Sweeney, who is quitting her job as the president of Disney/ABC Television Group
after 18 years at the company, insisted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that she was not forced out. “I’ve always had a passion for the creative process,” she said, explaining, “You should also be open to your passion and mine is the creative process and to be a learner again.”
While it may be true that Sweeney yearned a more creative day-to-day position, some in Hollywood find it suspect that her departure comes at a time when Disney-ABC’s TV ratings are in a serious slump. ABC is currently ranked fourth among the big networks.
In a new Variety article “Anne Sweeney: Did the Spin on Her Disney Exit Backfire?” Brian Lowry finds it suspicious that Sweeney claims she harbored no aspirations for a promotion, saying her THR interview “sounded unconvincing” and “Historically, executives don’t rise to that level of success without casting a covetous eye at the next rung of the ladder, whatever that might be.”
Indeed, as Forbes notes, “If she wanted to, she could easily be in line to take over Disney CEO Bob Iger’s job at some point or to run her own network. If she wanted out of the rat race, she could snag a production deal with ABC where she would develop shows for the network.”
Lowry wonders if Sweeney will ever even direct an episode of television, and it does seem odd that she would depart Disney with no directing projects lined up.
Veteran TV director Greg Yaitanes, who won an Emmy for “House” and is currently executive producer on Cinemax’s “Banshee,” was kind enough to offer Sweeney “an open door to come shadow at ‘Banshee’ if she wants.”
Doesn’t exactly sound like the next “rung of the ladder,” as Lowry says, for a high-powered Disney exec.
But Yaitanes argues that Sweeney’s business acumen could make her an excellent director.
“I always feel like when I’m running a show I’m the accidental CEO. I came into the job as a director, but especially transitioning into producing, I find that I’m suddenly running a company. So somebody coming in with great management skills is a tremendous asset,” he tells The Wrap.
Another industry source we spoke to, who prefers to remain anonymous due to ties to ABC, told us, “I think she does want to try something different. Why can’t we take her at her word?'”
The source added that Sweeney probably doesn’t have a directing project lined up yet because “it takes time to learn how to become a director and join the Director’s Guild of America (DGA).”
Still, many aren’t buying it.
“Not only is a TV director job not very glamorous or powerful, it’s something Sweeney has no direct experience doing,” states Forbes‘s Dorothy Pomerantz. “Being a TV director is not like being a film director … The director usually does not dictate the tone or the pacing for the show … They come in, shoot their episode to the show runners’ specifications and then move on to the next job.”
Some big names have expressed scepticism on Twitter:
Congratulations to The Hollywood Reporter for the Anne Sweeney exclusive… but unquestionably an occurrence controlled by Disney publicity
— David Poland (@DavidPoland) March 11, 2014
I think Anne Sweeney trying to be a TV director could be the entire premise for a comedy series a la HBO’s ‘The Comeback’
— Andrew Wallenstein (@awallenstein) March 13, 2014
BREAKING Anne Sweeney exiting Disney. Leaning out.
— Claire Atkinson (@claireatki) March 11, 2014
FTR, Anne Sweeney says she wants to “LEARN to be a director.” [My caps.] And I want to learn to be a concert pianist. Alas…
— vernejgay (@vernejgay) March 11, 2014
RE: Anne Sweeney leaving Disney..she was clearly marginalized after Iger transition pit Staggs v Rasulo for successor..not surprising..
— Peter Lauria (@peterlauria3) March 11, 2014
But there are fewer believers:
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