On the heels of the debacle over ABC‘s summer series Weird Desk, the network has signed a first-look deal with Weird Desk producer Shaftesbury Films, Christina Jennings’ long-running Canadian production company. Weird Desk would’ve been the first U.S. series for the company, which in August 2011 set up a Los Angeles-based division run by Tom Mazza and Maggie Murphy targeting the American market. But after giving the project a straight-to-series order in early December, ABC shelved it a week later, reportedly under pressure from Marvel over alleged similarities to the company’s ABC pilot S.H.I.E.L.D., from The Avengers‘ Joss Whedon. Now Mazza and Murphy will be able to develop new projects for ABC. Like other U.S. divisions of international production companies like Gaumont and Cineflix, Shaftesbury is largely in the straight-to-series business. It recently shopped a spec as part of the January pitch season. In Canada, Shaftesbury recently wrapped production on a half hour comedy presentation for Bravo Canada.
TORONTO, August 30, 2011 – Shaftesbury, one of Canada’s leading creators and producers of original programming for television and multiple platforms, today announced the launch of Shaftesbury U.S., a new division focused on development for the U.S. market located in Los Angeles, California. Effective September 1, former Columbia TriStar Network Television President Tom Mazza and senior development executive Maggie Murphy have been appointed to jointly oversee the division as co-heads, reporting directly to Christina Jennings, Chairman and CEO, Shaftesbury.
EXCLUSIVE: Another leading Canadian production company, Christina Jennings’ Shaftesbury Films, is launching a U.S. arm. I hear veteran U.S. TV executive Tom Mazza is leaving Toronto/Burbank-based Cookie Jar Entertainment, where he served as EVP and head of worldwide TV for the past year and a half, to run Shaftesbury’s new Los Angeles offices. He is expected to bring with him former UPN drama head and Regency TV executive Maggie Murphy, who joined him at Cookie Jar at the beginning of this year and was his top development executive. I hear Mazza starts at Shaftesbury at the end of this week. At Cookie Jar, Mazza headed the television division, managing the company’s development and production departments as well as sales and distribution, program acquisition and international co-productions. He also ran the company’s newly launched primetime label The Jar, as Cookie Jar, known mostly as a producer of kids programming, had been looking to broaden its portfolio.