Thank you for sharing your time with us, Karyn.
I'm certain the Writers and Producers at the TV
Writers Vault will enjoy reading your insight.
Of course, thank you so much for inviting me. I
wish I’d had a resource like this when I first
Thank you, it's our privilege.
Can you share with our readers what your job
entails, and what a typical day is like for you in
development at Fox
typical day for me. Well, it usually starts with
me getting in anytime between 8:30 and 9 AM. I
begin my day by looking through and answering my
emails. From that point on, my day is typically
filled with returning and making phone calls,
writer and/or producer meetings, and
reading/reviewing scripts in various stages of
production or development. I may also check out
and review cuts from one or two of the series I
cover in production. I will then usually take my
lunch meetings around 1 PM, returning to the
office around 2:30, to begin the process all over
again of returning calls, answering emails,
reviewing scripts and/or cuts and taking more
meetings. Then I typically leave the office
anytime between 7:30 and 8 PM and may take a few
scripts/cuts home with me to read/watch that
How did you get your start in this business, and
what attracted you to the Industry?
I’ve always been in love with movies and
television. Always. I remember my family often
commenting that I spent far too much time watching
television, but I couldn’t help it. I loved it.
After graduating from business school (and
realizing that I wanted nothing to do with the
traditional business space), I decided I would try
to find a more “stable” way to get into the
entertainment business: I would become an
entertainment lawyer. I went to law school and
graduated – then started working for a private
firm, planning to later laterally transfer into
entertainment law. One problem: I hated
practicing law. Immensely. After a couple of
years of practicing, I couldn’t take it anymore.
So I quit my job and, knowing absolutely no one,
came out here to Hollywood where I planned to
enter into a business that my father had
previously told me about: The agency business.
It seemed like a natural transition to go from an
advocate in law to an advocate in entertainment.
I started in the mailroom at Endeavor (pre-WME)
and worked my way up to TV lit agent. I was a TV
lit agent for a couple of years before I caught
the development bug and, consequently, left to
begin a career as an executive.
You must get to work with some extremely talented
Writers and Producers.
Oh, yeah. Some amazingly talented writers and
producers. They are what make my job such a
fantastic experience. From Matt Nix to Jeff
Eastin to Nancy Miller to Remi Aubuchon, just to
name a few…We at FTVS are lucky enough to be in
business with some of the top writing minds in the
you venture into the unscripted arena at all, or
is your main focus scripted series?
My main focus is scripted series, however, I’m
always on the lookout for good programming,
scripted OR unscripted. We have someone here at
FTVS, Jill Schwartz, who heads up our unscripted
department, so if I come across an idea that I
like, I will bring it to her for her thoughts. If
she agrees, then we may pursue it.
How many projects do you handle at any given time,
at all stages of development?
Right now, I have three current series that I
cover (WHITE COLLAR, SAVING GRACE, and PERSONS
UNKNOWN). I also cover a pilot entitled SUGARLOAF
at A&E. And, with respect to development, I may
typically have anywhere between 3-5 projects in
development at various networks and anywhere
around 15 projects that I am internally developing
within the studio.
What advice can you give to television writers
shopping spec scripts? What do you look for in,
for example, a great drama spec?
My biggest piece of advice to give to TV writers
shopping spec scripts is to stay true to your own
voice and style, especially when crafting an
original pilot. Too many times I've seen talented
writers forgo their own voice in favor of writing
a pilot they believe "will sell." Yes, studios
eventually need to be able to sell a pilot to a
network for the project to really move forward,
but that should not be the writer’s focus. Write
what inspires and impassions you. Sacrificing
your own voice almost never works. Most
critically acclaimed shows from THE SHIELD to MAD
MEN to BREAKING BAD were created by writers who
refused to water-down or shoehorn their voices
into a more “saleable” pilot. And those fresh,
original voices are exactly what studios and
producers are looking for.
I primarily enjoy scripts that are a little quirky
or off-center -- often tinged with a taste of dark
humor -- and those that offer something a little
unexpected. A traditional, commercial procedural
is not normally my cup of tea – especially since
FTVS focuses a lot of their development in the
cable network arenas. We really like to focus on
unconventional characters, whether, be they Vic
Mackey in THE SHIELD or Grace Hanadarko in SAVING
GRACE or Michael Weston in BURN NOTICE. I
personally look for scripts that have fresh voices
and contain a premise that either (1) I’ve never
seen before; or (2) If I have seen the premise
before, there’s an unexpected twist or point of
When you're working with a writer on a script for
a project at Fox, how much do you get involved in
the choices the Writer will make with character
development and story? Does it depend on who the
Writer is? Is it often a tug of war between the
Writer and Producers?
My most enjoyable and productive development
experiences occur when the writer and I work
together collaboratively – and this is the case
regardless of who the writer is. When I work with
a writer on a script for an FTVS project, I give
my honest opinion, thoughts and notes, which we
subsequently discuss together. However, I always
want to be completely open to the writer’s point
of view and conscious of his or her creative
vision for the project. We may disagree on some
issues, but I always want to give the writer the
benefit of the doubt, as it’s his or her creative
vision that led FTVS (and me) to pursue the
project in the first place. I feel that a good,
open dialogue between the studio and the writer
and/or producer can only lead to a better product.
How was the development process for the new series
"Persons Unknown"? Does NBC have an air date yet?
PERSONS UNKNOWN was an incredible experience. The
pilot was originally written by Christopher
McQuarrie, and the show was run by Remi Aubuchon.
Both are phenomenally talented writers. This
particular project was one that was very heavy on
mythology and Remi and his writing team knocked it
out of the park. In addition, since this was one
of our first international co-productions and
since it was developed and shot without an initial
US network home, I had the opportunity to be
involved very closely in almost every aspect of
the project from casting to production to music to
editing, etc. It was shot in Mexico City, and
they even built an entire town from the ground up
for the show! Incredible. We are so very excited
that it will be on NBC next year. We don’t have a
specific airdate just yet, but it’s coming!
One of my favorite series that was produced by Fox
TV Studios was "The Riches", starring Eddie
Izzard. Such a unique premise, having a family of
gypsies who assume the identities and lives of
another family that no longer exists. Terrific
characters and storylines as they struggle to be
"normal" and function in a traditional higher
society, while being on the run from their past
that continues to haunt them. It was critically
acclaimed. How does a series like that get
cancelled when so much of programming is taken up
by shows with lesser substance or originality?
You know, I really wish I knew the answer to
that. I mean, THE RICHES was a terrific show and
we at FTVS continue to be extremely proud of it.
There’s not always one clear-cut reason for a
show’s cancellation, but, generally (and I think
that’s what happened in the case of THE RICHES),
show cancellations happen due to low ratings. As
admired and original as the show was, the bottom
line was that its ratings simply weren’t strong
enough. The ratings in season 1 were only
marginal, but due to the strong press and fan
base, the network gave us a second season.
Unfortunately, the second season ratings dropped
dramatically, so it was ultimately cancelled. I’m
sure that every person reading this now can think
of shows that were critically-acclaimed, fresh,
and original, and yet many feel were cancelled
before their time. It’s a fact of life in the tv
It was interesting to see that Fox TV Studios
aired the first two episodes of "The Riches" on
the internet prior to the television premiere. Do
you see yourself developing programs that may be
specifically produced for the internet, with
television as an afterthought?
Absolutely. In fact, two of my colleagues at FTVS,
Gabriel Marano and Ilsa Berg, are doing just
that. They are very much involved in developing
digital and presentation programming that are
specifically produced for the internet, with the
hopes of then going on to develop into potential
television series. Internet programming can be a
fantastic way of building an audience and then
using that existing audience to launch a
Are you ever scouting books or news articles for
development? How much do you pull from true life
and other properties outside of actual scripts?
Always. I’m always on the lookout for properties,
graphic novels, books, articles and formats. I’m
always hungry for ideas – and, one thing I’ve
learned in this business, ideas can come from
anywhere and one would be a fool to ignore a good
idea -- regardless of where it came from.
I understand that you're involved with a variety
of scripted projects that are produced for various
outlets. With the possibility that you can produce
shows for different networks, do you have a strict
mandate for the types of projects your team will
invest time in, or do you gravitate toward any
genre script that happens to be great, and then
decide where the right home is for it?
You know, it’s typically the latter. There is no
mandate for a specific type of project -- Just
good, compelling writing. Each FTVS exec
gravitates to the scripts to which he or she most
responds -- not really to a genre or type of
script. We respond to great voices and great
writing and then look to find a home for
Being so immersed in television as a business, do
you still truly enjoy it as a form of
entertainment, or does being part of the machine
kill the magic?
Nah. I’m still too much of a TV addict to ever
let the machine kill the magic. Well,
occasionally, I may find a development thought or
two racing across my brain as I’m watching a show,
but typically I just try to sit back, shut off
that part of my brain and enjoy.
Thanks for sharing your time with us, Karyn. I
look forward to seeing more of your great work at
Fox TV Studios.
It was a pleasure. Thanks for having me.