In accepting his award Sunday evening in Beverly Hills as executive of the year from The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors, Lionsgate Television Group president Kevin Beggs paid special tribute to the independent producers who refuse to take no for an answer and manage to keep open the door to opportunity at a time a handful of huge vertically integrated companies dominate the television landscape.
“If there is a secret to our success,” said Beggs, “it may be that we approach every day as if we are a start up. If we don’t sell profitable projects every day, we may not be here.”
Beggs award was presented to him by his boss, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer, who said “in 30 years in the business I’ve never worked with a better executive than Kevin Beggs.”
Feltheimer said in five years annual revenues from their TV division have risen from $8 million to $350 million, thanks to shows like Mad Men, Weeds and Boss. He noted Beggs has sold 19 scripts to 13 broadcast and cable networks for the coming season, which he said was the company’s “best selling season ever.”
It was a night of superlatives at the industry group’s 29th annual awards dinner, as a diverse group of executives and creative’s were honored.
There were three top awards not announced in advance. Charles Floyd Johnson was honored as producer of the year for NCIS (CBS), Gail Mancuso was named director of the year for her work on Modern Family (ABC) and Lionel Chetwynd was named writer of the year for his body of work in television long forms.
On hand to present the award to Johnson was NCIS star Mark Harmon. Mancuso was presented her award by 13-year-old Rico Rodriguez, who plays "Manny," on Modern Family. Producer Norman Powell presented the award to Chetwynd.
Kevin S. Bright received the Chair Award. A veteran producer whose credits include the series Friends, Bright has moved to Boston to teach at Emerson College. He said he enjoyed being a producer but he has found even greater fulfillment as a teacher at Emerson and in other programs he has developed, including one to help visually impaired people use the video medium.
“I love making people laugh,” said Bright, “but there’s nothing better than changing people’s lives.”
Dennis Doty, in his final term as Caucus chair, received the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Chetwynd, who was a replacement for Doty’s longtime partner Gil Cates, the acclaimed producer who passed away in early November.
Syd Vinnedge was presented the Distinguished Service Award by producer Herman Rush while radio personality Tanya Hart and real estate developer Philip Hart received the Diversity Award which was presented by producer Vin Di Bona.
A major part of what the Caucus does is to honor outstanding student filmmakers. This year producer Norman Powell, Treasurer of the Caucus Foundation, presented the Gold Circle Awards. First prize went to Casey C. Johnson of AFI for his film, Unmanned and while second prize was awarded to Emerson College student Matthew Hashiguchi for his film, The Lower 9, about the area of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina, which has still not recovered. First Prize was a $60,000 Panasonic camera package and Second Prize a $20,000 HTV/illuminate Hi Def post production package.
Bruce Boxleitner of the upcoming ABC series Good Christian Belles, who also does the voice on the upcoming Disney series on ABC's Tron: Uprising, was the master of ceremonies. Maja Gartmann of Swiss Tourism auctioned off a $15,000 travel package to Switzerland, which Di Bona bought for $9,000.
Chuck Fries was chairman for the dinner. Di Bona and Lee Miller were executive producers. Carla Patterson was talent producer, Sharon Arnett director and Todd Thicke head writer.