EXCLUSIVE: Some six months after former CW Entertainment chief Dawn Ostroff became Conde Nast Entertainment Group president, she has hired two seasoned executives who’ll be charged with setting up film, TV and digital projects from the content of the Conde Nast stable of magazines. Ostroff has hired former Imagine and Fox Searchlight exec Jeremy Steckler to be executive vice president of motion pictures, and Sundance Channel exec Michael Klein to be executive vice president of alternative programming.
Steckler, who’ll be based in Los Angeles, was most recently an executive vice president at Imagine Entertainment and before that senior vice president at Searchlight, and he had a hand in such films as Black Swan, Juno and (500) Days of Summer. Before that he worked for producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and for Spyglass Entertainment. Klein, who’ll be based in New York, leaves the Sundance Channel to take the job. He has been senior vice president of programming and development, and launched the network’s most ambitious programming slate, including series Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Love/Lust and the upcoming Push Girls. Before that he worked for Travel Channel Media, Discovery Communications and TLC, where he was involved in the series Miami Ink, Little People, Big World, and What Not to Wear.
Ostroff is following a trend in which magazines and newspapers have tried to be involved in movies and other programming hatched from articles they publish, but I can’t remember a company taking such a proactive role. Usually, publications including The New York Times, New York Magazine and The Atlantic hire agents (ICM reps those three) and get money and a production credit. Ostroff, who launched the CW and developed such series as Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries before stepping down to move to New York, intends to be hands-on in setting up deals and production initiatives derived mostly from the contents of its 18 consumer magazines that range from GQ to Glamour, Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, Wired, Details and Architectural Digest.
Past movies derived from CN content include Brokeback Mountain, A Beautiful Mind, and Eat, Pray, Love, the latter of which began as an article in Allure. Ostroff said that her new hires will plow through current articles and archived material “to created partnerships with producers, studios and networks. That content will drive our business. And the digital space is really here now, it’s not the wave of the future. We see all kinds of distribution opportunities.”
She said she has three or four deals being negotiated, and that her executives can hatch original projects under the division as well. In select cases, Conde Nast Entertainment Group will seed projects with development money if that is the best way to get a project they believe in off the ground. The division will not get into production financing.
“Being an in-house production entity gives us an opportunity to look at everything early, and give our writers the opportunity to benefit by seeing their work carried onto other platforms,” Ostroff said. “We see it as an opportunity that benefits everybody.”
It will take time to smooth out the infrastructure, as some elite magazine journalists contractually retain movie and TV rights and keep the proceeds when their own agents make movie and TV deals.