Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Diller
First of all, it is necessary to stress that the development of film industry frequently depends upon the creativity of people who devote their lives to this sphere. Such individuals as Michael Eisner, Barry Diller and Jeffery Katzenberg contributed to the film industry greatly. The latter is hardly imagined without these individuals. These three figures are closely connected as they are the parts of the same field and their careers have much in common. All of them worked in ABC and Paramount. Moreover, all of them did their best to change the film industry for the better. Eisner, Diller and Katzenberg produced the pictures that are known all over the world today; this fact makes their figures remarkable, recognizable and worth attention. Their careers help understand the peculiarities of the film development and the impact of such companies like The Walt Disney, ABC and Paramount.
Michael Dammann Eisner contribution to the film industry
Michael Dammann Eisner is known as an American businessman. Moreover, he was the chief executive officer of the famous Walt Disney Company (1984 – 2005). It is known that from the very beginning Eisner was interested in theatre and English literature. His summer job as a page at NBC New York studios was his first experience of working in the entertainment industry. Passion for this sphere made Michael return to this city after graduation and start working as an FCC logging clerk in the same company as several years ago.
Patience and purposefulness helped Eisner to move to the Programming department at CBS. Here a young person was responsible for presenting commercials in the proper places in various programs for children. Of course, such a job was not the best one from Michael’s perspective. He was not satisfied with it. However, Eisner did not stop sending numerous resumes to different companies. The only suggestion of a better job was given by Barry Diller who was in charge of the programming department of ABC. He offered Michael the position of the national Programming Director at ABC. The later occupied this post for two years (1966 – 1968).
In 1967, Michael Eisner gave birth to the celebrated Feelin’ Groovy at Marine World. The next year he became the Manager of Specials and Talent. In 1969, he occupied the position of the director of program development for the East Coast. At that time Michael took responsibility for Saturday morning programming for children. He was in charge of numerous projects. Animated programs were one of them. They were rather popular, because of being based on well-known singing groups, such as the Osmond Brothers and the Jackson Five.
Thorough work led Michael to a new post in 1971. It was ABC’s Vice President for Daytime Programming. Eisner became a promoter of two serials. They were One Life to Live and All My Children. The next positions were the following ones:
- Senior Vice President for Prime Time Production and Development
- Vice President for Program Planning and Development
The posts that gave Michael an opportunity to foster four popular programs:
- Starsky and Hutch
- Happy Days
- Barney Miller
- Welcome back Kotter
It should be noted, that Michael Eisner’s activity helped ABC to occupy the first place in the television networks rating.
In 1974, Michael was offered the position of President and Chief Operating Officer of Paramount Pictures, because of Barry Diller’s promotion (he became Chairman of the Board of Paramount Pictures). At Paramount, these two people used all the information they had learnt on their previous positions in order to keep the costs of the studio down. With Eisner’s help the cost for Paramount production was only about eight million dollars when all other companies had to spend twelve million per one picture. This advantages gave Paramount a possibility to move to the first place among the six other film studios. It occupied the last place before that. In 1978, half of the top ten films belonged to Paramount.
During Eisner’s tenure Paramount gave birth to the following films:
- Three installments of the Star Trek cycle
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Beverly Hills Cop
- An Officer and a Gentleman
- Trading Places
- Terms of Endearment
- Heaven Can Wait
- Saturday Night Fever
- The Elephant Man
In 1984, Michal Eisner started his career in The Walt Disney Company. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer was his first position in that company. There was the lack of proper direction after Walt Disney’s death (1966). However, Michael managed to transform The Walt Disney Company into the leader in film industry. It gained success with the help of these animations:
- The Lion King
- The Little Marmaid
- Beauty and the Beast
Each of the above-mentioned cartoons became popular and kept the companies rating in the top. Eisner’s contributions to The Walt Disney Company were evident, because during his reign the latter had greater annual revenues. Thus, the company received more than twenty-five millions of dollars every year. Before Michael’s rule it was less than two million. That is why people frequently call Michael Eisner the prince who managed to awaken the company. The operating income of The Walt Disney also increased; it was $4.08 billion instead of traditional $291 million (Cleve 76).
As any other person, Michael could make mistakes. One of them was caused by the conflict with Jeffrey Katzenberg. After the death of Frank Wells (Eisner’s closest advisor) Jeffrey was offered his position, but refused. This event became the cause of a public lawsuit between Eisner and Katzenberg. The conflict gave negative publicity to The Walt Disney Company and cost it much money. According to some points of view, Eisner made Jeffrey to resign the post; however, the latter wanted to occupy this position. Rather frequently this conflict between Eisner and Katzenberg is called “Disney War”. It is no wonder, because the company lost $250 million in this “war”.
One more mistake made by Michael was the decision to fill the post with the help of his friend – Michael Ovitz. His cooperation with the company did not last for a long period of time. However, it cost Disney much money to release Ovitz from the contract.
The above-mentioned events did not prevent Michael from becoming the most powerful figure in the international communications industry. It was the biggest coup of Eisner’s career. This happened due to The Walt Disney’s acquisition of Capital Cities, the ABC television network. This gave an opportunity to become in charge of several important television channels. Among them were E!, A&E, The History Channel, Lifetime and ESPN.
The next step forward was trying the new technology of computer animation instead of traditional pen-and-ink one. The attempts were successful due to the partnership with Pixar. As a result, The Walt Disney Company introduced several hits. Among them were:
- Toy Story
- Finding Nemo
Unfortunately, Steve Jobs (he led Pixar) refused to prolong the contract with Disney. This gave rise to new conflicts within the company. For example, Walt Disney’s nephew – Roy Disney – demanded to change the leadership of the company.
It is known that filmmaking was not the only thing Michael Eisner did. He made an attempt to publish the book. However, it seems to be unsuccessful. Once Warner Books chairman Larry Kirshbaum suggested that Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who often remarked that everything he knew about good management he had learned at Camp Keewaydin in Vermont, write an inspirational account of his camp experiences and their application to modern business, which Warner Books, naturally, would publish. Eisner agreed, Kirshbaum offered to become his editor. A bit later, these two men duly visited Keewaydin on a sort of pilgrimage, and Eisner started working at the book. Its publication was delayed in some time. Although a spokesperson stated that Michael simply did not have enough spare time to promote it, other observers quickly suspected another motive. They were sure that Eisner might stop the publication of the book himself. (Cleve, 98).
Eisner career after film industry
In 2004, Michael Eisner decided to leave the position of Chairman. In 2005, he occupied another post – Chief Executive Officer. In fact, this person devoted twenty one years of his life to The Walt Disney Company and contributed to its success and development. During his reign Michael had the reputation of a hit-maker and dominant figure in American film industry. Moreover, he helped The Walt Disney Company to earn more money.
Leaving Disney did not mean the end of Michael’s career in the entertainment industry. He was still very influential and active in both media and business. Thus, in 2005, Eisner became the founder of The Tornate Company. The purpose of this action was to invest and suggest help to the companies belonging to the entertainment sector. In 2006, Michael started his own entertainment interview program known as Conversations with Michael Eisner on the CNBC channel.
It should be noted that Michael Eisner is very flexible to the changes in the film industry. When other people prefer leaving this sphere, when something difficult and new appear, Michael tries innovations and presents them to the public. This trait of character helped him to become a part of new media. Thus, the social-media-based game Fame Town – one of the projects suggested by Tornate – is very popular. Moreover Michael is the author of Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed edited in 2010. Here the author shares his experience of hard work and success. One of the most famous quotations of his is the following one: “There has been that major media companies are out of favor. I have seen this chicken-little behavior before, I have worked in the industry for four decades. At least once a decade they fall out of favor, but each time they emerge stronger than ever. This is for cyclical economic reasons”.
Jeffrey Katzenberg well-known CEO of DreamWorks Animation and an American film producer
This person gained his popularity due to the period of being a Chairman of The Walt Disney’s film division. Moreover, Jeffrey is known for the following popular cartoons: Megamind, How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek, The Prince of Egypt, Antz, Monsters vs. Aliens, The Road to El Dorado, Kung Fu Panda, Chicken Run, Madagascar, Over the Hedge, and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.
Firstly, Katzenberg tried to be a talented agent, but this period of his life did not last for long. Then, he started his career in Paramount Pictures. His position here was an assistant to Barry Diller. It was not the only post Jeffrey occupied here. Thus, soon he moved to the marketing department. In the television division he was in charge of reviving the Star Trek franchise. This work of his called Star Trek: The Motion Picture was very successful. That is why Jeffrey decided to keep on working in this direction. As a result, he was offered another position – President of Production under Chief Operating Officer (Michael Eisner).
In 1984, Jeffrey occupied a new post – Chief Executive Officer at The Walt Disney Company. Katzenberg was to become in charge of the company’s motion picture divisions. At that time, he was responsible for the development of the studio and made attempts to produce adult-oriented comedies. They included such films as Ernest series, Down and out in Beverly Hills, and Three Men and a Baby.
Jeffrey’s management opened new perspectives for The Walt Disney Company. The animation department made a huge step forward with the help of creating several animated features. The most famous were:
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Little Mermaid
- The Lion King
Jeffrey Katzenberg helped The Walt Disney Company to establish friendly relations with Pixar and initiated their cooperation with Miramax
It is quite difficult to believe that Jeffrey produced so many successful, interesting and bright movies, because he had no passion for animation, when he came to The Walt Disney Company. As a result, Miramax Films were brought to Disney. Once Jeffrey was offered to by Microsoft to create a studio for the company, but Katzenberg declined this suggestion. He already became popular to choose what offer to accept. It should b4 noted that Jeffrey’s creativity and imagination were the first things he applied to give birth to new pictures and oppose numerous competitors. One of them was Don Simpson, the author of Days of Thunder. These two people frequently argued with each other and became the main characters for numerous anecdotes about their competition. For example, when Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Dick Tracy was opened (it happened at the same time as Don Simpson’s Days of Thunder), Jeffrey got a fax with an interesting message: “it is impossible for you to escape the thunder!” The answer was more interesting than the reply itself: “You cannot even imagine how big my Dick is!”
Jeffrey’s career did not focus only on The Walt Disney Company. In 1994, he cooperated with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. The three founded DreamWorks SKG. This deal gave Katzenberg an opportunity to earn more money. Thus, according to the information given by Forbes magazine, he gained eight million dollars after the foundation of DreamWorks. Jeffrey produced some well-known pictures released by this company. They were: Joseph: King of Dreams, Shrek, The Road to El Dorado, and Prince of Egypt.
It should be noted that sometimes the studio had huge losses during Jeffrey’s reign. For instance, DreamWorks spent $125 million on Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Nevertheless, the returns from such losses were also rather considerable. 2004 became the year of changes for Katzenberg. DreamWorks Animation separated from DreamWorks. Now it was another company. Jeffrey become in charge of it and made the company rather successful.
In 2010, Jeffrey Katzenberg noted that all his pictures would not be just movies; all of them would be done in 3D format. This announcement demonstrated a new stage in the development of the film industry.
In general, Jeffrey Katzenberg is famous for returning popularity to Disney studios. He was the one who put its animation pictures back on the map of the film industry. This person applied synergy to achieve success in all his actions. He made all the departments of his studio to work together in order to gain popularity and recognition. One of his purposes was to create an environment of success in the studio.
Barry Diller is known as Senior Executive and the Chairman of AC Inter Active Corp
He is also the media executive who is responsible for the creation of the USA broadcasting and Fox Broadcasting Company. His career started from the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. Firstly, he was an assistant hired by Elton Rule. A bit later, Diller occupied the position of the west coast head of ABC. Barry liked working in the film industry and had gift for doing this. That is why he was offered to become in charge of negotiating broadcast rights to the future films produced by ABC.
In 1965, Diller occupied the position of the Vice President of development. At that time Barry Diller gave birth to the ABC Movie of the Week. It was the action proving the concept of the made-for-television movies. This meant creating short regular films with nine-minute duration. John Mair stated that “the first Movie of the Week, which aired in the fall of 1969, was about a returning war veteran. Entitled Corporate Cracker, it was produced by Aaron Spelling, who was eventually credited by the Guinness Book of Records as the most productive television producer of all time. Steven Spielberg made his debut film feature for Diller, with Duel” (Mair 40).
After becoming a Vice-President, Barry Diller saw that ABC needed changes. He theoretically held the weaker position, because the company was in need in the product much more than the movie produces wanted to cooperate with it. That is why Diller tried to do his bets in order to change this situation. He led various negotiations and frequently acted as if he had the upper hand. That is why Leonard Goldenson called him a very talented young man. Diller quickly turned into a capable businessmen and perfect negotiator. He had no choice, if he was going to succeed in the film industry.
The ability to go ahead and handle difficult problems gave Diller almost free rein and much power. Thus, this person was able to deal with top movie executives, talk terms with someone like Lew Wasserman and Charles Bluhdon. All this happened to a good background Barry Diller possessed. It was given by William Morris. Due to this person, Diller knew how to apply the same language as all movie pitchmen. Moreover, he was aware of the fact that all studios are always eager to find more money for producing new movies.
Why Barry wanted to produce films by himself
It was much better than giving somebody from the Hollywood studios the control over the projects. Universal had been producing two-hour movies for television since 1962, and Diller tried to negotiate with them in order to discuss some movie rights (58). A bit later, he persuaded this company to work out a deal for ABC’s new concept. Firstly, Universal had an intention to produce Movie of the Week together with ABC, but this cost much money. It was about four hundred of dollars per one show and, moreover, Universal wanted to get a guarantee that all the movies planned by ABC would be done together with Universal. This meant a constant dependence upon Universal. That is why Diller insisted on quitting with Universal. So, ABC managed to prove its independency and produced Movie of the Week without any outside help. Of course, this was done with Barry Diller’s help and hard work. Perhaps, the victory in the struggle for independence of ABC was one of the most important contributions made by Diller.
One of the most debatable works created by Diller was Roots (1972). It was a saga about slavery and black heritage. Nobody believed that it will be successful. Producing such a saga seemed to be a very risky action. However, the public liked it. It was a very sympathetic picture telling a story of a black family that came to the United States as slaves and was abused during several generations. Several white characters were depicted as cruel people. The story about slaves was rather long and difficult. It was difficult to remember the previous episodes from the story because of that. It consisted of several parts.
In 1974, Diller started his career in Paramount Pictures. This lasted for seven years. He was the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman in this company. At that time the following hit television programs and films were produced:
- Beverly Hills Cop
- Terms of Endearment
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Indiana Jones and the temple of Doom
- Saturday Night Fever
- Laverne & Shirley
Barry also worked for Fox, Inc. It was the parent company of Fox Broadcasting Company and the twentieth Fox. He started working here since 1984. His positions were Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. This time he gave the public such hits, as The Simpsons. In 1992, Diller left the company and tried to purchase paramount Communications. However, he lost this company to Viacom.
In 1997, Diller cooperated with Silver King Broadcasting. It was a collective group of over-the-air television stations. Their owner was Bud Paxon’s Home Shopping Network. At that time Diller also bought the rights to the USA Network owned by Bronfman family. The purpose of all these actions was to make an attempt to create the broadcast stations independent.
It is known that the secret of Diller’s success was his thorough work. This person’s life was consumed by his work. When all other people left the office at about five o’clock, Barry did not do the same. He proffered staying at his desk six or seven hours more. Barry was given responsibility to produce and schedule original movies for three nights per week. Some people are sure that Barry gained success and recognition not only by means of his diligence. He always was rather selfish and selective while communicating with people. Not by chance there are so many stories about these traits of his. When Diller was working for Universal, he took part in one important meeting. Someone introduced Barry to several new people. Diller became furious and uttered the following phrase: “Never introduce me to someone I do not know!” Perhaps, Barry Diller just did not like to waste time on communicating with people he had never heard about. He was eager to establish relations only with those who could be useful for him.
He also applied his ability to pay attention to trifles to find the best way to surprise television audience. For instance, he learnt that people do not tend to watch certain television shows at a certain hour. Instead of this they simply watch television staying tuned to the same channel the whole day. That is why Diller applied miniseries to capture the audience’s attention. They were running several nights and people liked them very much. Such shows were produced by Douglas Cramer who was a co-executive producer of Dynasty.
Now Barry Diller is the Chairman of Expedia and the Chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp. Moreover, he is a parent of these companies:
- Connected Ventures
All the three individuals Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Barry Diller created a lot of pictures that are known by the contemporary audience
Thus, Eisner and Katzenberg started their careers at The Walt Disney Company with rather firm ideas about doing business in Hollywood. Those ideas were the part of their professional experience and personal histories. They also gave birth to several important rules that encouraged the development of Paramount. Sometimes they were called the Paramount philosophy. The number one rule in this philosophy was to stick to the notion of high concept. It should be present in each picture created by the company. It was something special belonging to each picture, some interesting and catching idea or peculiarity. This rule really helped the company to gain success and produce a lot of splendid animations and films.
The next rule was to create cheap pictures. They should have been available for all people. According to Eisner’s point of view, it is always much easier to get people who have just started their career than those who are already successful. Paramount taught him how to hire everyone on a film himself rather than paying huge fees to agents who package movies. The third rule was to keep control. It is known that “in the seventies and eighties, paramount gained its reputation for being a studio that tried to make your movie for you” (Espejo 119). This rule was strictly followed by Katzenberg, who learnt a lot of various business principles with the help of Diller and Eisner.
Jeffrey managed to rule the studio so that each decision eventually returned to him. For instance, at The Walt Disney Company this person hired two executive Vice-Presidents. He took Ricardo Mestres from Paramount and David Hoberman (a literary agent at ICM). Both these people had no opportunity to make final decisions. They were done by Jeffrey. Thus, according to the production Vice-President’s words, “after signing on at Disney, they quickly discovered that they were mere managers carrying information from filmmakers up through Hoberman and Mestres and then back down again” (Bernstein 101).
About six years, the system of three rules given above helped Eisner and Katzenberg to gain success
Together they gave birth to the Disney formula picture. It was something like an urban, adult comedy starring easy-to-get-a-good-price movie and television stars. Jeffrey used to call this strategy bottom fishing. The secrets of this strategy opened the way to the box-office dollars.
The first film made according to this strategy was Down and Out in Beverly Hills. It cost only fourteen million of dollars, but brought more to its producers (it was $62 million from the United States of America and $34 million from Canada). The actors were: Bette Midler, Nick Nolte and Richard Dreyfuss. Although this film was rather popular among the public, it did not become the Disney’s biggest box-office hit. It was Pretty Woman that attracted more attention of the audience. To create this film Jeffrey Katzenberg bought a script telling a story about a heartless businessmen and a beautiful prostitute.
Eisner and Katzenberg were rewarded for developing The Walt Disney Company and they decided to apply the money to finance more pictures. Thus, they stated that in addition to their existing movie labels they will create one more – Hollywood Pictures. To do that, they named David Hoberman the head of Touchstone Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures and called Ricardo Mestres the head of the new company – Hollywood Pictures. The plan of such actions was to make a new company to produce ten to twelve new pictures per year. This must have double the profit of the Walt Disney Studio.
Jeffrey Katzenberg was appreciated for his ability to find and identify perfect scripts that will be successful after turning them into movies. He is also known for his grueling work ethic and dogged pursuit of actors and directors. Not by chance, under Katzenberg’s reign The Walt Disney company had a great number of various strong scripts that became well-known animations and movies.
The actions of the three well-known people in the film industry – Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Diller – helped this field to get into another stage of its development. Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg turned The Walt Disney into the company that produced a lot of well-known films and animations. The latter is also known for introducing 3D movie to the audience. Barry Diller produced short ABC movies and created cheap pictures for everyone. He became the father the movies consisting of short series.
It is necessary to stress that each of the above-mentioned people made very important contributions. For example, all of them produced splendid pictures and brought new ideas to the film industry. They helped such companies as The Walt Disney and ABC always be the best ones and introduce innovations to the audience. Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Diller may teach a lot of things. They reached success through hard work and their gift. Each of them was very creative and hard-working. Each of them knew the things he wanted to get from life. These people were eager to devote their lives only to the film industry and succeeded in this sphere.
The careers of the three people under consideration prove that thorough work and gift are the best guarantees of progress. It is necessary to stress that Walt Disney, Paramount, ABC and Hollywood would not be so successful and well-known without such people like Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Barry Diller. They make the public admire perfect animations and movies that always appeal to human mind and soul. Shrek, Madagascar, Pretty Woman, The Prince of Egypt, Aladdin, and The Lion King known by everybody is the result of thorough work and the gift possessed by Diller, Katzenberg and Eisner.