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Nina Jacobson

Jacobson at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, September 2006
Born 1966

Nina Jacobson (born 1966) is an American film executive who, until July 2006, was president of the Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.[1] With Dawn Steel, Gail Berman and Sherry Lansing, she was one of the last of a handful of women to head a Hollywood film studio since the 1980s.


Early career

Jacobson studied at Brown University, graduating in 1987. She began her film career as a documentary researcher. She joined Disney in 1987 as a story analyst but was dismissed in a management change.[2] In 1988, she joined Silver Pictures as director of film development. She was later head of development at MacDonald/Parkes Productions before she joined Universal Pictures as senior vice president of production. There, she took part in the development and production of such projects as Twelve Monkeys and Dazed and Confused.

Later, Jacobson became a senior film executive at DreamWorks SKG where she was responsible for developing What Lies Beneath. She also takes credit for the idea behind DreamWorks' first animated feature Antz. Speaking of her mode of working while listening to pitches for new films, she said, "We start with the obligatory chat about the weather, traffic, sports or politics. Then somebody concludes the chitchat (usually me) and the writer does his or her schpiel. The 'dog and pony.' The desired outcome is for me to love the story and want to buy it. But a big part of my job is to pass. I leap only once every six to eight weeks."[3]

Disney exec

In 1998, she moved to Disney where she was responsible for developing scripts and overseeing film production for Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures. Among her projects as studio executive were The Sixth Sense, Remember the Titans, Pearl Harbor, The Princess Diaries, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. In 2005, Forbes Magazine named Jacobson one of the "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women" in acknowledgement of her success.[4]

Closely associated with film director M. Night Shyamalan at Disney (besides The Sixth Sense, she also worked with him on Unbreakable, Signs and The Village), she and Shyamalan clashed during pre-production of his 2006 film, Lady in the Water. Shyamalan left the studio after Jacobson and others became, in Shyamalan's eyes, overly critical of his script, which would eventually be produced by Warner Bros. Shyamalan is quoted in a book about the difficult period that he "had witnessed the decay of her creative vision right before his own wide-open eyes. She didn't want iconoclastic directors. She wanted directors who made money." In her own defense, Jacobson said, "in order to have a Hollywood relationship more closely approximate a real relationship, you have to have a genuine back and forth of the good and the bad. Different people have different ideas about respect. For us, being honest is the greatest show of respect for a filmmaker."[5]

Fired from Disney

She has a female partner and together the couple have three children. It was immediately after the birth of their third child on 17 July 2006, while still in the delivery room, that Jacobson was fired over the telephone by Richard Cook, studio chief for The Walt Disney Company.[6] Apparently as part of a studio restructuring, she was replaced by Oren Aviv, marketing chief of the studio. Soon after she was fired, Jacobson remarked, "There are two kinds of people in this job: the ones who think they'll have it forever and the ones who know they won't." She said she had treated her own job at Disney "as a privilege, not an entitlement."[7] Among her last projects as production executive was The Game Plan, a family comedy released in late September, 2007.[8] The film opened number one in its first week at the box office and held the top spot through the second week of release.

Return to DreamWorks

By the start of 2007, she was back at work, this time once again with DreamWorks SKG. She signed a three-year production deal with the company in December, 2006.[9]

Gay rights activist

In 1995, she and film director Bruce Cohen formed Out There, a collection of gay and lesbian entertainment industry activists.[10]

Future projects

Jacobson will be producing bestseller The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, alongside the author, who will be screenwriting.[11] The film is set to release in 2011.


  1. ^ Disney bio
  2. ^ Baby Moguls: From Pablum to Porsche NYT (21 March 1993)
  3. ^ Matt Goldberg, February 1997, "The Meeting I Never Miss"
  4. ^ Forbes "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women"
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times (23 June 2006): "Book Tells of Breakup with Disney"
  6. ^ Deadline Hollywood: Nina... And Then There Will Be None (19 July 2006)[1]
  7. ^ Orlando Sentinel from the LA Times, (19 July 2006) "Disney Fires Film Production President"
  8. ^ IMDB
  9. ^ DreamWorks news release, December 5, 2006 "DreamWorks Signs Nina Jacobson"
  10. ^ Bruce Cohen profile
  11. ^ Rocco Staino (2009-04-06). "Hunger Games to Become a Film". School Library Journal. Retrieved 2009-10-25.  

External links



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