Meet Tara Long, based in Los Angeles. As President of Global Unscripted Television, she weaves eOne’s incredible unscripted stories, including Growing Up Hip Hop, and she has a pretty legendary story to tell herself…
Here are three surprising things most people don’t know about Tara Long – she was a near Olympic-level figure skater, she went on tour with country musician Kenny Chesney, and she was just named to Realscreen Magazine’s first Factual Under 40 feature, which celebrates the young unscripted executives and creatives who’ve made waves before the age of 40.
“I’m originally from Surrey, British Columbia,” she explains. There, she figure-skated from a young age, making it to the alternates team for the Canadian Juniors, and performing well enough to get some interest from Disney on Ice. “I had to decide whether to pursue skating or take a college golf scholarship in Nashville.”
Nashville won out.
While there, Tara began working for a large music management company. “I lived on a tour bus working on all of these big country music tours.” One of those tours featured country legend Kenny Chesney. “There was somebody making a documentary on the bus and he would capture these cool, real moments – I didn’t even know that was job.”
Inspired by the work, Tara headed out to LA in search of a job. Her first interview was for an assistant’s position with a reality television company.
And just like that, her unscripted journey began. By the time she was 25, Tara had three shows on the air, and was making a name for herself in the unscripted space. She came to eOne before the company even had a dream of an unscripted department. “There was this opportunity to create something special. I saw unscripted as my baby…”
And just like any new parent, Tara put in endless hours. “For the first 10 years of my career, there wasn’t a weekend where I wasn’t on a plane going to shoot a show.” She tells one story of being on three different New Orleans-based shoots in three days. “Then I headed to the airport and flew to LA. My assistant met me at the airport and I was immediately on another flight to Australia for a shoot. I was growing the business the whole time and it truly was like an indie startup.”
In between catching some sleep on planes and her daily reading of The Wall Street Journal, Tara crafted a whole new vernacular for unscripted television. “We were creating really authentic shows that didn’t really exist at the time.” It’s an extraordinary body of work that includes more than 80 episodes of Mary Mary and Growing Up Hip Hop – plus its myriad spinoffs, and new series like Play-Doh Squished and Easy-Bake Battle.
That body of work plants Tara firmly in Realscreen Magazine’s very first Factual Under 40. eOne has become so renowned for its work in this space that Tara is joined on the list by fellow unscripted executive, Geno McDermott (President, US Alternative Programming, Unscripted, TV). Both were celebrated at a breakfast in LA on January 26, during the 2023 Realscreen Summit, an event for the unscripted industry. eOne has a big presence at the annual conference, with members of the US and Canadian teams taking part in panels, one-on-one pitches and networking events.
Of course, Tara’s story still has so many more chapters yet to write. “We’ve got 20-25 shows on air right now, and we’re constantly looking at renewals, franchises and converting Hasbro IP into more great work - we’ve got great momentum right now. We’re taking risks where others might be afraid to.”
A sense of possibility and opportunity has been a part of the spirit of eOne’s unscripted team from its earliest days – a culture of continued growth that Tara repeatedly calls out an integral part of their success. “People on our team really care about the projects and they always put in the extra effort. I wish everyone on my team could be recognized. A lot of great people work on our shows.”