In early 2011, a planned film adaptation of the Broadway hit In the Heights—which had won the 2008 Tony for Best Musical—suddenly fell apart. It was a watershed event for Meryl Poster, a 24-year veteran of the movie industry, who had been working on the film. She decided then to shift her focus on actually getting projects made and on the screen—in television.
“When you’re working on a film, it’s much more intense, more emotional, because it’s a very long development process,” the 47- year-old Poster says. “Whereas in TV, [a creator’s] vision can be realized much more quickly.”
Poster joined the Weinstein Company as president of its burgeoning television department, a move that reunited her with Harvey Weinstein, who she had previously worked with at Miramax Films for 16 years and who was a persuading reason for taking the new job.
“There’s a definite comfort factor in working with Harvey and having him trust me, and being able to do what I needed to do, and making the projects instead of it being bogged down in a big company,” Poster says.
The Fort Lee, N.J., native studied English at Tulane University and started at Miramax Films as the executive assistant to cochairman Weinstein, after several years in assistant roles at the William Morris Agency. At Miramax, Poster thrived in what she describes as a culture void of corporate politicking, where no one was restricted to the responsibilities of their job title. Within 10 years, she rose to become president of production, executiveproducing such films as Chicago, The Cider House Rules and Chocolat.
But in 2005, the mother of two took some time off to recharge her batteries. When she decided to go back to work after only four months, Jeff Zucker, then president of NBC Television Group, offered her firstlook deals with Universal Media Studio and Universal Pictures, allowing Poster to make a desired jump into television.
“I wanted to hire her because she has fantastic taste and she’s fearless—I think that’s always a great combination,” says Zucker, now executive producer of Katie, the upcoming syndicated talk show. “I think she has exuded those qualities in whatever she’s done—film, television and all forms of media.”
In Weinstein’s TV department (which consists of two executives and two assistants), Poster oversees production and development for series including Lifetime’s Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars and VH1’s Mob Wives. She had a lot of relationships in the film business, and having moved into TV—where she originally knew few people—Poster says her biggest accomplishment has been establishing the department, “so that people now think of us for television.”
“Her instincts and fearlessness in this industry set her apart from her peers, and she’s really played a major role in creating and cultivating the DNA that makes our Weinstein brand what it is,” says Harvey Weinstein.
While Poster counts Weinstein as a huge mentor, she also makes a point to be a role model to younger women in the industry now that she is in a senior position. Poster, who will be a featured panelist at B&C’s Women of New York event on April 10, says she advises women not to make any excuses for being who they are. “[Coming up] it wasn’t so commonplace to be married and have kids and to function in running a department,” says Poster, who is now divorced. “It’s really now taken for granted, but it wasn’t when I was first starting out.”
Nowadays, she finds her interests are the same as her children’s, who both love to perform and are involved in theater (though she says she won’t get them an agent). Her kids’ tastes even extend to her TV habits; Poster tunes into Project Runway with her daughter and watches WWE Smackdown with her son in their home on New York’s Upper West Side.
And though Poster reflects on her time in film fondly (the movie posters of her favorite projects still decorate the walls of her Tribeca office), for the most part, she doesn’t miss working for the silver screen.
“Once in a while if I read a book or see a play, I’m a little bit jealous if someone picks it up and they’re going to do it,” she says, adding, “I would love to still make In the Heights.”
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