DreamWorks’ New CEO Michael Wright on Moving from TV to Film

TNT Michael Wright Leaving
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Transitioning from the TV industry to running a film studio hasn’t fared well for Rich Ross and Gail Berman, whose stints at the top of Disney and Paramount lasted around two years. Can Turner Broadcasting’s Michael Wright do any better at DreamWorks?

The films he inherits include Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book “The BFG,” which will hit theaters on July 1, 2016, and a Cold War spy thriller starring Tom Hanks that he also will direct. There’s also “The Light Between Ocean,” which started production this month, an adaptation of “The Ghost in the Shell” that Rupert Saunders will direct and “Las Madres.”

Here’s what Wright tells Variety he’s learned by watching the film industry from the sidelines, and launching hit series like Michael Bay’s “The Last Ship,” “The Closer” spinoff “Major Crimes,” “Legends,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and DreamWorks’ “Falling Skies” and “Into the West” while overseeing TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies as president and head of programming:

SEE ALSO: How Amblin TV’s Success Led Spielberg to His New DreamWorks CEO

Be a Storyteller
“It’s a new challenge. I didn’t come into this business and say I wanted to work in television or film. My first impulse was I wanted to tell stories.”

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
“I hope I’m bringing over equal parts humility and humor to the task.”

Work for Your Heroes
“Steven (Spielberg) has been an inspiration to me, a storytelling hero to me. I grew up on Close Encounters and Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Have Experience Working with Filmmakers
Wright worked closely with Spielberg on “Falling Skies,” Bay on “The Last Ship” and Frank Darabont for “Mob City.” “It’s not like we’re not working with really great storytellers on television. Those skills are transferable. What I have to learn are the particulars of the films business. That’s where the humility comes in.”

Know the Brand
“Every movie should reflect well on the brand and well on Steven. There’s an expectation to have a bit of that Spielberg magic. Whatever film we’re making should have a level of quality and wonder in our storytelling. That’s the task and fun of the challenge.”

Understand Your Shortcomings
“My first task is to come in and be quiet and learn and listen and watch and read, then weigh in and be part of the process.”

Don’t Succumb to Franchise Fever
“If there’s a story that needs to be told and its appropriate and it’s franchisable, great. I’m not saying go find a franchise. That will happen organically. It must first feel like a DreamWorks movie. I’ve always had a commercial sensibility. I love great big fun thrilling storytelling as long as it has a brain. I don’t like the lowbrow. I’m also not an indie art house guy. I love film that says, come on for a ride.”

Enjoy the Process
“One of the challenges in the television world is you’re producing 600 hours of television a year. You cannot possibly watch or read everything. It’s mind numbing. It’s frustrating. The idea of being able to make four films a year is exciting. It’s much more rewarding.”

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