WINTER 2022 NEWSLETTER: Member Spotlight JENETTE KAHN
“The way to get into a person’s heart is by telling stories.” ~ Jane Goddall
We can all agree that the last two years have most likely been one of the most thought-provoking of our lives. Yet through the challenges of project management, career transformation, and personal wellness, we discovered how to balance it all through strength, courage, passion, community and faith.
Our collective, Women Independent Producers (WIP), took a major leap to becoming a 501(c)6 membership organization -- bringing us another step forward to gaining recognition from industry professionals and organizations. With continuing discussions about the Producer’s wellness, sustainability, who deserves the credit, unionizing and gender parity, WIP recognized after six years, that it was time for us to evolve with the demanding times. The all-encompassing responsibilities from script to screen is never to be taken lightly, and through our supported efforts, we want WIP to be a one stop shop for discovering and supporting independent Women Producers.
We're excited to build on our relationships with existing and new industry partners, especially our interim fiscal sponsor New York Media Initiative. Together, our goal is to create opportunities, access, and funding for Women produced projects.
With remote connections continuing to be the new norm, last year WIP held its first international member soiree and successfully produced two of its original programs -- ongoing series ("Tales From the Set") and new series ("Martini Shots with..."). Hopefully this will be the year when we can resume our monthly in-person soirees and member wellness events.
Overall, we couldn't be more proud of our members who have weathered the storm to premiere their amazing films, receive countless accolades and win well-deserved awards, including last year's Academy Award for Best Picture. Collectively, it's the mission of sisterhood to champion our growing community of fearlessly independent and passionate Women artists and entrepreneurs, putting a face to the name of the production MVPs who go above and beyond. Upwards and Onward... Adetoro Makinde President & Co-Founder Women Independent Producer
JENETTE KAHN: The Original Wonder Woman
by Erin Mae Miller
Jenette Kahn was a young, eager, brilliant magazine entrepreneur used to taking chances. So when an opportunity came that she was “so under-qualified for,” there was only one way to respond - yes! It is this gusto, optimism, and excitement for life that has guided Jenette Kahn through a star-studded and prolific career.
We are so pleased to tell you about our remarkable WIP Spotlight producer: JENETTE KAHN.
Twenty-eight-year-old Jenette joined DC Comics after starting 3 previous magazines - one wildly successful but terribly unprofitable, one wildly successful and remarkably profitable, and one a total miss. When DC Comics called, she didn’t know she was interviewing - there wasn’t even a known opportunity. But when you have the pleasure of meeting Jenette Kahn, she is as kind and generous of spirit as she is smart and endearing. It’s no surprise that she was recruited as a publisher in the nearly all-male office (inside the primarily male-centric industry) of DC Comics.
Jenette’s life and career are chock-full of unordinary, in-over-her-head adventures, with a dash of early-twenties economic catastrophe thrown in. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, Jenette has another story up her sleeve that draws you in further and leaves you—mouth agape—exclaiming, “What?! No way.”
While Jenette’s career at DC Comics is indeed an integral piece of her story, worthy of attention, her years before and after she took the comic world by storm include equally compelling stories and achievements.
At just twenty-three years old, ripe out of Harvard University with a degree in Art History and armed with the invincible energy of youth, Jenette co-founded Kids, a magazine written and illustrated entirely by kids, for kids, discussing topics spanning from drugs and immigration to animal protection. “It was both an extraordinary success and a financial disaster,” she laughs. “I was graduating college and learning all about bankruptcy law.” Yet, the disaster and eventual end of the publication didn’t derail Jenette—it did the opposite. Shortly after, at twenty-five years old, Jenette published her second magazine Dynamite, which, at the time, was Scholastic’s second most popular publication in the company’s history. For business reasons, Scholastic pushed Jenette to the side - refusing to make a deal. But don’t worry, Jenette made another comeback and went on to publish her third magazine, Smash. “I wanted to smash Dynamite!” This was a failure - there was no competing with her own genius. However, during this time, now at twenty-eight, Jenette received a call that changed her life.
DC Comics was on a mission to rebrand their publication to target a younger audience. With her previous experience in publication for young people, Jenette was recruited for the job - overseeing DC Comics, merchandising, TV and Film. “It was so over my head, I had to say ‘yes!’” These words so perfectly reflect Jenette—dauntless with an appetite for adventure and no mind for fear of failure. So, she said “yes,” then made herself at home for the next two and a half decades in what she affectionately calls “the best job in the galaxy.” It turns out, no shoes are too big for Jenette to fill, and after joining DC Comics as a publisher, Jenette was soon promoted to President and Editor-in-Chief of the company.
After decades of wonderful collaboration, Jenette felt it was time for new adventure, no doubt leaving her unmistakable mark on it too. Naturally, the question that follows is, what do you do after a twenty-six year stint in one of the highest ranks at one of the most successful comic publications and franchises in the world?
For Jenette, a storyteller to the core, the answer was: make movies. Although this was new territory, (by this point if we’ve learned anything about Jenette) she jumped in head first with excitement and contagious energy. Jenette joined Warner Bros as a producer under a three-picture deal with longtime close friend, collaborator, and fellow-comic nerd, Adam Richman, through their joint production company, Double Nickel Entertainment. Together, they produced THE FLOCK (2007), starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes. Then, in true Jenette-style, followed that up as an executive producer on one of the highest ranked films of all time: GRAN TORINO.
Before becoming a gigantic box office hit, GRAN TORINO was a long-shot script. Jenette still remembers the early feedback. “Whatever makes you think that Clint would be interested in your script? A movie starring an 80-year-old man, everyone else is Asian and unknown…No one wanted to touch it,” she recalls. With roadblocks at every turn, she described the process like “pushing water uphill.” Then, through a friend of a manager who knew a guy… not really but sort of… Clint Eastwood attached, and the rest is history.
“Just because something doesn’t look like it can happen, doesn’t mean you can’t make it happen.” This remark truly captures the spirit of Jenette’s career, where time and time again she has chosen the path of fearlessness in the face of the unknown, resilience after setbacks and negativity, and perhaps most importantly, authentic, life-long relationships in the industry over utilitarian, disposable connection. “This industry is so difficult and so full of heartache, that there’s nothing like having a great partner. Together you get through the lows, enjoy the highs, and split the workload. It makes the whole journey so much easier and so much more pleasurable.” With an arsenal of wisdom accumulated over years of experience in the field of entertainment, she offers, “Take on projects you really love. The road is long. If you truly, truly love it, that will give you the stamina and commitment to stay with it.”
Though Jenette has certainly put the work in, and enjoyed a long and fruitful career, she’s not finished yet. From here, Jenette is set to produce (alongside Adam and under Double Nickel) THE BURIAL, an Amazon feature film based on the New Yorker article by Jonathan Harr, directed by Maggie Betz, and starring Jamie Foxx, Tommy Lee Jones, and Jurnee Smollett. In addition, Jenette is producing a second feature, HUNTING WHITEY, directed by Brad Furman (THE LINCOLN LAWYER), as well as a third feature film telling the powerful true story of the first Black, female reporter at The Washington Post in the 1960s, when DC was a segregated city. And that’s just the beginning!
Thank you Jenette for sharing your story and for being a part of WIP! I thought I would leave this with a sentiment she shared about our “beautiful community of producers” for whom she has “tremendous respect... These women are resilient, scrappy, and so full of life.” We feel the same about you!