Great Pacific Media’s new VP of Development on Expanding the Prodco’s Reach


Canadian prodco Great Pacific Media (GPM) has made its reputation with rough-and-ready unscripted series such as Highway Thru Hell for Discovery Canada and The Weather Channel and Deadman’s Curse for History Canada and Hulu. With a recent major addition to its development team, the company is looking at expanding its reach while still playing to its strengths.

Former Marblemedia executive Mike Armitage (pictured) came aboard as GPM’s new VP of development late last year, and the British Columbia–based prodco is making the official announcement this week about his involvement on the team. Armitage will work out of the company’s recently opened Toronto production office, reporting to president David Way. Meanwhile, former SVP of development Ed de Rivaz has transitioned into a production executive role at GPM.

Armitage is charged with developing more titles that fit in GPM’s current slate of outdoor-driven factual series. He’ll also be tasked with expanding GPM’s slate into competition series, and, with a push into the U.S. market, looking at U.S. stories and characters to better connect with buyers in that country. Armitage will work closely with Original Content Lab principal Sean Connolly, who GPM forged a partnership with last year.

With more than 20 years of experience working in unscripted development, Armitage previously worked on the unscripted/factual development team at Marblemedia and created a variety of unscripted series at Proper Television, including Tougher Than it Looks, Last Stop Garage and Under New Management. He has also worked in senior roles at Banger Films and Antica.

It’s series such as Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue 401 that attracted Armitage to working with Great Pacific Media in the first place, as he knows firsthand how challenging these premium docuseries are to make and is impressed with how GPM has made them a core strength.

“That stuff is thrilling to me — everyday heroes whose jobs, while seemingly ordinary to most, are actually very complex jobs with a lot at stake,” Armitage says in conversation with Realscreen. “Those stories and those settings are very real and authentic. But they’re also really hard to produce, so I always understood that to get great story, you have to be in the right place at the right time, but also build relationships, focus in on character and get those moments without being overly produced."

Looking at his work ahead at GPM, Armitage says his goal is to work with what the company has identified as its key strength, riff on it, and find ways to apply that expertise to new genres.

“The key to developing unscripted in my mind’s eye is to build on what you’re really good at. But then, I like to go incrementally and say, ‘Okay, we’re good at these things. We’re good at outdoor shows, we’re good at character-driven stories, so how do we translate that into a different genre or a different type of format?” Armitage explains. “It’s about pairing what we’re really good at with stuff that is new and exciting.” 

GPM president David Way underlines Armitage’s point that the company has excelled at taking audiences into challenging environments that demand a lot from the featured individuals or teams. He adds that, in the last couple of years, GPM has built on its Canadian base with these titles and expanded to more U.S. streaming platforms, which is currently a major focus for the company.

“We’ve got great partnerships up here with Discovery, Bell, HGTV, History, CBC, APTN — we’re making shows for all of them. But in the last two years, we’ve expanded into Hulu, and The Weather Channel, working with NBCU and Wattpad, and that’s the fun of it right now — there are so many different places that you can take ideas,” Way says. “And, where it makes sense on a project, bringing a unique perspective that is Canadian, that will actually resonate internationally, in some way or another.

”Looking ahead to genres GPM could explore in the future, Armitage notes that he has experience working on food series, and is excited about what a GPM food show could look like. The company could also push more into home and real estate projects, or social-experiment series.

“I’m agnostic to the genre, so long as it fits with our mission of taking what we’re already good at and applying it to a new genre,” Armitage offers. “Not too far off what we’re already doing, but enough that we can put our own stamp on the genre.”