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Up the Ladder

For Turner’s Kreisberg, success comes naturally —one step at a time 5/29/2005 08:00:00 PM Eastern

Christy Kwon Kreisberg hunts for hits for TBS. But her own story about getting into the biz sounds a lot like the big Steven Spielberg limited series airing this summer on sister net TNT: Into the West.

Kreisberg, VP of original programming/series at Turner’s TBS, was reared in St. Louis and never thought she would end up in Los Angeles. But after graduating with a degree in English from Boston College, she followed a TV job lead from a friend of a friend out west.

“It was completely one of those things where I just headed west,” says the comedy guru and mother of two. “I came out here and fell in love.”

After stints as a segment producer and researcher for Kushner-Locke Co. and coordinator for sports agency IMG, she moved on to assisting the VP of television production at Dick Clark Productions from 1992 to 1994. Working on shows like The Golden Globe Awards, she met a treasure trove of VIPs—executives at ABC, NBC, CBS—and her husband, who is a TV director.

NBC IN ITS PRIME

She was recruited for a junior-executive position at NBC Entertainment and, after a year of interviewing, she joined the network at its prime as director of specials, prime time series and late night. In her small department, Kreisberg played a big role in overseeing including The 50th Annual Emmy Awards. She also got to help produce such shows as Seinfeld, then considered an alternative program for its heavy reliance on standup.

A few years later, she jumped to cable. She joined TBS in Los Angeles in 1999 as director of original programming/series at a time cable originals were still fairly few and far between.

“I did a little homework and thought it might be a great opportunity to start in the cable business, especially if I could be there at the beginning,” Kreisberg says.

LOOKING FOR LAUGHS

The risk paid off. After an initial foray into originals with Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and Outback Jack, both of which Kreisberg helped develop and produce, TBS has found a niche with comedy, and top talent, such as David and Courteney Cox Arquette, now seek out the network to produce their shows.

New projects include the second installment of The Real Gilligan’s Island, July’s reality series Minding the Store and this fall’s docu-spoof Daisy Does America, from Coquette Productions.

“In cable, you take more risks than in broadcast,” Kreisberg says. “We’re more able to change and move and make decisions after we see what the product brings.”

Kreisberg, 39, takes three pitch meetings a day—one in the morning and two in the afternoon. In her search for strong comedic concepts or characters, she has seen proposals as strange as a highly conceptualized special on the history of duct tape.

“I remember thinking there was a hidden camera in that meeting,” she jokes. “But over the years, I’ve learned I’d rather see a producer be really passionate—get it, breathe it, know the story—than come in with 17 projects when it’s just volume to them.”

Says her boss Steve Koonin, executive VP/COO for TBS and TNT, “Christy has been a driving force behind TBS’ success with original series. We are very lucky to have her in our corner as she continues to take TBS to new heights.”

Kreisberg says balancing the job with being a mom to daughter and son, ages 4 and 7, respectively, is a constant struggle—but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She regularly drives morning carpool, taking work calls from the car.

In fact, Kreisberg has found Turner to be a mom-friendly place to work. Her children visit the office often, and the company’s working moms trade tips on how to balance family and work.

“We commiserate and share our triumphs and struggles,” she says. “I have an incredible support system.”

“JUGGLING ACT”

“I probably wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t working because I love my job,” Kreisberg says, “but it’s a constant juggling act.”

Her advice to women comes from her own mentor, Linda Mancuso, the late head of programming for ABC Family and an NBC veteran programmer.

“She always said to me, 'Don’t ever think you can’t have a job a man has or get paid as much as a man even though people will tell you can’t,’” Kreisberg remembers. “Bite the bullet in the beginning if it means being a runner or a production assistant for a week, six months, a year. Do it, meet a ton of people, and keep going and going and going. People do succeed.”

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