Producer Mark Gordon on Success in TV and Film

Producer Mark Gordon on Success in TV and Film

Currently serving as the president of the Producers Guild of America, Mark Gordon is a prolific and respected film and TV producer who has made a strong impact on the industry. His top TV projects include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Criminal Minds” and “Army Wives,” and he has also made his mark theatrically, bringing in more than $2 billion at the box office with blockbusters like Saving Private RyanThe Day After Tomorrow and Speed.

With such notable successes, Gordon understands the production process and the state of today’s industry, and he both praises and laments the Avid as having had the biggest impact on creativity. “Because so much of what we do is made in the editing room, I think that the Avid has been an incredible blessing and a curse,” says Gordon. “With digital technology overall, but more importantly with the Avid specifically, we are able to make changes in cuts so fast, helping everything come together in the editing room. It’s there where you have the opportunity to do many things, coming up with versions of cuts that you would never have the time to do if you were working in film. The Avid isn’t new, but it’s relatively new given how long we’ve worked with film, and on flatbed or upright Moviolas. It’s really amazing what we can do now.” The advancements offered by the Avid can also be too much of a good thing. “Because we can go so fast, we don’t have the time to breathe and think as much, and we just keep trying new things,” notes Gordon. “So I love the technology, but at the same time I miss the old days of taking your time and enjoying the process. Doing it a little slower gave you time to think. I think unfortunately sometimes in this fast-paced world that we live in, with the technology that exists, we’re so busy ‘doing’ that we’re not thinking and deciding.”

Gordon’s current faced-paced lifestyle includes working on a drama pilot and doing preproduction on other projects while also adding a comedy to his long list of TV credits. The ABC sitcom Family Tools stars Kyle Bornheimer as a likable, hapless fellow who returns home to help his dad’s handyman business. Co-produced by the Mark Gordon Company, Family Tools also stars J.K. Simmons, Leah Remini, Edi Gathegi and Danielle Nicolet, and it’s a good old-fashioned sitcom that deserves attention. Gordon observes that success in dramas or comedies usually lies with the development of great characters and bringing out their humanity in interesting stories. “We have great partners, great creators, great executive producers and great showrunners,” he says. “It’s always about the people you bring in, starting with the writers. We [at the company] are producers not writers. Both in the films that we make and the television shows, it’s the writers. And I was lucky enough to get into business with Shonda Rhimes. She is ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ the heart and soul of that show. And with ‘Criminal Minds,’ for many years we had Ed Bernero and now we have Erica Messer who runs the show. We create an atmosphere that helps people do their best work.”

Gordon says the fun part of television is developing new projects. “We don’t try to look at the audience and say, ‘What is it that they want?’ We say, ‘What do we love?’ and then hope they like it,” he explains. “We’ve had some good fortune over the years, but I think it starts with loving the ideas from the writers, and then trying to make them special.” A man who enjoys what he does, Gordon adds that he is “absolutely” a hands-on producer with every project: “I’m involved in the marketing, developing scripts, dealing with directors, and spending a lot of time in the editing room.” He notes that the secret for successfully juggling multiple films and TV shows is having “wonderful” people to oversee all the projects. “I’m not [at the company] every day, so there are dedicated people doing these shows,” he says. “I consider it my good fortune to be surrounded with the best people, and then let them do their jobs.”

Gordon’s productions include the acclaimed HBO movie Warm Springs and the theatrical films Source Code2012 and Broken Arrow.Having his name on the company door, Gordon is interviewed often, and he always prefers old-school communication. “I don’t go in for video conferences,” he says. “I know I can’t be in five or six places at once, but I’m an old-fashioned guy. I like to use the telephone. I use email like everybody else, but it’s best to communicate through the phone. We’ve gotten so far away from dialogue. Everything in the email is monologue. There’s less opportunity to make the connection, so I try to talk to the people as much as I can. Then you have to trust the dedicated people that you work with to get the job done. Obviously, newer high-tech tools allow you to do more things, but things haven’t changed that much about what’s really important, which is communicating ideas.”

Looking forward, Gordon always has a number of top-quality projects in the works. “At Regency, we have Empire that we’re excited about,” he says. “We’re doing a thriller set in China called Bullet Train, and there are a number of other movies and TV pilots in development. I’m working hard with good people.” So far, that work has given Gordon pride in his entertainment legacy. “I hope if people bother to look at the body of work I’ve done that they will see it’s a diverse group of films and television shows that are high quality and strike an emotional core and make us think,” he says. “Those are the kinds of things I aspire to make.”

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