EXCLUSIVE: In a power pairing, former CBS head of drama Christina Davis has joined forces with writer-producer Michael Seitzman (Code Black, Quantico) to form a new company, Maniac Productions. The TV production company has entered a three-year overall deal with ABC Studios where Seitzman has been based for the past eight years. Under the pact, Seitzman and Davis will develop projects — primarily drama — for all platforms: broadcast, streaming and cable.
Seitzman and Davis, who recently left CBS after 20 years, the last eight as head of drama development, have frequently worked together. He had pitched four projects to her in the past nine years, three of which went to pilot and two — Intelligence and Code Black — to series, all produced by ABC Studios.
“We just found through the process of working together that we had very similar esthetic, that we worked very well together and that we seemed to share a creative vision,” Seitzman said. After reading about Davis’ departure from CBS last month, he approached her about partnering in a new company. “She mercifully said yes,” Seitzman quipped.
Davis, who was contemplating her next step while carrying for her newborn twins, said she was attracted to the idea of becoming a producer after two decades as a network development executive. “I found that I developed so many shows that I would’ve loved to be part of in series, and I always found that the hardest part of being a development executive is to have to pass a show off,” Davis said. “So when Michael came to me, I felt that in this new role I can see the shows through.”
She also sparked to the prospect of working with Setizman. “I’m constantly impressed by his creative instincts, his talent and his agility, and I truly believe that he is one of the best writers I’ve ever worked with,” Davis said.
Seitzman already is one of the busiest writer-producers working in television, serving as showrunner on both CBS’ Code Black, which he created, and ABC’s Quantico this coming season. Still, he had bigger plans.
“I wanted to be a more robust producer and be able to do more than one show,” he said. “I have multiple shows right now, but I have an appetite to do more. I also recognize that I can’t do that on my own.”
Maniac Prods. will be in the volume business. “Having developed 50 projects a year, I am accustomed to high volume,” Davis said. “We are going to come out of the gate strong.”
As for the scope of the projects, “The mandate has been to develop for broadcast but also for streaming and cable,” Seitzman said. His primary focus this season will be running Code Black and Quantico, so he won’t be creating a new series himself but could supervise other writers.
As for choosing Maniac as the name of the company, “maybe we are a coupe of maniacs,” Seitrzman quipped, with Davis adding that she’s used the word in reference to Seitzman’s creative bandwidth and the amount of work he can handle.
This is the second major drama pod deal ABC Studios has closed in the past couple of weeks, along with a pact the studio entered with former Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse and his newly formed Genre Arts, as it charts a future without Shondaland. (ABC’s most prolific drama producer, Shonda Rhimes, recently left for a deal at Netflix.)
At ABC Studios, where Seitzman has been since 2009, he has sold and developed 10 scripts, with five of them receiving pilot orders, and two, Intelligence and Code Black, making it to series. He also recently took over the ABC/ABC Studios drama series Quantico as executive producer/showrunner for its upcoming third season. On the feature side, Seitzman produced the 2016 film Incarnate. His big-screen writing credits include North Country and Here On Earth.
Davis joined CBS in 1997 as an assistant to then-drama development head Nina Tassler, rising through the ranks to become SVP and co-head of the department in 2007 when Tassler was elevated to entertainment president. Davis was named EVP Drama Development in 2009 when she became the solo drama chief at the network, a position she held for the past eight years. During her time in the department, she developed such successful series as the CSI and NCIS franchises, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0, Madam Secretary, Scorpion, Criminal Minds (from ABC Studios), Elementary, The Good Wife, Code Black, Bull and MacGyver among others.
Seitzman and Davis are repped by WME. Seitzman is also repped by attorney Craig Emmanuel, and Davis by Karl Austen.