Tuned Into Reality
Top TV exec has gone from intern to taking pitches and developing shows.
Francie Calfo’s rise to the heights of a network TV career did not happen overnight. Neither was her path a straight one. For more than 18 years, Calfo has navigated her way through opportunities in the entertainment business. The journey has not been easy, but through it all she remains steadfast that being able to live life fully is what matters most.
As the former executive vice president of development and current programming at ABC, Calfo oversaw scripted shows on the air and bought and developed new ones. Needless to say, hers was a search for the next hit. For Calfo, it was the opportunity of a lifetime: She assembled a team of talented pros that revived the network, positioning it as No. 1 with shows like “Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.”
“People give me a lot more credit than I deserve,” Calfo says. “I get so excited for the writers and the team I worked with. It’s amazing to watch people who are really talented become so successful right before your eyes.”
Calfo has gone from bottom to top in the television industry, from delivering ratings as an intern to having a say in what goes on the air. She attributes her success to understanding the need to stay grounded. In fact, she believes that being a wife and a mother of three helped her at work.
“Family keeps me rooted in the world, rather than just sitting in an office,” she explains. “I tell people who are pursuing a television career and want to start a family that it made me better at what I do.”
Staying connected to family and friends, she says, shaped how she evaluated show ideas and writers.
“I really look for universal truths and writers who have something to say,” Calfo says.
Of course, not all network TV reflects her beliefs. She says that at times the industry needs to be more responsible. But she also believes that viewers are entitled to make their own choices about what they watch.
After two-and-a-half years with ABC, Calfo left in 2006 to start her own development and production company, Francie Calfo Productions Inc. She also signed a deal with ABC Studios to develop shows. The appeal of the arrangement, she says, is that having her own company gets her closer to the creative process and gives her more say in creating shows.
“I want to be a creative fortress for writers, a place where they feel safe and protected to express ideas,” Calfo says.