John Brunton thinks TV. All the time. As the Globe and Mail writes, he "has airwaves between his ears."
A natural-born storyteller, Brunton is now celebrating forty years at the helm of Insight Productions Ltd. As Chairman & CEO, Brunton’s entrepreneurial ingenuity, creative vision and passion for television have enabled him to position Insight as an industry leader in the development, financing and production of world-class television programs. In 2019, Brunton, together with his sister and business partner, Barbara Bowlby, was appointed to the Order of Canada for his contributions to the Canadian broadcasting industry.
Brunton has always been at the forefront of the cultural vanguard. He began his career in news and current events and produced some of the first social commentaries on television about acid rain and nuclear power and produced and directed a number of hard-hitting investigative reports for NBC’s Speak Up America in 1980. In the same year, the short film Don’t Mess With Bill, which he produced, was nominated for an Academy Award. 2015 marked a year where Brunton’s personal passion project, a feature-length documentary co-produced with MET Films on the Canadian story of Greenpeace, How To Change The World was nominated in the World Cinema Documentary Competition and debuted to great acclaim winning two awards at its world premiere on opening night of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
Having produced the highest-rated shows in Canadian television consistently for the last four decades starting with Heart of Gold in 1982, it was no surprise that in 2016 The Tragically Hip: A National Celebration, was watched by one in three Canadians. The Amazing Race Canada premiered as the most-watched Canadian series debut ever from an American or Canadian series and it continues to draw high ratings garnering the title of most-watched Canadian series on record. Big Brother Canada premiered to record-breaking ratings, making it the most-watched series ever in the history of Slice, increasing its overall audience by 77%. Its successful migration to Global, in season three, saw the program win in their key demo each week continuing to consistently draw huge audiences. Currently, The Amazing Race Canada and Big Brother Canada are in pre-production on their eighth seasons.
Brunton enjoys creating new and exciting formats that can be sold worldwide, including Insight’s original formats Battle of the Blades, Canada Sings and The Launch. Insight is currently in production two new formats: Wall of Chefs and I Do, Redo.
It was in 2006 when Insight saw its first successful digital initiative. Insight dove further into the digital world in 2013 producing the interactive award-winning digital media property But I’m Chris Jericho! The web series continues to grow online and is available at www.butimchrisjericho.com. Big Brother Canada’s cross-platform element shattered records making it one of the most tweeted about topics in Canada and it continues to be one of the highest engaged Canadian TV programs on social media. Insight’s psychological thriller, Damaged, is a new digital series with Yellow Bear Studios, launched this past October on T+E’s YouTube Channel. Insight just announced and launched its first digital platform in collaboration with The Hospital for Sick Children, Youngster, a trusted resource for all things parenting. The platform can be found at myyoungster.com.
Brunton’s international reputation for outstanding drama and comedy programming has brought shows like Ready or Not and Falcon Beach to over 100 territories worldwide including original airings on ABC Family, Showtime and Disney. Brunton brings the wildest, funniest and most outrageous comedies to the air with shows like The Jon Dore Television Show (Independent Film Channel). Hatching, Matching & Dispatching and The Sean Cullen Show. Through his television programs and specials, he’s been recognized for developing a Canadian “star system” and Mike Myers was only one example of new talent discovered by Insight in It’s Only Rock n’ Roll.
As the Executive Producer of Canadian Idol, Brunton has been recognized internationally for producing one of the best Idol formats from among the over two dozen produced around the world. He has also been instrumental in the growth of The JUNO Awards and 2020 will mark his 26th year producing the show. Insight’s most recent feature documentary, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, is an intimate look at the life and career of one of Canada’s most beloved musical icons. The film was released theatrically and broadcast on CBC in 2019 and made its UK Festival premiere at Doc N Roll in London in November 2019
Brunton was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Awards Hall of Fame during Canadian Music Week in 2008. In 2013, Insight was honoured by Playback and given the title TV Producer of the Year. Insight was the inaugural recipient of The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television’s Icon Award in 2014.