People Profile — Rising Star Edition: Curtis Matthews, Director of Product Development at Sony Pictures Entertainment
The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. We profile one of these professionals each week, and in this special edition of the People Profile series we are revisiting a former Rising Star Award recipient to shine a spotlight on their subsequent success.
How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find YOU)?
Licensing really does “find” you and it always seems to find the right people. After 12 years it has also become something that defines me. As a true consumer at heart, products, fashion, and merchandise have always been my forte. I fell into a role that would quickly become a career while working under a mentor of mine—Kelly Elwood at Cookie Jar Entertainment, a Michael Hirsh company that was based out of Toronto, Ontario—before being acquired by Wildbrain/DHX Media.
When were you named a Rising Star? Where were you working at the time and what was your title?
In 2017, two other very strong influences in my career, Russell Binder and Marc Mostman, nominated me while working for them at Striker Entertainment. I was their director of product development and was nominated for my work on Five Nights at Freddy’s.
What was the best piece of advice you received early on in your career?
“DO YOU LOVE IT?” and “WOULD YOU BUY IT”? have always been the core of my development POV. What can I do to make something better? What can I do in development to make a fan more excited and feel like one of their own made it?
What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment since being named a Rising Star?
Receiving the award in 2017 amongst a group of amazing fellow YPNers was such a highlight. It’s amazing to be seen by an industry that you work in and have made a part of your DNA. As broad as the spectrum is, I am truly proud of all the products I’ve put out there. Nothing is more satisfying to me than seeing someone wearing something I had a hand in, or deciding between two figures in a store isle.
What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
Approved, with changes, for infinity.
What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
For me, the challenge continues to be print-on-demand. It’s an amazing opportunity to have less waste, to test the waters on new IPs, and give fans what they want at quick speeds, but I wonder sometimes at what price. I’d love to start seeing POD partners think in terms of seasonality and capsule collections that live online and then get refreshed with new bodies and new assets. Right now, I feel like everyone is putting everything online all at once and waiting it out. I’d love to see more artist series collabs, or more collabs with show creators to design unique pieces that live online for a moment.
In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
Flexibility. We can’t always get what we want but getting close is better than getting nothing at all.
What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
LBE is really a favorite of mine. While I love a good fashion collab, there’s nothing like stepping into a universe that you otherwise could have only dreamt of. Things are great but being able to be fully immersed into a world is the most memorable.
The last licensed product I bought was…
Bought? Friends & Family Discounts only please. I’m a huge Alice in Wonderland fan and cleaned out a dinnerware set by the artist Mary Blair by Disney Parks.
What words of wisdom would you give to the 2022 Rising Stars?
Remember that you’re responsible for fans. A show, a game, or a movie gets them in the door, but finding that item, that easter egg, or that in-universe element they resonate with really makes a difference. Don’t just do the deal because it’s worth more on paper. What’s worth the most is when a fan feels heard in product and the product is organic—that’s when product moves.
The Rising Star Awards recognizes the next generation of leaders around the world for their commitment, passion, and contributions to their company and the licensing industry. For the first time, the Rising Stars will be recognized and celebrated at the Hall of Fame Gala Luncheon in New York City on December 7th, 2022. Nominations are NOW OPEN!