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Interview: Talking ‘Table Wars’ with Xpedition CEO Hunter Johnson and Vice President Derek Helwig

Table Wars is a new competition series that explores the artistry of tablescaping, hosted by Tamera Mowry-Housley with Martha Stewart serving as lead judge. The show is now streaming on Discovery+.

Xpedition, led by CEO Hunter Johnson and Vice President of Development Derek Helwig, realized that there was a whole world of table setting design that had been largely unexplored. This inspired them to develop a competition series surrounding the idea, and Table Wars was born.

Below is our interview with Hunter and Derek, who give us an inside look into how they brought this entertaining show to life.

Congratulations on the premiere of Table Wars! Before diving into how Xpedition brought the show to life, I wanted to ask about the production company’s background. Xpedition positions itself at the intersection of Hollywood and Silicon Valley – can you elaborate on this idea?

Hunter: Xpedition was founded with the mission of telling the stories of amazing individuals, organizations, and businesses from across the globe. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Fortune 500 clients such as Google and YouTube to blend emotional, human-centric storytelling with research and data guiding our approach. Our team is made up of incredibly talented creatives, marketers, journalists, and film and TV producers who have all been brought together by a firm commitment to making the world a better, more equitable, and vibrant place by telling real stories that amplify diverse voices.

How was the concept of Table Wars born?

Derek: A team member had come across the world of tablescaping and initially pitched the idea internally as a documentary film. Competitive tablescaping traditionally takes place at county fairs, with competitors vying for a blue ribbon prize year after year. And in the luxury event market, event designers compete to impress high-end clients. Since the world of tablescaping is inherently competitive, we asked ‘what would this look like as a competition series?’ Our company not only works in television and branded content, but we also have an entire team that produces some really amazing events, conferences, dinners, and parties. So here was a perfect opportunity to draw from our own experience in that world and bring that to the screen.

What role did Xpedition play in co-producing this competition show?

Hunter: Our team developed the concept and created the format for the series. We explored the world, interviewed tablescapers, and established how to bring this art form into a competitive event made for television. We were lucky enough to have amazing partners at ITV and Leftfield Pictures that understood our idea and believed that a competition show about tablescaping could really be a hit.

What was your approach when selecting contestants for the show?

Derek: We knew from the beginning that strong casting was going to be critical for the success of Table Wars. When we envisioned the series, we knew it would be important to cast artists with vastly different styles and backgrounds. By bringing in unconventional tablescapers, like a Hollywood set designer or a theme park producer, the final products at the end of each competition would be dramatically different and unique. There’s such a great element of surprise once time is called. Throughout the process, each contestant talks about their approach and inspiration. They provide teachable moments for viewers that stem from their background and experience. 

What future Xpedition projects can we look forward to?

Hunter: We are really passionate about collaborating with other producers and creatives, our doors are open to hearing new pitches and we pride ourselves in forming great partnerships. It gives us a chance to hear stories from new voices. We obviously love developing competition formats and have some really fun ones on the horizon, in addition to some great documentary and docu-series projects. We can’t wait to share these fantastic stories. And excitedly, we recently opened our podcast division and are looking forward to exploring the types of stories we can tell in that medium. 

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Written by Betty Ginette

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