In a surprising comeback story, Aaron Kaplan has been named worldwide head of scripted TV and packaging at William Morris.
Move comes barely six months after Kaplan was demoted by his former boss, then-WMA worldwide head of TV Sam Haskell. At the time, there was intense speculation that Kaplan — who had been co-head of network TV before his demotion — might leave the agency when his deal expired, if not sooner.
Instead, Kaplan stayed put, while the rest of WMA changed around him.
Haskell ankled the tenpercentery in December over philosophical differences with WMA management. Greg Lipstone, who had shared the job of co-head of network TV with Kaplan prior to the latter’s demotion, recently decided to leave the agency by July 31 (Daily Variety, April 14).
Now, Kaplan has not only signed a new long-term contract with WMA, he’s been given a big promotion that will give him some of the responsibilities once held by Haskell. A key difference: He won’t oversee the agency’s significant alternative division.
Kaplan, 36, will report to WMA chief exec Jim Wiatt, prexy Dave Wirtschafter and reality/syndie guru Mark Itkin. Itkin, Wiatt and Wirtschafter are essentially serving as co-heads of worldwide TV for the agency.
In an interview with Daily Variety, Wiatt said Kaplan’s promotion was key to implementing his goal of greater cooperation between WMA departments.
“We’re best when all the divisions are working together,” he said, noting that Kaplan has been “a great bridge between the film and TV departments” at the tenpercentery.
Itkin added that the move will help WMA become “better positioned to respond to our clients and buyers in the future.”
Given the different philosophies at play at WMA back when Kaplan was demoted in October, Kaplan admits he “was uncertain about my future at the agency” six months ago.
“But as things continued to change, I realized this agency, with the current management and its strategy for the future, was the best place for me to do my job,” he said. “My immediate plan is to sit down with every agent and discuss how, collectively, we can be stronger and more focused.”
One of Kaplan’s clients, Darren Star, said the agent has been a major help “for someone like me, who’s looking to broaden his horizons.”
“He thinks like a producer as much as an agent,” Star said. “He thinks about the creative possibilities of scripts and projects. He functions almost like a manager.”
Kaplan, who started his agency career in 1991 by working in WMA’s fabled mailroom, reps clients including Rod Lurie, David Goyer, David Heyman, Mark Rosen, Jeff Rake, Paula Pell and Lester Lewis.
All of those scribe-producers have pilots in production this spring, as do Phil Levens; Deb Kaplan and Harry Elfont; and Mark and Robb Cullen. Overall, Kaplan’s clients are working on a total of eight pilots this season.
Kaplan’s other clients with shows on the air or ordered to series include “American Dad” co-creators Matt Weitzman and Mike Barker, “Hope & Faith” creator Joanna Johnson, “The Cell” creators Cy Voris and Ethan Reiff and “Jake in Progress” creator Austin Winsberg.
Kaplan reps a mix of scribes, producers, helmers, thesps and production companies, as well as scribe-helmers who work in both film and TV. He was upped to agent in 1993.