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Fox Exec David Madden’s Past Films Inspire His Present-Day TV

In the early days of David Madden’s career, his office was a film set. He got his start with a Lifetime TV movie he wrote and directed, entitled “A Part of the Family,” before moving onto producing more mainstream projects such as “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “Runaway Bride” and “Save the Last Dance.” Now Madden, who oversees dozens of television projects as the president of entertainment for Fox, still keeps his history close by on the walls, windowsills, and tabletops of his bright Century City office to let the lessons he learned in the past inform the new decisions he makes.

Second Sticks

Sentimentality may be the first reason Madden gives when explaining why four production slates from key projects he produced — including his “personal” debut, “A Part of the Family” — adorn his office even today. But his time on set prior to becoming a suit also shaped Madden’s understanding of the filmmaking process. “There could be the naked fear of looking at a scene that is not working and saying, ‘How do we make this scene work?’ And then that process of working with the actors and the cameramen and the crew and trying to get the scene to play — having done that as a director has given me respect for what better directors than I go through in order to get those scenes to work. And it’s enabled me to be on the set and have a sense of when a set is working, too,” Madden says.

Through the Lens

The first television show Madden worked on after moving to the small screen was “The Shield,” FX and Shawn Ryan’s crime drama, for which Ryan wanted to achieve a “grainy, gritty look.” The show was shot on 16mm film, a rarity in the television world and a unique experience for Madden, who had shot his films on 35mm. These days, the shows of which Madden is a part shoot digitally, but he still keeps an old Yashica camera in his office as a reminder of the earlier days of the industry — and his career. “When I was just out of college, I would pick up film and take it to be developed, driving dailies over to the lab and doing airport runs,” Madden reminisces. “So I have nostalgia for that period.”

The Power of Prayer

“It’s a good luck thing, and I keep this out as a symbol of, as much as we work hard, the success of our shows is still unknown. You might as well pray for it!” Madden says of the Tibetan prayer wheel that a friend gave him 30 years ago. The artifact has a piece of paper with a prayer written on it stuffed inside it, and though Madden admits he no longer remembers what specific prayer is on there, he still likes the concept of spinning it and chanting so his prayers will be answered in general. “I’ll take any luck I can get!” Madden says.

Holy Sketch, Batman!

When Madden was in college, his mother threw out stacks of his prized Batman comics — books he thinks would probably be worth a pretty penny today. But thankfully, years later the self-professed “Batman kid” not only met Bob Kane, Batman’s co-creator, but also received a gift that he considers priceless: a one-of-a-kind drawing of Batman meeting Frankenstein, an event that never even happened in the canon of the comics. “Now that we have ‘Gotham,’ which is about the origins of Bruce Wayne [on Fox], I feel like my life has come full circle,” Madden says.

Family Tree

The most important — and most imposing — part of Madden’s office is a giant cork board on which he has tacked family photos through the years. “They make me happy,” he says simply. Though the collage takes up one major wall right now, it looks like an expansion will be necessary, as more photos worthy of display sit in stacks on Madden’s desk. “In a job, which many of us have, where there’s a lot of stress during the day, it is nice to be able to spin and take a look at images from my past. It gives me 15 seconds of relief and pleasure — it’s nice to feel a little bit of love adjacent to your desk.”

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