10 Producers to Watch

Jeff Katz’s career in entertainment began in earnest at the age of 9. At a dinner party in his hometown of Franklin, Mich., the young horror and comicbook buff found himself seated next to Max Shaye, the father of New Line topper Bob Shaye, the man responsible for unleashing Katz’s all-time favorite villain, Freddy Krueger, into the nightmares of millions of terrified viewers. The pint-sized operator-to-be turned on the charm with his hero’s dad, and within weeks, he and Bob had become pen pals. “As I soon as I got my first letter from (Shaye), I thought, ‘OK, I’ve got my in,'” Katz recalls.

Katz later parlayed the letter-writing into a job at New Line.

By the time the 20-year-old college dropout began an internship at the thriving mini-major in 1999, he had already hosted his own sports radio show on Detroit’s WDFN and worked as a play-by-play man for Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.

At New Line, Katz’s dogged intensity, encyclopedic command of genre material and natural hustler’s instincts quickly caught the attention of senior management. At just 24, he was given an executive title as well as his first movie: “Freddy vs. Jason,” a script that had been lingering in development hell. With the help of Katz’s creative input, the pic was fast-tracked into production, then went on to break the opening weekend B.O. record for horror pics with a $36.4 million bow in 2003.

Four years later, Katz had a thriving side career as a comicbook scribe and moved from New Line to Fox, where he worked on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

Says veteran director-producer Richard Donner, who exec produced “Wolverine”: “In five years, we’ll all be working for him and it will be an honor.”

Last fall, Katz broke out on his own and formed American Original Entertainment, a film/publishing/branding outfit (or, as he describes it, a “nerd factory”).

“The entertainment world is in a period of fundamental change, and now is the time to bet on myself — or die trying,” Katz says. “At the very least I’ll know I put my money where my mouth was.”

Katz’s initial development slate includes an adaptation of steroids docu “Bigger, Stronger, Faster*” and horror script “Deep Cuts.”

P.O.V.

AGE: 30

HOME BASE: Los Angeles

INSPIRED BY: Bob Shaye, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, Theodore Roosevelt, Roger Corman, William Castle, Howard Stern, Jim Gianopulos, Hutch Parker, Richard Donner, Richard Brener, Michael De Luca, Vince McMahon

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