Dante Di Loreto, producer of TV’s “Glee” and also “American Horror Story,” speaks at Channel City Club

Dante Di Loreto, left, is interviewed by John Palminteri at the Channel City Club luncheon on Monday at the Fess Parker Doubletree. NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS
Dante Di Loreto, left, is interviewed by John Palminteri at the Channel City Club luncheon on Monday at the Fess Parker Doubletree.

“A producer is someone who brings people together in an opportunity to create something,” said Dante Di Loreto, who has hit television gold not once but twice in the last decade, and with two completely different genres. “Glee” is an uplifting musical comedy-drama about “the best high school you wish you had gone to” as Mr. Di Loreto said, and “American Horror Story” – in the words of one audience member at yesterday’s luncheon – “is the scariest thing I have seen on TV.”

“I use the analogy of a ship at sea,” he continued. “The director thinks of himself as the person behind the wheel steering the ship. The actor sees himself as the bow cutting through the waves. And the producer is the guy who built the boat, put it out on the water, and hopes it comes back in one piece.”

The occasion was the Channel City Club luncheon at the Fess Parker Doubletree. And the reason the Club could land such a busy man was that his father is the well-loved Silvio Di Loreto, the man behind Sunset Realty for 40 years, and a longtime member of the Club. Silvio and his wife Mary (who died in 2012) also had the arts in their background – both were actors at the Alhecama Players in town. So when the young Dante – who attended Montecito Union School and Santa Barbara High – got the acting bug, he was encouraged.

After an early career acting, mostly bit parts in television, he made a career change and started producing, first a short film, then made-for-TV movies, then beginning “Glee” with creator Ryan Murphy in 2009. “I wanted a little more control over my opportunities,” he said.

Mr. Di Loreto spoke about the labor-intensive procedures of television production. He compared the number of man-hours it takes to produce a car on an assembly line (about 70) to that of a one-hour show on network or cable television (15,000, considering the size of the actors and crew.) “You don’t think of that when you turn on television, but the truth is every hour of television is this finely crafted piece of art, made in America, by union craftsmen. It’s almost unsustainable in the modern world.”

That led to a discussion of the economic challenges facing the changing television landscape, where we have hundreds of channels and our smartphones are essentially a pocket television.

“When I was a kid people were concerned we were watching too much television,” said Mr. Di Loreto. “Now we are trying to find ways to get people watching more television.”

A lot of the 30-minute chat was taken up with the economic models of modern television, as people ditch cable boxes and turn to streaming services. Appointment television is on the way out. Watching what you want, when you want it, is in. The problem is, Mr. Di Loreto said, is that the business model, the one that works and brings in the largest advertising revenue, is still stuck in the past.

A brief survey of the guests in the room revealed many subscribed to services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu to watch shows, and Mr. Di Loreto said this way was the future. The cable companies care about your age, gender, and your income, Mr. Di Loreto said, adding that Netflix only cares about what you watch. The old model sells advertising to targeted demographics; the new model looks to a future where so many programs are made that we will need algorithms to know what to watch next.

The talk was moderated by KEYT’s John Palminteri, who asked near the end for advice for young actors.

“Write,” Mr. Di Loreto said. “Whatever you do, if you have interest, write. Because if you can put pen to paper that will guide you … It’s a skill I don’t have, but it’s the greatest gift. Everything starts with the written word. Everything starts when someone imagines it.”

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