Producer Mark Johnson has expanded his TV operations, hiring a head of development and extending his deal at CBS.
Johnson, whose Gran Via shingle has been set up at the Eye for the past six years, has added two years to the overall deal. Johnson exec produces “The Guardian” for the net.
“I’ve had a great run at CBS,” Johnson said. “Both Leslie Moonves and Nancy Tellem have been really supportive, and I couldn’t ask for a better partnership.”
As part of the pact, Johnson has hired Bryan Seabury to serve as vice president of TV at Gran Via. Seabury will handle all development, but focus specifically on Johnson’s specialty, drama.
Besides “The Guardian,” Johnson has exec produced short-lived dramas “L.A. Doctors” and “Falcone” for CBS. The producer has enjoyed a strong relationship with Eye execs.
“He’s a magnet for feature-writing talent,” said CBS drama development exec VP Nina Tassler. “Mark has been consistent in terms of bringing us very exciting and innovative concepts. And he’s skilled in identifying talent in writers and directors at early stages in their careers.”
In the feature film realm, Johnson is working on “The Wendell Baker Story,” the directorial debut of Luke and Andrew Wilson. Luke and Owen Wilson, Eva Mendes and Will Ferrell star. Johnson is also in pre-production at Disney on the first installment of his adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
BWCS-repped Johnson and Gran Via are behind recently released Touchstone feature “The Alamo,” as well as June release “The Notebook,” directed by Nick Cassavetes.
Seabury joins Gran Via from Susanne Daniels’ First Move TV, where he was involved with series development, pilot production and current production. Projects he worked on included the NBC sitcom “Hidden Hills.”
He hopped to First Move at its 2001 inception, moving with Daniels from the WB, where Seabury worked with the head of development.
Seabury’s duties includes handling Gran Via’s day-to-day development with CBS.
Johnson said he looked to bring on board a TV development chief after time commitments — including his work on “The Alamo” — forced him to sit out development season last year.
“Last year was a dead year for me — I don’t want that to happen again,” Johnson said. “I wanted someone who wasn’t going to do things by rote, simply developing what they thought the networks would want. I loved the fact that Bryan was very original, and clearly he wasn’t going to do it the way it was done in the past.”
Johnson said he hoped to continue to convince feature writers, producers and talent to test the TV waters.
“There are people who may not have been really sincere about wanting to do TV work in the past who I can bring to CBS,” he said.