Tommy Mottola is making a major move in television. The veteran music executive and producer has signed a multi-year, first-look deal with eOne to develop and executive produce scripted and unscripted TV programming via his Mottola Media Company. He already has sold his first project under the deal, scripted series Harlem High, which has been set up for development at Freeform with Will Smith, James Lassiter and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment also producing.
Under the eOne pact, Mottola has brought in Talpa Media USA’s Jennifer Danska as EVP at MMC. eOne will serve as the studio and control worldwide rights for all projects produced by the partnership. Additionally, Mottola will serve as a consultant for eOne’s music and live entertainment business.
“Tommy is a zeitgeist force in the global music industry as well as Latino and urban entertainment and far beyond. His ability to identify pop-culture trends and long track record of breaking records and staying ahead of the curve make him a strong magnet for talent and an incredible partner for eOne,” said Pete Micelli, eOne’s Chief Strategy Officer, Film & Television.
Created by Mottola and written by Sam Laybourne, Harlem High follows the diverse students involved in a Harlem high school’s show choir.
“They deal with day-to-day problems at school but the one thing at the center of their lives is to dance, act and sing and be the best in the world,” Mottola said. “It’s a very realistic look and feel of what that place is.” The project also will reflect “the essence of what the new popular culture is,” Mottola added.
In addition to Harlem High, Mottola has several other projects in the works at eOne. A couple of them are music-driven but there are also 2-3 dramas and 3 documentaries. “It’s going to be a mix,” Mottola said.
Mottola, former Chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment who has been credited with discovering and developing the careers of such artists as Hall and Oates, Carly Simon, John Mellencamp, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, also is working with eOne on a couple of music competition reality series ideas. “The current formats are all tired, old and boring, we have a few ideas may break through,” Mottola said.
For the past six years, Mottola had focused his attention on Broadway, producing such musicals as Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, A Bronx Tale, Groundhog Day, Jersey Boys (off-Broadway) and the upcoming Clueless (off-Broadway) starring Dove Cameron and a musical based on the life of Johnny Cash alongside producing partners Dodger.
It was during that time that Mottola met with Micelli, then a top TV agent at CAA.
“We hit it off big time; I decided to hitch my wagon to Pete Micelli, and when he joined eOne, it was the perfect situation for me,” Mottola said. “eOne‘s world class executives, visionaries and dreamers are the perfect partners who share in the belief that with a great idea anything is possible, and I look forward to working with them as we nurture bold thinkers and build a diverse television slate.”
Mottola’s previous TV experience include music TV specials as well as HBO Films documentaries The Latin Explosion and 15: A Quinceanera Story.
Before joining Talpa in 2016, Danska was SVP Development for Ellen Rakieten Entertainment at Critical Content (fka Relativity Television). There she served as executive producer for The Monica Potter Project (HGTV) and co-executive producer on the late-night talk series All About Sex (TLC) hosted by Margaret Cho, Heather McDonald and Marissa Jaret Winokur. Before that, Danska worked as SVP of Development and Current at Kinetic Content, where she served as executive producer of Perez Hilton All-Access (CW), as SVP of Development and Current Series for RDF USA, where she worked on series Don’t Forget the Lyrics (Fox) and Secret Millionaire (ABC), and as VP, Talent Development and Casting for E! Networks.