head of development and operations, Mark Burnett Prods.
BORN: June 13, 1972
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a business degree, Roy Bank got a job in, well, banking. “I bounced around a couple of good jobs, but I never felt comfortable there,” he says, adding that he wanted a career where he could be more creative. A little more than five years ago, the Philadelphia native packed up and moved to Los Angeles, where he landed his first industry job as a “low-level” producer on Nickelodeon’s “Wild & Crazy Kids.” He parlayed that assignment into a stint as a producer at Reveille, where he worked until jumping ship for Mark Burnett Prods. three-and-a-half years ago. Bank heads development at the company that has been responsible for some of television’s biggest reality hits, including CBS’ “Survivor” and NBC’s “The Apprentice,” as well as Fox’s upcoming “On the Lot,” a partnership between Burnett and Steven Spielberg.
WITH A NAME LIKE THAT: Bank says he has no regrets about trading in his original profession for a career in the industry. “I always say creative television producers win Emmys, and creative mortgage bankers go to jail,” he says.
IDOL WORSHIP: He says working with Burnett is an invaluable learning experience. “He’s a true mentor and the No. 1 influence on me and my career,” Bank says. “This is a learning lesson that you can’t buy anywhere in the world.”
BEACH BOY: In his free time — of which he has “very little” — Bank says he heads to the beach, engaging in activities like sea kayaking. “I try to put my feet in the sand as often as I can,” he says.
LOOKING AHEAD: “In five or 10 years, I’d like to continue to be on the forefront and the cutting edge of the medium, (continuing to work on) projects that touch TV, Internet, film, mobile and everything else. I understand you can’t plan those things, but as long as I’m still ahead of the curve, that would be satisfying to me.”
vp comedy development, Fox Broadcasting Co.
BORN: Aug. 7, 1971
Growing up in New Jersey, Jonathan Davis loved visiting Manhattan. “Getting off the bus at Port Authority and walking to Times Square, I felt completely transported,” he says. During college, he stayed close to Time Square with summer internships at NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center. After graduation, Davis moved to Los Angeles and took a writers’ assistant job on the ABC series “Politically Incorrect.” But he quickly realized writing was not for him — “I had too much of a sunny disposition to be a writer,” he quips. Davis did discover that he enjoyed working with writers and was good at managing them. At that time, he read Brandon Tartikoff’s book, “The Last Great Ride,” and found out that what he liked to do was a real job, and it had a name — development executive.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF: With a goal in sight, he persuaded DreamWorks Television co-president Darryl Frank to hire him as an assistant based entirely on his personal conviction that he’d be good at handling development. After a two-year stint at DreamWorks, where he learned the studio side of the business, Davis set his sights on a job at a network. He picked an impenetrable fortress — Mike Darnell’s alternative department at Fox, a tight-knit group of executives that serves as its own fiefdom within the network. He got in with the help of department director Susan Levison, with whom he later teamed to work on projects including “Paradise Hotel” and “The Simple Life.” “I annoyed Susan with e-mails,” Davis says.
REAL SIMPLE: The many lessons Davis learned from reality master Darnell include the following: “Bringing your imagination to work every day is the most important thing. Don’t play by the rules because there are no rules. You can’t be a snob and arrogant about what you think people want to watch.”
COMIC TIMING: In 2005, Davis switched to the comedy department at Fox where he oversaw the development of freshman series “‘Til Death” and “Happy Hour.” “Now that comedy is down, I love the challenge,” Davis says. “I feel somebody will find a big hit — why not us?”
senior vp current programming, CBS Paramount Network Television
BORN: Jan. 24, 1972
In 1995, armed with an M.A. from Northwestern University, Glenn Geller drove from his native Chicago to Los Angeles with a dream of working in television and a list of alumni from his alma mater who worked in the industry. The first fellow graduate to call him back was Steve Stark, then head of current programming for Paramount’s Network Television Division. Eleven years later, Geller holds that same title.
FATE WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS: After two rough stints as a receptionist for a TV producer and an assistant to a film producer, Geller felt he was too thin-skinned for the rigors of the entertainment business and decided to go back to Chicago for law school. While packing, he received a package from his mother with financial aid papers from the law school and a letter wherein she reminded him how much he loved television and urged him to give Hollywood another chance. He did.
“MR. CBS”: In 1999, Geller got his first executive job at 20th Century Fox Television’s drama department. He loved it — especially working on the CBS drama “Judging Amy,” from executive producer Barbara Hall. “They called me ‘Mr. CBS’ because I really wanted to work on the show.” Two years later, Geller got the opportunity to really be Mr. CBS when David Stapf, then CBS’ head of current programming, invited him to join his team at the network. At CBS, Geller continued to work with Hall on “Amy” and “Joan of Arcadia.” He made his mark as vp by overseeing day-to-day activities for the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” franchise before being recruited this summer by Stapf, now president of CBS Paramount Television, to run the studio’s current-programs department. Geller still gets to work on the “CSI” series, which are co-produced by the studio, and with Hall, who has an overall deal there. “It’s great to continue to work with producers that you like,” he says.
vp alternative series and specials, NBC and USA Network
BORN: Dec. 9, 1971
When she has to go to Century City for a meeting, Libby Hansen doesn’t need detailed directions — she knows the area like the back of her hand. Nine years ago, as a broker at a commercial real estate firm, she used to drive around Century City with her boss, who would quiz her about the occupants in the neighborhood’s high-rises, floor by floor. “I knew every big (tenant),” she says. “That’s not so exciting to talk about at weddings.” At 26, Hansen realized she wasn’t passionate about office space and leases but loved television. So, she went for a career change.
KEEPING IT REAL: While her early experience in the business was as an assistant on the scripted side, when she was ready to take the next step, she looked at what she was watching on television: Reality shows like CBS’ “Survivor” were taking primetime by storm. She decided to pursue a job in the emerging area of unscripted television and soon landed a low-level executive position at the then-nascent reality department of ABC. “I feel like I really grew with the genre of reality television,” she says.
CABLE GUIDE: After almost four years at ABC, Hansen left in 2004 to head the reality department at USA Network. “It was a bit scary to leave, but I felt a job in cable had a lot of opportunities.” During the past two years, Hansen has revamped USA’s talent-search series “Nashville Star” and allied the network with such top producers as Gary Auerbach, Tom Forman and Ken Mok. In August, Hansen added oversight of reality series and specials for NBC to her responsibilities at USA.
FOOD FIRST: When she is not working in television, Hansen is watching it at home. “I live in a television-first household,” she says of herself and her husband, UTA head of alternative television Brett Hansen. Her other passions are cooking and entertaining. “My dream of dreams is to have a cooking show and a restaurant.” She even submitted a tape of herself to the Food Network’s reality series “The Next Food Network Star.” Did her job have anything to do with the fact that she got no response? “I’d like to think that, but I think the truth is I stunk.”
vp drama development, Warner Bros. Television
BORN: Aug. 7, 1972
On her 22nd birthday in August 1994, Heather Kadin drove from Arizona to Los Angeles with her parents to move into an apartment she had rented and to pursue her dream of making it in the film business. With no contacts in the industry, she opened The Hollywood Reporter’s production listings and sent her resume to the office of every movie that was shooting in Los Angeles. The strategy worked. She landed her first job as an unpaid assistant to producer Lynda Obst before moving on to work as an assistant to Kevin Misher at TriStar and at Universal Pictures and for director Tom Shadyac.
MOVING UP: The night Shadyac wrapped his 1998 comedy “Patch Adams,” starring Robin Williams, he called Kadin in front of the crew and announced, “‘I don’t want you to answer my phones anymore. I want you to be my development executive,'” Kadin says. It was a smart move on his part: As Shadyac’s development executive, Kadin brought in a couple of scripts, including a $1 million spec titled “Bruce Almighty,” which was released in 2003 and grossed more than $242 million domestically.
QUICK CHANGE: In summer 2000, Kadin was pondering what her next move should be when she sat down for a meeting with David Lonner, then an agent at Endeavor. “He gave me the best career advice: You have to be open to the unexpected opportunity even if it comes from left field,” she says. That unexpected opportunity came in the form of a job interview with Susan Lyne, then head of ABC’s longform department. “I never thought I’d be in television because I grew up loving (1978’s) ‘Grease’ and (1952’s) ‘Singin’ in the Rain,'” Kadin says. But she was “blown away” by Lyne and took the job, and the following year, Kadin was offered a move to ABC’s drama department.
YOUR HIT PARADE: She started out working on a series she loved, J.J. Abrams’ “Alias,” and two-and-a-half years later, she helped jump-start another Abrams drama — ABC’s “Lost” — pairing Abrams with Damon Lindelof and overseeing the development of the pilot. That same season, she also was involved in the development of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and championed a low-profile spec script titled “Desperate Housewives.” At Warner Bros., Kadin has worked on such projects as TNT’s “The Closer,” ABC’s “Invasion” and “Traveler,” the CW’s “Supernatural” and NBC’s critically acclaimed “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” She continues to work with Abrams, who now has an overall deal at Warner Bros. “Right now, I love what I’m doing,” she says. As for the future, “I’m open to that next unexpected opportunity.”
senior vp drama, Touchstone Television
BORN: Feb. 17, 1971
Blame it on the California weather. On a clear sunny day in 1989, Morgan Wandell, a high school senior from Champaign, Ill., came to Los Angeles to check out nearby Claremont McKenna College and never left. Today, Wandell heads the drama department for one of the hottest studios in the genre, Touchstone Television.
BACK AND FORTH: Wandell has an unusual resume, with four alternating stints at Touchstone TV and Channel One. “I’ve made a career of going back and forth between two companies,” he says. After graduating from college with “a major in economics and minor in everything else,” he landed a writer-producer job at teen TV news network Channel One. The first piece he produced there was “a funny little promo,” he says. “When people laughed and responded to it, I was hooked. I knew I was going to spend the rest of my career in television and storytelling.” After three years at Channel One, Wandell landed a low-level executive job at Touchstone TV in 1997 and got his first taste of scripted programming. He was on his way up the executive ladder when, like so many in the business in the late 1990s, he was bitten by the Internet bug and joined the once high-flying Digital Entertainment Network in fall 1999. A few months later, at the height of the Internet bubble, Wandell returned to Channel One, this time as president of programming.
DRAMATIC DEVELOPMENT: In spring 2004, Wandell was entering his fifth year at the helm of Channel One when, out of the blue, Touchstone TV’s newly appointed executive vp Julia Franz called, inviting him to rejoin the studio as head of drama. He went on to oversee the launch of three of the biggest series on the air today, ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost,” as well as the development of CBS’ popular series “Criminal Minds” and “Ghost Whisperer” and ABC Family’s hit new show “Kyle XY.” The latest batch of series he developed is led by ABC’s hot rookie “Ugly Betty,” which premiered as the fall’s most-watched new series.
NAME RECOGNITION: Wandell’s Hollywood job has made him a celebrity in his hometown. “I find myself pinned in the corner at a party, forced to answer questions about what exactly is happening on that island,” he says.
vp creative affairs, Fox 21
BORN: Feb. 16, 1974
Ever since he can remember, Brett Weitz wanted to be a development executive, one of those people his father, producer Barry Weitz, always talked about. Now, he’s doing precisely that at Fox 21. Not that Weitz’s parents were exactly thrilled by the idea of their son going into the entertainment business. “As a Jew in Los Angeles, they wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer,” he says. But Weitz persevered, spending his summer vacations in college working as a production assistant on the sets of his father’s TV movies. After he graduated from college, he took a job in the mailroom at United Talent Agency. “I knew I didn’t want to be an agent, but it was a good place to start.”
IT’S ALL WHO YOU KNOW: In August 2001, Weitz began working as a director of drama development at Columbia TriStar Television under department head Jennifer Nicholson Salke. He was settling into the job when, a couple of months later, the studio scaled down its TV operations, laying off most of its executives — including Salke and Weitz. But the pair reunited about a year later at 20th Century Fox Television, where she runs the drama department. The four-member team was divided into two development groups, and Weitz was paired with Jane Francis. When in spring 2004 TCFTV launched its lower-budget division Fox 21 and tapped Francis to run it, she invited her teammate Weitz to come along as her No. 2.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: In its first two years of operation, Fox 21 developed such series as reality hit “Beauty and the Geek,” drama “Saved” and comedy “FreeRide.” The model has been so successful, other studios such as Paramount and Warner Bros. have followed suit, committing resources to the development of lower-budget shows.
HOBBY LOBBY: Aside from television, Weitz’s passion is wine. He spends time at the Weitz Family Winery pressing grapes or just hanging out with his father and his brother. As for his job, Weitz says the reality has surpassed his wildest dreams. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be doing this job,” he says.
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