Studio executive, producer and comic book author Jeff Katz (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, FREDDY VS. JASON, SNAKES ON A PLANE, BOOSTER GOLD) has launched American Original, a new entertainment company that will provide content across multiple platforms geared to the growing genre consumer base as well as provide services to genre creators themselves, it was announced today. The newly launched entity will consist of multiple divisions, including publishing and film & television production, all operating under the American Original banner.
Katz, a former Vice President of Production at 20th Century Fox and New Line Cinema who oversaw production of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, is one of the leading players in Hollywood’s genre community. Targeting the savvy genre audience, which has become one of the most lucrative and desired markets in Hollywood, American Original–playfully referred by Katz as the â€˜Nerd Machine,’ will stand as a credible and authentic voice for the comic industry and its fans within the Hollywood community while creating the genre production business model of the future.
“The genre audience has been derisively labeled with a variety of names – â€˜fanboys,’ â€˜geeks,’ and the like. The word that I would use is â€˜winners,’ said Katz. “While the bad news is that we are only a niche, the good news is that the future of entertainment is a future built on niches. This audience is expanding and is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new entertainment model. We are, by our very nature, the early adopters that generate the most sought after quality in Hollywood today – pre-awareness.”
One of the first two divisions to be launched, American Original Press, will join forces with Top Cow Productions, the comic book publisher behind last summer’s hit WANTED and the highly successful video game THE DARKNESS, to seed IP for distribution across all entertainment platforms.
Via a strategic partnership with Top Cow, American Original Press will publish up to 10 titles per year with a goal of building a print library to develop those properties across film, television, Internet and gaming platforms. Katz will own and produce all titles under the American Original label, with Top Cow’s Matt Hawkins and Marc Silvestri exec producing select titles. Additionally, transporting the old model of the comic publishing business into the 21st century, American Original Press is the first publishing house of its kind to offer creative talent a percentage of the gross revenues over the life of the IP.
“When Jeff first quit his cushy job at Fox in this economic climate I thought he was crazy,” said Top Cow President Matt Hawkins. “Then he told me his plan and I knew immediately that Marc Silvestri and I wanted in. Jeff is one of those kinetically charismatic and driven guys that you want to be in business with. We believe in his vision of the future and look forward to working together to push the new model forward.”
The second division, American Original Entertainment, will focus on developing original and adapted film and television properties and presenting them to the marketplace. Ben Austin, a veteran of Fine Line, New Line and Fox, has come aboard as Director of Development at American Original Entertainment, the production arm of the American Original label.
American Original has also assembled an Advisory Board, which includes comic genre veterans Richard Donner and Ralph Winter, and former New Line distribution chief David Tuckerman.
Over the next few weeks, American Original will be announcing additional executive hires as well as creative partners across a wide range of media, culminating in the official American Original launch panel at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.
A college dropout driven by a childhood love of genre films and comic books, Katz, 30, has established himself as one of the leading names in Hollywood’s genre community after only a decade in Los Angeles. Katz started in the world of talk radio at age 15 followed by a three-year-stint with Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling. Eventually dropping out of Michigan State after his freshman year, he called upon his childhood hero and pen pal, New Line Cinema founder Bob Shaye and secured a position at New Line as an unpaid intern.
Katz quickly rose through the ranks at New Line, becoming an executive at the ripe age of 24 with the release of the long-gestating horror crossover FREDDY VS. JASON, which grossed $36.4M in its opening weekend, then the highest horror film opening of all time. At New Line, Katz rose to Vice President of Production by age 27 and oversaw development and production on films ranging from the cult hit SNAKES ON A PLANE with Samuel L. Jackson and the current cable television stalwart SHOOT ‘EM UP with Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti.
In 2007, Katz went to Twentieth Century Fox as Vice President of Production and was thrust into development of the X-MEN movie universe. Katz oversaw production of the tentpole release X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE starring Hugh Jackman, which grossed a whopping $160M in worldwide box office last weekend.
It was during his time at New Line that Katz embarked on a successful second career as a comic book writer with his first work published by Image Comics in the 2005 anthology THE WICKED WEST. In 2007, Katz signed on to the biggest success of his comic book career, BOOSTER GOLD with DC Comics. Teaming with comic book superstar Geoff Johns, Katz’s run on BOOSTER GOLD was an unexpected success both critically and commercially, putting Katz on the map in a second industry. While on location in Australia the Katz-created horror crossover mini-series FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ASH (the unofficial sequel to FREDDY VS. JASON) became a hit for Wildstorm & Dynamite and a sequel mini-series based on a story by Katz titled FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ASH II – THE NIGHTMARE WARRIORS begins shipping in June. Katz was recently named one of the “9 to watch in ’09” by Newsarama, one of the top comics sites on the web.
Over the years, Katz has further solidified his status as a leading genre authority, appearing prominently in the successful genre documentaries GOING TO PIECES: THE RISE & FALL OF THE SLASHER FILM, HALLOWEEN: 25 YEARS OF TERROR and HIS NAME WAS JASON. He was also honored as the youngest member of the Hollywood Reporter’s prestigious “Next Generation” Class of 2007, recognizing his unique credibility in both film and comics. In autumn of 2008, with post-production on X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE well underway, Katz shocked the genre community in the movie industry by resigning his position at 20th Century Fox, which he did to lay the groundwork for what he calls “a new model for a new time.”