Local media executive and former anchor shatters television stereotypes to bring an entirely new perspective to the industry.
The Real Housewives of Orange County. Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Real World. What do these shows have in common? Copycat TV. Mindless programming. Recycled ideas. The exact programming that Colleen Needles Steward, CEO and President of Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc., is trying to avoid with her media production company.
Sixteen years ago Steward left her life as an anchor for WCCO in order to pursue a different venue--television production. Her new career path all began when watching Sesame Street and other children's programming with her children back in the early 1990s. While watching the television program, she thought of her own idea Because of her children, she came up with her own kid's program--"Once Upon a Tree."
The live puppet-action series with a talking tree had writers from Sesame Street was sold to Animal Planet back in the early 1990s. The hopes of only selling a pilot quickly transformed into 26 episodes and the birth of a media production company--Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc.
Looking back, Steward says, "I never really saw a future with television, but after [Once Upon A Tree] happened, the ideas just poured out."
Steward saw the opportunity in this experience and left her anchor job at WCCO in order to produce more television shows. The company and her continued to create shows that varied from wildlife documentaries to reality television. However, they have yet to face their roots of children's programming since the launch of "Once Upon A Tree."
Over time, the programs have continued to evolve as innovative shows that portray a unique perspective in the television industry. Their latest programming includes:
•Epic Homes showcases over-the-top properties in various settings, such as log cabins, islands, and castles. The show is packed with passionate homeowners that will not settle for less than perfection. Aires on Destination America.
•Ghost Land Tennessee, which explores the possibility of ghosts from the perspective of a Southern Christian group of men. They investigate the paranormal and capture the spirits--using their own homemade equipment. Aires on Destination America.
•Their most recent pitch, Rosie, is about a woman's encounters with an angel. Premieres on TLC in the upcoming year.
•The popular program, Bizarre Foods: America returns with culinary host, Andrew Zimmern, for its seventh season of exploring the nation's oddest foods. Aires on the Travel Channel.
Today, Tremendous! Entertainment, Inc. has transformed into a dual headquarters-based company in Eden Prairie, MN and Hollywood, CA. For 13 years, the company was solely based in Minnesota. With the growth of the company, another headquarters moved to Hollywood to take advantage of the city's endless resources and connections. The company's time is evenly split in both cities.
Steward and her team have infiltrated successfully into the dual-city lifestyle. She is able to see her children that attend school in California while also creating the television shows she loves and cares about. Fortunately, they have not gained the Hollywood mindset of programming.
"You know...in Hollywood they tend to write off the middle area of the states...but surprisingly enough, we find our best material right in our own backyards."
That latest material and talent--Off Pitch--was discovered in no other than LaCrosse, Wisconsin. The show is a reality comedy about "a loveable group of twenty-something misfits who sing and dance their hearts out in small festivals and venues."
"We pride ourselves on our motto--'Telling A Different Story'--rather than reproducing something that has already been done a thousand times," states Steward.
This mantra has proven successful with several highly prestigious awards and accolades. Over the years, Tremendous! Entertainment programming has received:
• Emmy Awards
• Edward R. Murrow and Peabody Awards
• NPPA Photographer of the Year Awards
• Telly Awards
• Andrew Carnegie Medal
• The Livingston Award
• Iris Award
• Gold medals at the New York, Houston, and 48 Hour Film Festivals
Colleen Needles Steward has had a full career packed with unique experiences and memories and she does not plan on stopping anytime soon. In the next 10 years, she sees her and the Tremendous! Entertainment team continuing to grow and diversify with digital media, scripted television, and movies.
Steward reflects fondly of her incredible experience as an anchor for WCCO. Throughout her adventures, she had unbelievable opportunities that local broadcasting cannot provide anymore. During her WCCO days, she traveled to New Guinea for three weeks to film a documentary of Catholic missionaries and three (now former) headhunters.
She recalls the opportunity as "such an authentic experience to see that life hasn't changed" and loved the simple lives that they lead.
With the ever-evolving world of journalism, she does not see herself returning to WCCO or broadcasting. Lead anchors do not travel to film a documentary anymore--which was her favorite part on the job.
While Steward does not foresee Tremendous! Entertainment as the next go-to media company, her unique perspectives of the television industry and novel ideas push the company above the rest. She is always on the move for the next big idea and never seems to slow down.
"The days start early. The nights end late. And I work so much, but I cannot imagine myself doing anything else."
She is a woman who is full of energy and life that truly loves what she does for a living--which is a breath of fresh air.