You will not meet a lot of TV executives who were once writers and directors themselves. This might go some way in explaining how Christina Wayne, now the president of Cineflix Studios, has had such a keen eye when it comes to selecting incredible (and oft-overlooked) scripts and getting them made. Wayne’s credits include not one but two game-changing shows, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, poster children for the current golden age of television we’re all living in.
Wayne was a working screenwriter in Hollywood (no small feat there) who had a champion in legendary producer Robert Evans—she had scored an audience with the Chinatown producer (among a slew of other classics) through pluck and determination alone. After directing music videos, she wrote E!’s True Hollywood Story about the short life of actress Dominique Dunne, and eventually went on to write and direct the 2001 film Tart for Lionsgate, set in the milieu of an Upper East Side private school in Manhattan, with Wayne culling her own background as creative fodder. The point is this was a creative, a woman whose growing list of credits and contacts spoke of a bright future in Hollywood.
Yet Wayne returned to her hometown of New York City, where she ended up taking a meeting with AMC in 2005. When she was first made aware of their interest to meet, she had to be told it was the TV channel, not the theater chain. That she ended up taking a role, first as a consultant, and then as the senior vice president of scripted series and mini series, goes part of the way in explaining why the letters ‘AMC’ now resonate to TV-lovers as ‘American Movie Channel.’ Wayne and her team were primarily responsible in creating that brand recognition (and so much more) thanks to their keen sense of great material.
One of the first things Wayne did was help produce the miniseries Broken Trail, a western starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church. It was a critical and commercial smash—drawing 9.8 million viewers and winning four Emmys in 2007 (including Outstanding Miniseries). While they were in production on Broken Trail, Wayne was hunting for a series, and what happened next is partly what the above video is about. Needless to say, Wayne’s four years at AMC, from 2005-2009, helped lift the channel from the basic cable hinterlands to one of the premiere destinations to witness some of the golden age of TV’s best work. Finding, supporting, and producing Mad Men and Breaking Bad a career does make.
Yet Wayne is not done. As president of Cineflix, she is now running an international studio and distributor, spending the majority of her days doing what she loves most, reading material, listening to pitches, developing projects, producing series and selling them domestically and internationally. One of those series, Copper, was a project Wayne had taken with her from AMC. A Gangs of New York-era crime series set in 1860s New York in the city’s legendary Five Points neighborhood, Copper became BBC-America’s first scripted program (it’s success has helped pave the way for its newest show, Orphan Black). Producing Copper along with BBC-A, a Canadian and a German film company, has revealed a new set of skills in Wayne’s repertoire, managing multiple international partners, the creatives involved with the epic series, and building an entire, historic set in an old car plant. Copper’s second season starts this June.
Television is enjoying an extended period of almost shocking creative excellence. The small-screen universe has been lit up by stars like James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Jon Hamm, Glen Close, Claire Danes and Lena Dunham. We’re living in a world where show creators have become household names (and show runners household titles)–David Chase, David Simon, David Milch, Joss Whedon, Matthew Weiner, Vince Gilligan and Lena Dunham (again!) to name a few. Yet it’s the lesser known lights like Christina Wayne who have found, nurtured, protected and ultimately promoted these projects we adore. It’s something to remember when you tuck in for your two hour premiere of Mad Men this Sunday. The golden age of TV has happened because of people like Christina Wayne who see great material where others see risk or worry, like, oh I don’t know, knowing that a story about science teacher who ends up selling meth might just be a classic in the making.