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Q & A with Tom Simon

Q & A with Tom Simon, YOUR LIFE, YOUR MONEY Producer

As a filmmaker, executive producer and television executive, Simon has been responsible for some of the world's top-rated documentary programs and has won seven Emmy awards. Prior to founding Working Dog Productions, Simon served for ten years as vice-president of programming and production, and executive producer of the National Geographic Specials and National Geographic Explorer. Before joining National Geographic, he was Senior Producer of Smithsonian World on PBS. Programs he executive-produced have received over 150 awards for excellence including a Dupont-Columbia Journalism Award, Peabody Awards and over three dozen Emmys.

Q: What did you think when you were offered the chance to produce YOUR LIFE, YOUR MONEY?

Simon: I'm not a numbers guy, so the subject matter was intimidating at the outset. But I realized early on in the course of development that the content could be driven by characters and compelling personal stories. At Working Dog, we specialize in character-driven storytelling, and this is no different. I knew we could use the young people and how they tackle these fundamental issues to illuminate the subject matter.

Q: Was the current economic crisis an inspiration for the program?

Simon: The concept and funding came before there were big headlines. But shooting started in September of 2008 as signs of severe economic trouble were becoming clear and the importance of personal finances was growing.

We wanted to be responsive to circumstances, but create something that had shelf life. We focus on presenting information to viewers that will serve them well "whether economic times are good or bad."

Q: What do you think Donald Faison brings to this program as the host and narrator?

Simon: Donald brings incredible enthusiasm and real life experience. Early on, he confronted many of the same challenges of managing his money that our viewers do. So he speaks not just as an actor and celebrity, but someone who's been there. He also has a tremendous amount of empathy for young people and the issues they face.

Q: Are you pleased with the end result?

Simon: Yes, I am. When we finished, I knew we had created something that would be an effective tool. YOUR LIFE, YOUR MONEY isn't a dry recitation of financial factoids or an abrasive lesson of economic errors to avoid. It presents young adults in realistic situations that most people can relate to in a serious, but upbeat, manner.