Shortly after this year’s Emmys were recently handed out, Seneca graduate Kosta Orfanidis’s phone lit up. The producer and production manager of the Canadian hit comedy series Schitt’s Creek had just won the biggest award of his life for Outstanding Comedy Series and pretty much everyone he knew wanted to touch base with him.
“I had more than 700 views, texts and emails in just a couple of days,” Mr. Orfanidis recalled. “I have never been this popular. I couldn’t keep up.”
Schitt’s Creek’s sixth and final season swept the Emmys in nine categories, including all four major acting categories. It was the first time a comedy series had won nine Emmys for a single season after receiving a record-breaking 15 nominations.
“I didn’t think we’d win so many,” said Mr. Orfanidis, who produced the show’s fifth and sixth seasons. “We put together a product we were proud of. It was surreal. We didn’t expect it, obviously. I’m super appreciative of Dan and Eugene [Levy] for providing me with the opportunity. It was a pleasant surprise and a blessing for many.”
Schitt’s Creek’s sixth and final season swept the Emmys in nine categories after receiving a record-breaking 15 nominations. (Photo: Steve Wilkie)
Mr. Orfanidis graduated from Seneca’s Creative Advertising diploma program in 2007. Back then, on the heels of a trip to Europe, he was “enamored” with European advertisements. Armed with an economics degree, he “zigzagged” his way through the accelerated program at Seneca, uncertain if he was going to end up in the accounting or the creative side of the advertising stream.
“I ended up on the creative side, thanks to a group of teachers I had who didn’t hold you down,” he said. “They pushed you to explore your own creativity and that was pretty great.”
Creative Advertising Professor Anthony Kalamut, the first person to suggest that Mr. Orfanidis consider a career as a producer, recalled Mr. Orfanidis as an active and engaging student who stood out with his dedication, passion and a desire to always know more.
“He was never afraid to lead but also knew when to step back,” Mr. Kalamut said.
Mr. Kalamut encouraged Mr. Orfanidis to reach out to an agency producer for a discussion.
“That was my first exposure to that side of things. It was an eyeopener at that point,” Mr. Orfanidis said. “Before that, I thought finance was my thing. It opened up so many avenues of creativity for me. I don’t know what Anthony saw in me. Maybe he saw in my personality that I was a great organizer of things and a listener who can take in all perspectives and make decisions.”
While Mr. Orfanidis went into advertising after graduation, he found the work unappealing. Even so, he was hesitant when a friend working in commercial production asked him to come out and be a production assistant.
“I wasn’t really interested at first, but he begged me,” Mr. Orfanidis said. “I went out that first day and was in awe with what was unfolding. I never looked back. I started calling everyone to hire me.”
From there, Mr. Orfanidis went on to work as a production manager on shows like Hannibal, Star Trek: Discovery and 12 Monkeys prior to joining Schitt’s Creek in Season 5. He’s now a unit production manager on a television series for Amazon.
“I’m the guy who facilitates the means for the production,” he said. “I’m the eyes and ears of all elements of the show, and I’m constantly trying to blend the creative with the practical. I do whatever it takes to enable what we can achieve by always putting the smartest people in the room to hash out any challenges.”
As for his recipe for success, Mr. Orfanidis’s advice is to “listen to the specialists you’ve hired in those specific fields and trust them.”
“It was the same recipe when I was student at Seneca,” he said. “The Creative Advertising program was all about collaboration and working in teams and recognizing that there will be people with characteristics and traits that make them better suited to certain projects. You don’t need to take everything on yourself.”