EXCLUSIVE: Feature producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura is planting his flag in TV in a big way. He has partnered with writer-producer Dan McDermott to launch Di Bonaventura Pictures Television, a TV production company that will be based at ABC Studios with a three-year overall deal. Di Bonaventura said he had always wanted to be in television but “felt I needed to establish my worth as a producer in features first.” Nine years and two tentpole movie franchises (Transformers, G.J. Joe) later, di Bonaventura started to explore the idea of a TV company with CAA, which put Di Bonaventura Pictures TV together and will represent the company.
Both di Bonaventura and McDermott are on their second careers after long stints as executives on the film and TV side, respectively, and there is a lot of serendipity in their pairing. Both left unexpectedly their top executive jobs in the same year, 2002. Di Bonaventura was EVP, Worldwide Motion Pictures at Warner Bros, where he launched the Matrix, Harry Potter and Ocean’s Eleven franchises; McDermott was the first president of DreamWorks Television, putting the company on the map with such series as Spin City, Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, The Job and Las Vegas. Then the two got to know each other socially when McDermott coached a kids basketball team di Bonaventura’s son was on. And finally, the two ran into each other earlier this year just as di Bonaventura was looking for a TV executive to partner with. Di Bonaventura had been meeting with potential candidates, but McDermott was not on his radar as he had been a writer for almost a decade. But it turned out that McDermott had been quietly mulling a return to the executive/producing ranks over the past year. “I’d realized that I had a lot of experience putting projects together but I wasn’t utilizing it, so I was thinking how I could incorporate that part of my life in an entrepreneurial way,” he said. The two clicked right away, and, in a competitive situation, set their new TV company at ABC Studios. Both Di Bonaventura and McDermott have personal relationships at ABC — di Bonaventura worked with the network’s head of drama Channing Dungey at Warner Bros, McDermott with ABC Studios’ EVP Barry Jossen at DreamWorks. Additionally, “ABC has been amazingly aggressive ans supportive,” di Bonaventura said.
The timing of di Bonaventura TV’s launch coincides with the beginning of the new TV pitch season, and di Bonaventura and McDermott plan to hit the ground running. They won’t be hiring an additional executive, at least not at first. “Dan and I want to get our hands dirty together and quickly find a lot of material, so we will keep people to a minimal for the moment to get on the ground faster,” di Bonaventura said. Will McDermott write any projects for the new venture? “My first and foremost priority will be to build a successful TV company,” he said. Di Bonaventura follows in the footsteps of fellow A-list movie producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Mark Gordon, who went on to launch successful TV companies. Coincidentally, all three started off at ABC Studios, and Gordon is still there after recently reupping with the studio. On the feature side, di Bonaventura is in the last year of his deal at Paramount.