Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

The Talent Whisperer #2: ‘Our Secret Weapons’ / Marrying Up (with Mark Burnett) / What’s Next?

We continue our two-part Case Study of Jarrett Creative, the producer of Bio’s hit Celebrity Ghost Stories. 

This week:

  • Jarrett’s Key Success Factors for the Celebrity / Reality genre
  • A new project: Why marry up with Mark Burnett?


Secret Weapons

What are Jarrett’s secret weapons for attracting celebrity talent?

1. The Booker

  • “Lesley Mallgrave is the best celebrity booker.”
  • “She booked the Golden Globes and Academy Awards: she works at the highest level of booking.”

2. The Recommenders

  • “We ask celebrities who have enjoyed working with us to recommend their friends.”
  • Ileana Douglas lined up of her 11 friends.
  • “20% of our celebs are referrals.”

Partnering Up

  • “We met with Mark Burnett’s development team at Real Screen 2011.”
  • “They said that they wanted to create a series in the Paranormal and Celebrity spaces.”
  • “We had developed Haunted High, about real school students who had experienced a haunting at school.”
  • “We had pitched it but at the time it was hard to find a buyer in the paranormal space.”
  • “We worked with Burnett, and we eventually changed the title to ‘School Spirits’ to cover colleges as well as high schools.”
  • “Burnett brought credibility – ‘muscle’ – and development expertise.”
  • “We pitched to SyFy and they loved it.”
  • “SyFy commissioned 6 episodes, and we’re waiting on word for Season 2.”

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Cosmic Shore from NHK: A $6.5 million Science Copro

Team Expands


  • Jarrett added Tracey Baker-Simmons as head of development in 2011.
  • “She lit an explosion of commissions in 2012.”
  • Tracey had worked in music and Television, including creating and serving as an Executive Producer for Being Bobby Brown.
  • Tracey says: “I’m not afraid to approach celebrities. I know how to give them the space to be themselves.”

Other key team members:

  • “Our attorney is an essential part of our team.”
  • “We added others to help continue growth.  For example, Maria Lokken is our head of production and Gregg Jablonsky is our head of finance.”

Projects in Development

  • Jarrett is now testing children’s animation using celebrity talent voice-overs, and has optioned its first book to become a scripted series.
  • There are 10+ projects in development, including at Syfy (2), TLC and History.


  • A+E Networks International owns and is exploiting the international rights to CGS.
  • Regional versions have been created for A+E’s  affiliates in the UK.
  • The show has aired in international markets such as Asia and Latin America.

Big Takeaways

Seth Jarrett and Julie Insogna Jarrett sum up their key success factors:

 1. Over-produce / Over-deliver

  • “Lots of our shows are recreation-driven.”
  • “Seth is a Director first: ‘For all our unscripted series, I like to look at great films as inspiration in terms of storytelling. We always put story first, above the budget and above the politics. A great story will always catch on.’ “
  • “That’s his # 1 agenda: to bring a cinematic feel to his shows, no matter what the budget.”
  • “For us it is always about taking chances, especially with the talent we tie to our projects.” 

2. Build from a Core expertise: In our case TALENT!

  • “Seth had worked on Growing Up Gotti. He was known for his successful work with difficult talent.”
  • “That was my job at Oxygen.”
  • “We strike the balance between ‘kissing arse ‘ and ‘not losing your shirt!’  “
  • “We always fight for our talent.”
  • “We give them as much respect as we can.”

3. Hire a strong person in development

  • “You can’t run a busy production company and develop shows at the same time!”


Jarrett Creative: Output

YearNetwork# EpsLength
Rocked with Gina Gershon / Season 1IFC630
Total Hrs3
Custom Concerts / Season 1OxygenNANA
Total Hrs20
Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream / Season 1Disney16NA
Total Hrs3
Celebrity Ghost Stories / Season 1Bio960
Total Hrs9
Celebrity Ghost Stories / Season 2Bio1860
Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream 2 / Season 2Disney11NA
Total Hrs20
Celebrity Close Calls / Season 1Bio960
Celebrity Ghost Stories / Season 3Bio1760
Total Hrs26
2012 (FY estimate)
Celebrity Ghost Stories / Season 4Bio3760
Boston Metal / PilotNat Geo11
School Spirits / Season 1SyFy660
The Haunting Of / Season 1Bio960
I Killed My BFF / Season 1Bio1760
The Houston: On Our Own/ Season 1Lifetime1430
Boston’s Finest / Season 1TNT860
Total Hrs85


Peter Hamilton /
Markets Attending / Speaking Engagements



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