Denise Cramsey was widely known in the biz as a reality TV dynamo, a prolific producer who fielded a range of shows and was constantly juggling disparate projects.
The biz was stunned when it emerged that the 41-year-old producer died Nov. 23 of a brain aneurysm after exercising earlier in the day with a private trainer at the Hollywood Production Center. After working out, she collapsed and was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she was eventually taken off life support.
Cramsey was a vital figure in the reality landscape, most recently working on the Mark Burnett special “Live for the Moment” and the Warner Horizon skein “School Pride,” which aired on NBC. Cramsey had a first-look deal with Warner Horizon. She had recently bought a house with fiance and docu filmmaker Scott Farquharson. For her 40th birthday, the two of them traveled to Mt. Everest last year for his film “Expedition Inspiration.”
“It’s impossible to put into words,” said Tom Forman, who as exec producer of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” hired her to be his co-exec producer. She would eventually rise to exec producer and showrunner when he left the series. “She was not only one of the best people I ever met, but one of the healthiest. She’s the last person in the world who I thought would suffer any health-related issues. I went looking for a partner in crime and couldn’t have found a better one.”
“Extreme Makeover” was Cramsey’s first job as broadcast exec producer. Previously on the cable side, she was an exec producer for many seasons on TLC shows “A Baby and a Wedding Story” as well as “Trading Spaces.” Her other shows included “Gimme Shelter,” “House Wars” and “Manhunt: The Search for America’s Most Gorgeous Male Model.”
ABC alternative co-topper Vicki Dummer worked closely with Cramsey on “Extreme Makeover” and recalled a conversation when Cramsey first came on board.
“She recently told me, ‘Remember when I told you I could absolutely do this job? Well, I had no idea, but I knew I would figure it out,'” said Dummer, who spoke of a trip to Greece together. “She was a blend of heart with no bullshit. She wrapped that up in a package with such humor. … She was an amazing storyteller and such a life force.”
Lisa Higgins, who worked as an exec VP at “Extreme Makeover”-produced Endemol and is now president at Wexler Video, said the loss will be devastating.
“She was very well-respected and got her hands dirty to produce the shows and get the job done,” she said. “The staff and crew had a great level of respect for her.”
“Denise was an integral part of what I think is one of the best shows we’ve ever made, ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,'” said Endemol North America chairman David Goldberg. “She was tireless in her commitment to that show. Her love of people and her commitment to helping people really came through in that show. She clearly was, along with Tom Forman, the inspiration and driving force behind it.”
Cramsey was nominated for six Emmys, winning twice. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” was named top reality program in 2005-06. She continued her relationship with ABC after leaving “Extreme Makeover.” In 2009 she was exec producer of the Alphabet’s “True Beauty,” which ran for two seasons.
Cramsey was repped by WME, who issued the statement: “At Denise’s side were her fiance Scott, best friend Risa and brother Billy. Continuing the spirit of charity and kindness that embodied Denise, her organs will be donated. We thank everybody for their thoughts and prayers and words cannot express our sadness with the loss of Denise.”
From Warner Horizon: “Everyone at Warner Horizon Television is deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague, Denise Cramsey. Denise was an amazing and deeply committed producer, an Emmy winner who passionately cared about all the projects she worked on. She was an inspiration to many, whether it was from her professional work to improve public schools, help those in need or raise money for breast cancer research, or her personal love of scaling the mountains of the world. Our deepest condolences and thoughts go out to her family and friends at this difficult time.”