As part of the Beyond Reality interview series, I sat down with Frank Sinton, Executive Producer of ‘Floor Is Lava’ and President of A. Smith Co. Productions to talk about the launch of series 2 of the hit show on Netflix. Frank shares his insights from an impressive 40 year career in television that now sees him at the helm of a whole slate of TV shows.
To listen to the full interview, check out the Beyond Reality podcast here: Beyond Reality – Frank Sinton or find it in your favourite podcast app.
Hayley Ferguson: Hi Frank. Thank you so much for joining me. I’m so excited to have you here to talk about the Floor Is Lava, the new season, launching on Netflix. And before we get into that, would you mind just in your own words, giving me an introduction to yourself, essentially who you are and what you do?
Frank Sinton: So I’m Frank Sinton. I am president of A. Smith and Co. Productions and I oversee our wide slate of shows, EP as many of them as I can and help oversee development and just help keep our company running and happy and making shows that people hopefully love.
Can you talk us through just a couple of the shows that you do oversee?
Well, I’ve been there a long time, so we’ve done hundreds of hours of shows. I will say what I love about our company is we have a real wide range of programs. We obviously do some of the big network shows like Hell’s Kitchen and American Ninja Warrior, Floor Is Lava, which we’ll talk about a little bit later, but also the documentary space is something I personally love and is something we’ve been doing for a long time. We have shows – a big hit on TLC right now – Welcome to Plathville, which is in the midst of a very compelling season four, American Gangster: Trap Queens, Unsung, which is just wrapping up season 12, believe it or not on TV One. So there’s just a little bit of the range. It’s a wide gamut and that for me, makes it fun because every day’s different, every show is different.
Did you always want to work in TV?
Yes and no. The no is, yeah, I grew up in Chicago which is not the TV entertainment capital world in a very kind of modest middle class. You go to college and you get a job. So I grew up like most little kids expecting to be a lawyer and chief justice of the supreme court! Well, what I would do is a kid, and this is true – I would actually make TV schedules. And this is before cable. I’m that old! But before cable, I would just make up my own channels and do schedules and create shows. So while I didn’t know at that time that that was the career for me, cause I thought I would have a much more practical path, it was always sort of the secret dream. And then I got to college as a pre-law major and realised, wait a minute, I don’t wanna be a lawyer – that does not sound fun. So I started taking as many entertainment [courses] and started working at the local TV station and, and then I was hooked, you know, then the career path was set.
It’s an addictive industry, isn’t it?
It is. It is. Cause you know, I mean…when you can do what you love when you can – I don’t wanna say play for a living, but in many cases we do! We make TV, you know, I mean it’s a gift and I never take it for granted.
You’re obviously an executive producer now, you’re at the top of your game in your career. Can you take us back to the early days, what was that first job in television and how did you land it?
Well… the first job out of college was awful. So if anybody listening and their career starts terribly, you will survive. But I was doing two jobs. I was working for a terrible little production company during the day and doing phone sales for cable TV at night.
So I was getting yelled at during the day and yelled at at night by people who didn’t wanna be called. But I remember when I was doing the phone sales, I didn’t do very well, but I loved when anybody would talk to me. Cause the first question I always asked is, what do you like to watch on TV? So as someone who wanted to program TV or make TV, just being able to talk to regular people about what they watch on TV was fun for me, whether they bought cable or not, it was part of my job, but that didn’t seem to matter as much to me at the time. But yeah, the daytime job sort of fell apart when the owner went bankrupt again and couldn’t pay me or anybody else on the staff, it got pretty ugly.
I got very sad and I realised I wasn’t gonna have the career I had dreamed of living at home in Chicago. So I had a friend who was already out in California and he’s like, there’s jobs out here, come on out. So I went with a friend of his, we got in a truck, drove across the country. I slept on his floor and you know, started looking for work. And I remember like for me there was sort of two paths. I either wanted to be Brandon Tartikoff, who was at the time head programmer at NBC when they were at the top or Steven Spielberg, cause who doesn’t wanna be Steven Spielberg? Right? And very early on, I had two entry level jobs or two job offers. I had a PA on a Godzilla movie and there was a job in the traffic department at KTLA.
And at the time, I remember, it’s the biggest debate and it was, you know, cause it’s sort of which door are you going through? And I remember thinking, I could sort of figure out how I could take the entry level job at the TV station and work my way up, but I couldn’t figure out how I could take the PA job and work my way up to director. So I took the TV job cause I loved all aspects of TV and you know, it worked. So I got that job and was able to work my way up. And then eventually as I got older, I was able to switch over to, you know, more of the producing side than the TV side, but that’s the beginning.
Now that you are working as an executive producer, can you explain what an executive producer actually does?
It’s one of those things where if you watch a lot of shows, you’ll see eight executive producers and it’s like, okay, which one of them really did the job, but you know, for me, I’m an executive producer on the production company side. So for me, it’s really about overseeing all aspects of the show, but I’ll be executive producer on probably 2, 3, 4 shows at a time. We will often have a show runner or another executive producer whose job is a hundred percent, every single detail living it, breathing it. But you know, my main job is getting things set up, hiring the right people, overseeing cuts, dealing with the network. Obviously, that’s a big part, you know, making sure they’re happy, making sure we’re staying on budget, which is also important to everybody and making sure it’s great. Ultimately the buck stops with us, with me on the shows that I’m EP to make sure that every aspect of the show is to the level we need it to be. And all of the stuff that happens in between, you know, the things that don’t go, right. That’s when my phone rings.
Let’s talk about Floor Is Lava! What do you think it is about the show that’s made it such a hit around the world?
I think it’s that relatability, right? We’re all kids at heart. Like the, the games we love, you know, tag, hide and go seek, like this is sort of that version. It’s simple. So it’s relatable. It’s fun. And let’s be honest. we like watching people fall in the lava! Like it’s still kinda fun when they fall, we laugh, but you know, nobody gets hurt. It’s just good fun. And I think we’re at a time where, you know, there’s a lot of serious stuff all around the world. And I think sometimes we just need to have a good time and Floor Is Lava is that. We’ve got a great host. Rutledge is great. It’s a good time. We don’t take ourselves too serious. And I think it’s great to do things that change the world and that’s a big part of our brand, but it’s also great to just have a good time and laugh and watch something together too. It’s a true family show. You know, kids can enjoy it just as much as adults and watch it together. I mean, growing up, there was a lot more stuff you’ve watched as a family. Now it’s a more of a rarity. So I think that’s a big key too.
The new season has just launched on Netflix, what can we expect from season two?
You can expect more of all the things you like and some surprises. So, I mean, look, you know, you talk about getting to play for a living. I mean, getting to make Floor Is Lava, I mean, literally that’s playing for a living and to be able to take a franchise that was already successful and already working and really blow it up to the next level was a blast. I mean, this year everything’s gone bigger and we’ve added a volcano. You know, we always wonder when you watch Floor Is Lava, where’s the lava coming from? Well, now we know! And we’ve got the big giant finale racing up the volcano. We’ve upgraded all the rooms, we’ve upgraded the lava, you know, the show worked. It was great. But you know what? We love that challenge of..how do you make it bigger, better, not necessarily cheaper in this case, but bigger, better!
This season, there was an Aussie representing – Harry Jowsey from Too Hot To Handle…
Harry might have, he might be my favourite. I know I’m not supposed to have favourites, but he has some incredible moments in the show. Yeah, that was a really fun episode. And seeing Harry on the dart board, I think that’s all I need to say. I think everybody, if you haven’t seen it, you gotta see Harry on the dartboard. That’s all. I mean the whole show is worth it, but at least Harry on the dartboard is a moment that is, is worth checking out!
This was an excerpt from my interview with Frank Sinton for the Beyond Reality Podcast, click here to listen to the full interview.
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Frank Sinton is a US-based Executive Producer and President of A. Smith and Co. Productions. His credits include; Unsung, Welcome to Plathville, Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, Joe Rogan Questions Everything and the award-winning documentary series Beyond the Glory, as well as many others.
Season 2 of “Floor Is Lava” is now streaming on Netflix. Floor is Lava is back with bigger obstacles, higher stakes, and even hotter lava. New this season – a huge and very slippery volcano that takes the competition to the next level. Watch out!
Production Credits: “Floor is Lava” is produced by A. Smith & Co. Productions with Arthur Smith, Anthony Carbone, Frank Sinton, Anthony Storm, Brian Smith and Caroline Baumgard serving as executive producers. Irad Eyal and Megan McGrath also executive produce for Haymaker West.