYFA students and alumni. NYFA instructor Adam Nimoy curated and moderated the event.


Our guest curator and moderator Adam Nimoy is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Loyola Law School. He practiced Entertainment Law for seven years specializing in music recording and publishing. He was a business affairs executive at EMI America Records and Enigma Records. Adam left the practice of law to pursue a directing career.

Adam has directed over forty-five hours of network television including episodes of NYPD Blue, The Practice, Ally McBeal, and The Gilmore Girls. He taught writing, directing, and acting at the New York Film Academy, is the author of a memoir entitled ‘My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life’ published by Simon and Schuster, and directed For The Love Of Spock, the documentary film about his father, Leonard Nimoy.

Our guests Liz Miller and Madeleine Nimoy are producers at Paramount Pictures Studios.
Miller is the Executive Vice President of Television Production at Paramount Television Studios, a ViacomCBS company. Liz and her team are responsible for establishing relationships with production companies, reviewing budgets, and advising on best production practices. She works closely with the creative, finance and post production departments at Paramount as well as other studio teams to ensure efficient delivery from script to streaming.

Maddy Nimoy is the Director of Production at Paramount Television Studios. Maddy is responsible for setting up television productions all over the world and works in tandem with Paramount Television creative teams as well as other Paramount departments including finance, business affairs, and post-production. She manages shows from script to delivery to make sure each production comes in on budget and on schedule which has become a major challenge during the pandemic.

Liz Miller’s work is mostly behind-the-camera. Liz was born in Hawaii and attended college where she majored in Broadcast Communications. Before graduating, she began to intern at Ogilvy and Mathers, an advertisement agency, in the broadcast department and was hired right after graduating. In time, she made her way to Los Angeles where she worked for several years before heading to Netflix where she served as Director of Production before becoming Senior Vice President of Television Production at CBS Television Studios.

Madeleine Nimoy has an impressive resume of her own. She has been at Paramount Television for over six years. Prior to her tenure at Paramount, Maddy worked in production on Person of Interest and Masters of Sex and has also served as an independent producer for television and feature films.

Maddy was a student at Bard College studying Art History and Photography but she says, “I was always fascinated by the behind the scenes, very obsessed with all the pieces that went into a production from production design to the wardrobe to the props to the set dressing…I just couldn’t believe how much work it was to get a TV show made.”

During senior year at Bard, Maddy started as a part-time production assistant on season one of Person of Interest. She worked odd days, “They would ask me to come in on a Tuesday and I would come be an office PA and miss school for the day because I was hoping to set myself up.” It worked. She was hired as a full-time production assistant for season 2 of Person of Interest. On Maddy’s first official day, the production coordinator gave her some words of encouragement, “We’re giving you a chance and if you screw up, I’m going to fire you.” It was a 22-episode show that shot in and around New York. “PA’s were dropping like flies because it was hard, so taxing and challenging.” Maddy was the only office PA that survived the season. “I actually think, it’s literally to this day the hardest job I’ve ever had … it was a wild experience and it definitely shaped me forever.”

Maddy admits that “It always helps to know one person who can connect you to another random person.” Maddy got her first Person of Interest through J.J. Abrams who happened to direct her grandfather Leonard Nimoy in the 2009 feature film of Star Trek. “There is nepotism in the industry,” Adam adds. “You do have to have connections, it’s very helpful but if you don’t show up and do the work you’re going to be gone very quickly.”

Liz and Maddy gave us an inside look at the production process. It all begins with an idea. A writer (usually one with representation via an agent or a lawyer) will start by pitching an idea to a creative executive at Paramount. Assuming the creative executive is interested in the pitch, they make a deal with the writer (handled by the Business Affairs department). The writer then writes a pilot, Paramount’s creative team weighs in, gives notes and shapes up the story. If it’s good enough, they will package it by attaching a director or actor to the project and pitch it to a streamer (Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, etc.) Finally, the writer and executive come up with a budget and work on scaling the show down to budget-size, if necessary. Which sometimes means changing where the show takes place. “We look at tax incentives,” Maddy gave an example of different costs based on location alone. “It’s the same day-cost to shoot Jack Ryan in Hungary than it is to shoot Made for Love, which is a half-hour show in Los Angeles. During this entire process, production is working with every department. Production is “the hub” as Liz calls it. “We connect with every department – with casting, we connect with legal, we connect with business affairs, we connect with clearances, so anybody who needs information on the show they always come to production because they know we are in touch with the show … We touch every department.”

As if the task of taking a show from a script to a screen is not hard enough, Covid -19 has complicated matters further. When budgeting, studios now have to add about 10% more to each budget to cover covid-related costs because insurance companies won’t cover them anymore. “They’ll go bankrupt … [insurance companies] cannot pay for all of the covid shut downs anymore,” says Liz. A single Covid case has the potential to shut down production for weeks at a time and everyone who has to quarantine is on Payroll while they are not filming. “Just to give you a scope [of the cost], I’m spending on one of my shows at least $100,000 a week on testing, on nurses to administer [the tests] and the medical facility we need if we have to ask any kind of questions on what to do…that’s one week only on one show.” Liz shared. At any given moment, Paramount is working on 12 shows at once.

Towards the end of the talk, many students and alumni had questions about breaking into the industry. “How do you get in when you know nobody, when you don’t have an easy connection? What is the first way to try to get your foot in the door? How do you find a connection in the industry?” To which both Liz and Maddy gave sound, practical advice. Liz vouched for internships, “I would suggest internships … if you go to any website CBS, Netflix on their job page they have interns … I would contact groups like Women in Film, Women in Media or Array to just get involved … They have classes and their purpose is to get young people into the business.” Maddy recommends facebook groups, “In New York there’s Local Zero Heroes … and that’s an epic facebook group where people will need day players all the time to come on to set all the time … you never know who you’re going to meet.”

Adam closed the conversation by thanking both Liz and Madeleine for the conversation and the students for their time.

To hear the full conversation, click the video below our watch on our YouTube channel here.

These guests are not faculty and do not teach at NYFA, but they have appeared to share their stories and experience with our students. As guest speakers are scheduled based on their availability, NYFA cannot guarantee whether a guest speaker will visit during a student’s attendance or who that guest speaker may be. This guest speaker forum is not part of any NYFA curriculum and attendance at guest speaker events is purely voluntary. Students should be aware that guest speaker events do not represent a job opportunity nor are they intended to provide industry connections.