Skiing his way to the top
Half way through college at Long Beach State University, John Nogawski dropped everything and opted to move to Utah to take up skiing full time.
The California native's move to Park City was the best decision he ever made.
Nogawski, who currently oversees all of Paramount Domestic Television's syndication sales efforts, wound up finishing his college degree, meeting his wife and actually picking up skiing skills that have helped him get to his current position at the Hollywood studio.
Nogawski, who has been at Paramount since 1983, was actually planning to stay in Utah for only the winter ski season in 1980 and move back to Southern California in the fall, because he had been accepted to UCLA. But he fell in love with Utah and wound up enrolling at the University of Utah. Nogawski not only skied and worked his way towards a degree in business management, he also met his future wife, Melanie, a student at the university.
But despite his love for Utah, Nogawski says, he always he wanted to work in show business, and moving back to California was the only option after college. He had spent much of his childhood in Downey, Calif., playing with his parents' Super 8 video camera and making documentaries in and around his neighborhood.
Nogawski and Melanie got married and moved to Los Angeles in 1983, where he found two potential job opportunities: an internship at William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills and a position in the facilities accounting department at Paramount Pictures. He says he took the position at Paramount out of "downright greed, because it paid a few more bucks."
Nogawski says he viewed his position in the accounting department simply as an entry onto the studio lot and, from the very moment he got to Paramount, was looking to interview for a higher position. After a year in accounting, Nogawski was hired away by the contract administration department.
Nogawski's boss at the time was Helen Faust, who also coordinated all of the sales divisions' meetings and convention plans. She was planning a trip to Park City, Utah, for the Paramount sales force after that year's NATPE Conference and asked him if he wanted to come along. "I had told her that I had spent a lot of time in Park City and Utah in general, and she had been trying to get me in real tight with the sales people at the time," Nogawski says. "She thought I would be the next great sales person that she would bring to the company."
In Utah, Nogawski ended up staying right next door to one of Paramount's top sales executives at the time, Greg Meidel. With his local knowledge and ski skills, Nogawski showed a lot of the Paramount sales force around town and also down the mountain. He also got to know Meidel, who went on to run Universal's television division and who really helped to shape Nogawski's career.
About four months after the trip, Nogawski was offered a position as account executive on the Paramount Domestic Television side. But he wasn't sure that sales was the right place for him; he had always wanted to be on the production side of television, and sales wasn't exactly his first choice coming out of college.
"But all I had been doing since I graduated from high school was selling. So when the sales job became available, I said to my wife, I don't know if this is really what I should be doing, and she said I could sell anything, that I could sell ketchup Popsicles to Eskimos with white gloves on."
Nogawski accepted the sales position. He then went from contract administration to suddenly selling TV shows like Entertainment Tonight, Family Ties and Happy Days in syndication.
"He has been a very, very valuable addition to our sales staff," says Paramount Domestic Television Co-President Joel Berman of Nogawski.
He was quickly promoted a year and a half later to western division sales manager, and then, in 1990, Nogawski was named vice president, eastern sales manager, for the studio. The eastern sales slot meant Nogawski and his wife had to move to New York. In 1992, Nogawski was promoted to senior vice president, general sales manager, where he succeeded his mentor, Meidel, and he returned to Los Angeles. He has since become president of distribution at Paramount, where he oversees one of the largest syndication divisions in television.
Last year, Paramount acquired the TV products of Rysher Entertainment, Worldvision Enterprises and Spelling Entertainment. Nogawski now oversees a staff of two dozen sales executives.