From Tina Fey to Bryan Fuller, 41 Hollywood Producers Explain the Weird, Personal Origins of Their Company Names

5:55 AM 5/11/2016

by Lesley Goldberg

Former Baltimore Sun editor David Simon calling his shingle Blown Deadline might not require much explanation, but Spondoolie? Fremulon? True Jack? Read on for the backstories behind those title cards that you see at the end of TV shows.

Little Stranger LOGO and Inset of Tina Fey-H 2016
Courtesy of Little Starnger; Walter McBride/WireImage/Getty Images
  • True Jack (Universal TV)

    "True Jack is named for our beloved family dog, Jack. In search of a logo, I found a photo I always loved of my daughter Phoebe joyfully running on the beach with Jack. Phoebe was so excited we were using the image until she realized that she had been completely Photoshopped out — something she still hasn't forgiven me for."

  • Teakwood Lane (20th Century Fox TV)

    "I grew up on Long Island, at 18 Teakwood Lane. My logo features that house at night, the light turned on in what was my bedroom window. It reflects my adolescence: anxiety-filled, dream-laden and industrious." 

  • Picador Productions (20th Century Fox TV)

    "In the bullfight, there is the matador and the bull … an unfair fight without the picador, who distracts and weakens the bull. In TV, there is the viewer and the ads that the networks want them to watch … an unfair fight without the writer, who distracts and weakens the audience."

  • Take Fountain (ABC Studios)

    "Legend has it that when Bette Davis was asked the best way an aspiring actress could get into Hollywood, she responded, 'Take Fountain.' Fountain is an alternative avenue [in L.A.] to the congested Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. She was being witty and practical, but in essence she was saying, 'Take the road less traveled.' "

  • White Rabbit (Warner Bros. TV)

    "White rabbits show us the way into secret worlds. Alice's led her into Wonderland and Neo never would've found the Matrix without pursuing his. My own white rabbit is elusive and has a penchant for questions without answers … but wherever he (or she?) leads me, I will most certainly follow."

  • Fremulon (Universal TV)

    "Fremulon was the fake name for the fake insurance company that my fake blogger, Ken Tremendous, worked at when I was writing the blog Fire Joe Morgan. My current backstory is that it's a very shady company that's mixed up in a lot of financial shenanigans — and possibly international weapons deals — and is using its entertainment wing as a tax shelter."

  • Living Dead Guy Productions

    "I went to a lot of funerals as a child, and I liked it. Living despite an inevitable death seemed like an apt metaphor for a creative state of being. No escape except what imagination provides. You die, I die, we all die for living, and that experience is why we tell stories."

  • Little Chicken (20th Century Fox TV)

    "Little Chicken is a riff on my last name. All my life I've been nicknamed variations on it. My daughters, Augusta and Tallulah, who were 10 at the time, collaborated with me on the logo. Tallulah drew the chicken, Augusta played the clarinet that scores the animation, and they recorded my voice for the 'yeah.' "

  • Little Stranger (Universal TV)

    "Little Stranger is a loose translation of 'Xenakes,' my mom's Greek maiden name. Our company logo is our older daughter dressed as a peacock for Halloween, in a nod to the parent company — and to the 'little stranger' who had come in and changed our lives."

  • Tilted Productions

    "The first time I ever got attention for anything I wrote was in the seventh grade. I wrote a descriptive paragraph about my teddy bear, who was creatively named Teddy. I described him as sitting on my dresser with a 'tired tilt.' I remember my English teacher reading that phrase out loud. He was making a huge deal about it, and it felt great to get attention for my writing. 'Tilted' comes out of that and a feeling like I'm slightly askew in general."

  • Color Force (FX Productions)

    "In quantum physics, the color force is an invisible force that binds opposing elementary particles together. The more things try to pull apart, the stronger the color force becomes. This is the perfect metaphor for producers: We are an invisible force that holds elements together that want to pull apart. And for those unfamiliar with quantum physics, Color Force sounds like a badass team of 1970s gay superheroes."

  • Snowpants Productions (Sony Pictures TV)

    "I was starting out as a comic and was terrible. In  desperation, one night I went up and said a thing my high school friends used to tease me about: 'My mom is overprotective, and the worst was, if I forgot something at home, she'd show up at school with it. There'd be that announcement over the P.A.: "Michael Royce, please report to the main office. Your mother is here … and she has your snowpants." ' Snowpants Productions is named after my first (only?) joke that got a laugh."

  • Fake Empire (ABC Studios)

    "During The O.C., Laguna Beach: The Real O.C. premiered. Followed by The Real Housewives of Orange County and NYC Prep, the 'real' Gossip Girl. We realized we make the fake versions of things."

  • Hooptie (FX Productions)

    "I wanted to honor my hometown of Berkeley, Calif., by using its lingo. 'Hella' (a lot), 'bunk' (bad) and 'icy' (good) were all taken. Thus, 'hooptie' (shitty, deriving from the term for, specifically, a crappy, broken-down car) got the nod."

  • Spondoolie Productions (Warner Bros. TV)

    "Spondoolie was a game played at my Texas middle school. If you knocked something out of your classmate's hand and yelled 'Spondoolie!' you got to keep it. The game had its origins in factories where workers knocked cigarettes out of one another's hands and claimed them. It's also antiquated British slang for a good time."

  • Blown Deadline Productions (HBO)

    "So named by an ex-newspaperman, once fond of playing havoc with the edition copy deadlines. Also, he enjoys imagining studio execs wincing as they write checks to Blown Deadline. Only better choice for that might be Good Money After Bad Productions."

  • Calamity Jane (ABC Studios)

    "I'm not proud of everything Calamity Jane did, but she was one of the only women doing what all the guys did. Production and producing is a very male-dominated field, and I feel like Calamity Jane out there — trying to ride with the big boys."

  • Midnight Radio (CBS TV Studios)

    "You remember the old days? Before satellite radio? When you’d be driving, late at night, in the middle of nowhere? Between cities, on a lonely stretch of two-lane highway? With only the radio as your companion? And you are twirling the dial, under a crescent moon and getting snatches of stations through the static? All playing the coolest, weirdest music you’ve ever heard."

  • Minnesota Logging Co. (ABC Studios)

    "It was a cynical ploy to draw ratings. I wanted to reach the largely untapped Minnesotan lumberjack community. Also, I grew up there, love the state and it made me smile."

  • Moonshot Entertainment (Sony Pictures TV)

    "Before Dodger Stadium, the team played at the Memorial Coliseum. The left field fence was only 220 feet from home plate. So a 42-foot-tall fence was erected. Outfielder Wally Moon discovered that if he uppercut the ball he could "chip" it over for a home run. The feat became known as a moonshot. To me it represents overcoming obstacles. Moonshot Entertainment was born."

  • JuVee Productions (ABC Studios)

    "When we started our production company it was called Mandinka Productions and there was already a Mandinka Inc. and we were told to come up with something different — and do it quickly. We spend a lot of time discussing things in our Jacuzzi, and after two days we landed on JuVee. It's a take on Julius and Viola's nickname, Vee. It's catchy and simplified to just the two of us and our very Victorian-sounding names." —Tennon

  • Rhode Island Ave. Productions (20th Century Fox TV)

    "My producing partner Jess Rosenthal and I are college buddies. I moved to L.A. after college, and a year later Jess moved out along with my best friend from high school. The three of us rented a house in West L.A. off of Bundy, on a street called Rhode Island Ave. We had a swimming pool filled with green algae, a dog named Gabby who came and went as she pleased, and a fridge stocked only with Hot Pockets. It was heaven. They tore the house down after we left, probably because it was beyond repair and diseased. But Rhode Island Ave is where it all started for us."

  • Olive Bridge (Sony Pictures TV)

    "Primarily I chose Olive Bridge because it is the name of a small town in upstate New York where I spent a great deal of time with my family growing up — and where my wife and I were married. And it also just so happens to sound vaguely hopeful, buoyant and merry enough to imbue a sense of whimsy into a company whose founder needs all the whimsy he can get."

  • Playtone (HBO)

    "When Tom wrote the movie That Thing You Do! he named the fictional recording label Playtone Records. A couple of years later when we formed our film and television production company, we decided to call it Playtone, hoping it would keep us from ever taking ourselves too seriously." —Goetzman

  • Starburns Industries

    "The other two [Joe Russo, James A. Fino] partners — who had nothing to do with Community — were just trying to think of a studio name that two narcissists wouldn’t object to. What better choice than the name of a character that Dan came up with and Dino portrayed? They said: 'Hey, how about Starburns Industries?' We just looked at each other, shrugged and said, 'Sounds good to me' in chorus. Perfect. No more thinking was involved." —Harmon

  • 26 Keys (FX Productions)

    "There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Each letter, combined with others and arranged in order, creates a word, a sentence, a speech, a treaty, a song, a book. Language is the key. One day Robert Towne sits down and uses his typewriter to unlock Chinatown. Charlie Kaufman writes Being John Malkovich, opening one door at a time. Revolutionary ideas are born from the same letter soup as jokes about butts. For some reason this finite number of symbols has the power to move mountains. You just have to crack the code."

  • Hazy Mills (Universal TV)

    "We couldn't decide on a name and we knew we didn't want to do our names alone. We figured we went to college in an area with a lot of farmland. And a lot of mills. Sometimes hazy. So, really it is our names, but it has some kind of bucolic reference to the heartland. Or, it's just our names." — Milliner

  • Blackie and Blondie Productions (Warner Bros. TV)

    "Because our names sound similar, people had a hard time remembering who was who. One day in the Murphy Brown writers room fellow writer Bill Diamond said, 'That's it. It's too confusing. We shall call you Blackie and Blondie.' And that was pretty much that. What can we say? It stuck." —Heisler

  • Valhalla (Universal Cable Productions)

    "In Norse mythology, Valhalla is an enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled by the god Odin. Chosen by Valkyrie, those who died heroically in combat were transported to Valhalla upon death. I initially wanted to name my company Valkyrie, but given how often my own name is misspelled, I decided that Valhalla was a safer, but equally mythic choice."

  • Fierce Baby (20th Century Fox TV)

    "I was telling a friend that I'd read a story about a 16-year-old kid who went to high school every day proudly in drag — no apologies, no fear. I said, 'What a fierce baby.' And she said, 'You're a fierce baby!' So she designed the Fierce Baby logo from one of my baby pictures, and that's my voice playing over it from when I was 3 years old."

  • Doozer (Warner Bros. TV)

    "My whole name is William VanDuzer Lawrence IV. I go by 'Bill.' When I was little, my cousins tortured me by calling me 'Van-Van' (my dad goes by Van). I begged them to stop calling me that because I hated it. They switched to 'Duzer' for the rest of my life. Still no 'Bill.' Hence, Doozer Productions."

  • Get Lifted (Universal Cable Productions)

    "We chose the name Get Lifted because we aspire to specialize in smart, elevated, provocative content that speaks to matters of cultural and social relevance. With a platform and a responsibility, we proactively develop material that we hope entertains, lifts awareness and inspires change across all audiences." — Legend

  • Wonderland Sound and Vision (ABC Studios)

    "I called the company Wonderland because when I moved to L.A., I lived on Wonderland Avenue. The house was built by Drew Barrymore's grandfather and I was shooting Charlie's Angels — how could I resist. Then I found out Stevie Wonder's company was called Wonderland. I added Sound and Vision because I love music and I love film — and it's the name of my favorite David Bowie song."

  • Tall Ship Productions (Sony Pictures TV)

    "I've had a love of ships since I was a boy, starting with the Starship Enterprise and then aircraft carriers, battleships and the commands of Horatio Hornblower. When I was looking for a company name, I thought Tall Ship was a natural fit to represent our goals: heroic, romantic and adventurous."

  • Tiny Pyro (Skydance)

    "My company name came about when I had a similarly petite writing partner. We parted ways, but the name stuck. Wee and incendiary. Buffy fans may recognize the art. It was on the wall at the Bronze and I always loved it. I almost went with Busy Beaver. Get it? But the art would have been #NSFW."

  • My So-Called Company (Warner Bros. TV)

    "I wanted a company name that celebrated my defining characteristics. Diet Coke and Camel Lights Inc. didn't seem like the smartest way to go, so I was glad when a friend suggested My So-Called Company. It works for three reasons: 1) It celebrates one of the best television shows of all time [My So-Called Life]. 2) I write love stories and this reminds me of one of my favorite beautiful and fraught TV couples. 3) It reflects the belief that no matter how much success I get, I'm still only a so-called grownup."

  • International Famous Players Radio Picture Corp. (ABC Studios)

    "When I came to Hollywood in the '90s I was enamored with Hollywood lore. In particular, the once-significant, then-defunct studios that gave way to the Seven Sisters. The rather unwieldy name of my company is an amalgam of Selznick International Pictures, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation and RKO Radio Pictures — that last being very significant not merely because of RKO's film history, but that legendarily, when she was still a contract player, Lucille Ball once walked onto the RKO lot and announced that she would one day be so famous she was going to buy the company out from under all the old man studio heads who wouldn't give her a break. True to her word, she gained her stature, bought RKO and turned it into Desilu, which brought us — among other enduring franchises — Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. Sometimes a little reminder Lucy wasn’t just a great comedian. She was a gender-busting Hollywood pioneer."

  • Hey Eddie (Sony Pictures TV)

    "Kevin James and I would frequent a diner in Little Neck, Queens, for breakfast back in the mid-'90s. There were always a few retired guys who hung around there to kibitz and read the newspapers while wearing reading glasses with huge frames. We befriended one of them named Eddie, who always seemed to have very concise, sage advice. Our questions to him often started with "Hey Eddie ... ." Years later, the phrase "Hey Eddie" had become a standard greeting and term of endearment among our group." — Sussman

  • Best Day Ever

    "The inspiration for Best Day Ever came from a friend who told me about a time she was at a wedding that sucked. So she and her friends decided to take pictures acting as if they were having the best time ever. And when she looked back at the pictures, all she remembered was how much fun they had. And I loved that. So much of life isn't only about what's happening in that exact moment. It's how you choose to remember it. So now, I always make sure to take Best Day Ever pictures so I can look back on these days doing what I love and remember that they really were the best."

  • Outerbanks Entertainment (Warner Bros. TV)

    "I gave the task to my dad, a retired fisherman who spent his life fishing off the coast of North Carolina. He took the job very seriously and began researching company logos. He always liked the Castle Rock lighthouse and said I needed something similar, and Outerbanks Entertainment was born. We ended up not going with any lighthouses (it had been done), but there's definitely lots of water. Thanks, dad."

  • Cold Front Productions (HBO)

    "Cold Front Productions is essentially just a play on my last name, Winter. The real story is the company's logo, a photo I took from my front stoop in Brooklyn on Feb. 7, 1978, after a massive blizzard hit the Northeast. That's the tail end of my Mom's gray 1977 Toyota Celica in the driveway."