30 Under 30: Elias Tanner OPC '08

Athletes and actors are interesting people, but often there is someone behind the scenes whose story is worth telling, too. For an example, look at the new six-episode web series, &Music, produced by OBB Media and its media development and strategy executive, Elias Tanner OPC ’08. The series premiered April 6 on Quibi. For those who don’t know what Quibi is and don’t mind showing their age, it’s a short-form online platform that aims for a younger audience by producing 10-minute videos called “quick bites” that can be viewed on cell phones or laptops.

Each episode of &Music, which Tanner coproduced, takes a different person in the music

industry and focuses on someone in their life who helped make them a star. The inaugural episode, for example, centers on singer Ariana Grande’s choreographer. Later episodes look at the light designer for top Dutch DJ Martin Garrix and the man who wrote Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album.

“The focus,” Tanner said, “is on shining a light on the person behind the curtain who doesn’t normally get the light shone on them.” That is not a bad description of Tanner himself. He has worked with some of the top people in the entertainment and sports industries but rarely gets the spotlight himself. Well, sometimes he does. In February, Forbes magazine named Tanner one of this year’s “30 Under 30” rising stars.

Tanner described his job as creative shepherding. “You work with a writer or director and help them shape their vision into something salable and something that could actually be made,” he explained. That runs from the beginning of a project until the end, through casting, filming, recording, editing and post-production work. “You kind of end up being the person at the center of the web.”

Though he now lives and works in Los Angeles, Tanner’s move to the West Coast happened more or less by accident. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, he spent a year at the London School of Economics before taking a job in New York with the public relations firm Joele Frank. The job paid very well, but Tanner says it wasn’t for him. In 2015, he quit to go out on his own.

For the better part of a year, Tanner threw himself at any job in the entertainment industry he could find. His LinkedIn profile for those years lists his job as “Complete Unknown.” He and two friends even produced a web series they described as, “A web series about millennials who make a web series. Ugh.” It was, he recalled, “a meta story about how dumb it would be for someone to quit their job and do this.”

Not that dumb, as things turned out. Someone saw the series and sent it to producer and director Michael Ratner, who had recently founded the company now known as OBB Media. Ratner liked it and invited Tanner to go out to Los Angeles to help produce a new project. “Much to my mother’s chagrin,” Tanner laughed, “what was meant to be a one-month trip has turned into four years.”

Last year, Tanner helped launch OBB Sound, a division of the company that focuses on podcasts. One of its first will be “The Pursuit of Healthness,” a health and wellness podcast series starring basketball star Blake Griffin. In addition to being a six-time NBA All-Star, Griffin is also a “health and wellness freak,” Tanner said, so the series follows his pursuit of ever more knowledge and insight. In one early episode, Griffin meets with nutritionists at NASA to learn what the astronauts eat and how they train.

“I think that’s something our company has done a very good job at,” Tanner reflected. “Managing talent is a very important part of this job, and part of that is, once you know somebody, finding out what they really want to do and trying to figure out a way for them to do that thing.”

If many OPCs wear their allegiance to Penn Charter on their sleeve, Tanner takes his a little further. His right arm bears a tattoo with the letters “SPQR,” the initials that appeared on Roman documents and currency and stand for the phrase, “The Senate and the People of Rome.” Tanner says he learned it from Jim Fiorile in his sixth grade Latin class and it stuck with him.

“I wrote that on every test and paper through high school and college,” Tanner explained. “It means, ‘We’re all in it together.’ Everyone had their role in the greatness that was Rome.”