Out in Leftfield, Expanding His Reality'Pawn Stars,' 'Oddities' producer widens reach with new L.A. office 7/16/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Brent Montgomery, owner/executive producer of
Leftfield Pictures, learned one of his biggest lessons
for succeeding in TV while selling knives in college. He told a customer a knife would cut
through a melon with one swipe—
without actually knowing if it would.
Luckily, the melon sliced cleanly. “After
that, whether it is TV or knives, I’m
very careful of not selling something
that is not tested out,”
Montgomery says. “We try
and vet out everything.”
Being honest with a
cast before filming is also
strives for. “We are very
straight with people—telling
them this is the hardest
thing they’ll ever do…and
it could go nowhere.”
This diligence and candor
has worked well for
Montgomery, whose company
has had major unscripted successes
with History’s Pawn Stars, spinoff Cajun
Pawn Stars and American Restoration, as
well as Science Channel’s Oddities franchise
and ABC’s Ball Boys, among others.
New York-based Montgomery is in
the process of opening a Los Angeles
office, which should be ready by yearend.
“The move is to really tap into the
local talent pool because we want to do
more celeb stuff,” he says. Leftfield is already
helping produce Celebrity Yard Sale
(working title)—created by Lance Bass,
about celebs getting rid of some possessions,
to be auctioned off for charity.
Lifetime picked up the show last month.
The 250-plus-person company is
also hiring a New York-based CFO, essentially
to handle acquisitions. Leftfield plans to be aggressive in acquiring
other production entities that will
complement its programming.
Montgomery, who calls reality TV “a
three-ring circus,” didn’t always aspire
to work in the field. As the oldest of
three growing up in San Antonio, he
hoped to become a baseball player, but
pursued journalism at
Texas A&M. While there,
he worked at CBS affiliate
KBTX, which allowed him
to pay most of his college
tuition and get job experience.
Graduating in 1997,
he moved to NYC, where
he began as a production
assistant in ’98 on the Fox
newsmagazine Fox Files,
which lasted one season.
his way up the ladder
from associate producer to producer
on several reality shows, all the while
shooting various projects of his own on
the side. Ironically, Montgomery, whose
company has found success with maleskewing
series, says he really got his
chops working on female-skewing series
such as The Bachelor and Wife Swap.
A significant break came in 2008
when he sold reality series The Principal’s
Office—about the inner workings of
school administrations—to truTV, marking
the formation of Leftfield Pictures.
The company’s big moment came in
July 2009 with the premiere of Pawn
Stars, about a family-run pawn shop in
Las Vegas—an idea Montgomery came
up with while in Vegas for a bachelor
party. Pawn Stars is now History’s
most-watched series; the show broke a
ratings record in January 2011 when
an episode attracted 7.7 million total
viewers. To date, Pawn Stars is averaging
5.6 million total viewers.
Montgomery loves working with
History and Nancy Dubuc, president
and general manager of History and
Lifetime Networks, whom he calls
“the smartest person I’ve met in or out
of the business.” Dubuc praises Montgomery’s
business sense as well.
“I think that Brent has done a remarkable
the success of very big shows, but also
managing the growth and success of
his own company,” Dubuc says.
Pawn’s success, and the success of other
networks’ “copycat” series, prompted
spinoff Cajun Pawn Stars, which debuted
on History last January and has averaged
2.5 million total viewers to date.
Leftfield is as busy as ever with 18
series, four pilots and approximately
20 development deals—with about
half female-skewing, aiming to broaden
the company’s slate. Next up are projects
including demolition series Bid &
Destroy on NatGeo; Science Channel’s
Oddities spinoff, Odd Folks Home; and
two series at History (not announced
at presstime), all airing later this year.
With everything that is on his plate,
Montgomery feels fortunate to work
with his wife, Courtney, who serves
as Leftfield’s head of production. “I get
to share the triumphs with her…and
have that support when things aren’t
going well,” he says.
The couple makes it a rule to always
have dinner and watch one show together.
But you won’t find reality TV
on Montgomery’s must-watch list,
which instead favors shows such as
Homeland and Eastbound and Down. “I
like to watch scripted, because I like
to do something different,” he says.