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Dawn Olmstead is on the move.
The Universal Cable Productions president has departed the NBCUniversal-owned studio and will return to the producing trenches as CEO of Anonymous Content. In her new role as partner and CEO, Olmstead will lead all of the management and film/TV production company’s operations as well as chart a course for its future. She fills a role previously held by Anonymous Content founder Steve Golin, who died in April 2019.
Olmstead, along with Universal Studio Group chairman Pearlena Igbokwe, informed staff of the news Monday morning. While there remain rumblings of a larger studio consolidation in Igbokwe’s group, sources note that she told employees that it was her intent to continue to build the brand that Olmstead created at UCP. Igbokwe will now oversee three separate executive searches: first, to run UCP (replacing Olmstead); second, for Universal TV (filling the void created by her promotion); and third, at NBC International Studios (previously overseen by the ousted Jeff Wachtel).
“Dawn’s pioneering spirit and keen eye for identifying fresh talent has been invaluable to the growth of the UCP brand. However, this is a wonderful opportunity for her, and we couldn’t be more supportive,” Igbokwe said in a statement Monday. Olmstead will remain at UCP through Thanksgiving to help with the transition. (It’s worth noting that Olmstead and Igbokwe have been friends and colleagues for two decades, dating back to when the former was a producer.)
Since shifting to the executive side at UCP in 2014, Olmstead (Prison Break and Girlfriends Guide to Divorce) helped develop some of the cable- and streaming-focused studio’s biggest scripted originals including Netflix’s Umbrella Academy, Hulu’s The Act, Bravo/USA Network’s Dirty John, USA’s Mr. Robot and such upcoming series as Kate McKinnon vehicle Joe Exotic, Dr. Death, Plainville and Candy. Olmstead’s new job reunites her with Anonymous Content after they previously collaborated on Sam Esmail’s Mr. Robot. Olmstead was a key player in keeping Esmail at UCP after the writer, director and producer nearly departed for a lucrative overall deal with Amazon. (He next has Angelyne and Battlestar Galactica, among other projects, set up at the studio.)
“I am absolutely honored to join Anonymous Content in building the premium home for visionary storytellers worldwide,” Olmstead said in a statement Monday. “Steve Golin built a special place that cultivates emerging and established talent, a company that is a cultural leader, that values innovation and creative expression through all forms of entertainment, from branded content, film, and television, to acting, writing, directing and more. I had the privilege of working with Steve and more recently with David Levine and the rest of the incredible team at Anonymous Content. I have seen firsthand the impact of Steve’s fearless and soulful influence on this truly unique company that seamlessly integrates top-tier talent management with premium content creation. I look forward to all that our future holds for Anonymous, and I’m thrilled to help guide that journey.”
Olmstead has also curated a roster of overall deals at UCP that includes Seth MacFarlane, Sera Gamble (You), Patrick Macmanus and Tanya Saracho (Vida). Together, Saracho and Olmstead created a lab and incubator program for Latinx voices. Olmstead also oversaw unscripted series and launched a podcast studio at UCP.
“Dawn is an accomplished leader who will usher in a new and exciting chapter for Anonymous by focusing on powerful content and stories that speak to this moment,” said Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder and president of Emerson Collective, the majority owner of Anonymous Content. “She is not only entrepreneurial, strategic, and a producer at heart, she also embodies the soul of Anonymous Content — original, ambitious, boundary-pushing. Dawn is a champion of diverse storytellers and emerging voices whose work will continue to enrich our culture and excite audiences. And together with David and the formidable team at Anonymous, she will build on the legacy of its beloved founder, our friend Steve Golin, while stewarding the company into a new era of exquisite storytelling.”
In addition to Olmstead’s hiring, Anonymous Content also promoted Levine, the former HBO drama head who joined the company in February 2019. Levine, who was president of TV, will now serve as chief creative officer and report to Olmstead. In his expanded role, he will oversee all aspects of creative development and execution across the company. “David is a brilliant creative leader with impeccable taste and a fierce intellect. Since joining the company, David has injected passion and purpose into the Anonymous slate, and during a challenging year — for Anonymous and us all — his energy has been a stabilizing, inspiring force,” Powell Jobs said.
At Anonymous Content, Olmstead will now oversee a roster of TV series that includes Apple’s Home Before Dark and Defending Jacob, Amazon’s Homecoming, TNT’s The Alienist franchise and Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, as well as features like Stillwater, Swan Song and Midnight Sky. The talent management and production company also has a rapidly growing international division, which Olmstead will oversee.
Olmstead is the latest high-ranking TV executive to switch jobs as the industry continues to change and reposition itself for a streaming future amid the economic challenges presented by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Igbokwe, for example, was promoted earlier this year after she was courted for a top programming role at NBCUniversal as part of a restructuring of its networks group. She opted to remain at the studio and was upped to oversight of the entire division, including Olmstead’s UCP. Others who have changed roles include Channing Dungey (Netflix to Warner Bros. TV) and Susan Rovner (Warners to NBCUni).
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