1981, Advertising; Executive Vice President of U S Comedy Development, Sony Pictures Television, Inc.
Many of us have a moment in our lives we can point to as a turning point. An event, person or opportunity that changes everything. For Glenn Adilman, that moment came in the form of a job with CBS Productions.
“I knew when I was there to double down,” Adilman said, “that this is the moment in my life that if I worked hard and played my cards right that I was building a career for myself.”
Adilman began preparing for his career in entertainment at a young age by watching a lot of television.
“My dad used to come down and just be annoyed that we were watching another episode of ‘M.A.S.H.’ or ‘Lucy,’” Adilman said.
He was always drawn to creative outlets, from drawing to storytelling to the arts and entertainment.
Adilman came to Illinois to study advertising because it was one of the few academic programs in the country at that time. He was also attracted to the Big Ten. And, Illinois was very affordable for an in-state student.
At Illinois, Adilman was a part of the Illini Union Board. He booked the Ramones to play on campus.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Adilman said. “But it sold out, made money and was a thrilling experience.”
Adilman loved being at Illinois and did well, earning a spot on the Bronze Tablet. The creative advertising classes and the group projects were fun and challenging, he said. It was exactly what he wanted to be doing and knew he wanted to work in advertising as an account person.
After graduation, Adilman went to Columbia for his MBA. He chose a program in New York City as a balance to his education in the Midwest. It was a chance to gain a broader perspective on the world.
His goal after graduation was to work at Leo Burnett in Chicago. His summer internship with the agency led to a full-time position. During his time with Leo Burnett he worked on the Kellogg’s and McDonald’s accounts.
“It was a blue-chip experience,” Adilman said. But, even though he enjoyed the work, Adilman began to get bored. He was yearning to move into the entertainment industry. So, he applied to the University of Southern California’s Peter Stark Producing Program. The program provided him with a way to gain entry into the industry with no specific producing experience. Once again, an internship led to a permanent position.
Adilman joined CBS Productions as a manager, a low-level executive job.
“I read scripts and did coverage and sold myself based entirely on my educational background and my work in advertising,” Adilman said. “The job is part management, part strategy and part creative: working with writers and creative people and ultimately shaping words and pictures.”
During his career, Adilman has worked at CBS, ABC and Sony Pictures Television on such projects as “The Goldbergs,” “Happy Endings” and “Alias.” He is particularly proud of the shows that became iconic in some way, shows like “Community” that had rabid audiences and became a part of pop culture.
Adilman considers his current job his dream job. “I love my bosses. I love the culture of this company,” Adilman said.
“The reason I love what I do — and it’s just like advertising and it goes back to my education — it’s serious project and people management,” Adilman said. “It’s serious strategic thinking in terms of attacking a marketplace, being in sales and finding opportunities. And yet it’s totally creative at the same time!”
He credits Illinois with helping him learn how to communicate with people and to speak with confidence. One of the projects he’s especially excited about now is a reboot of “One Day at a Time” that he is working on with the legendary Norman Lear. The show is being redeveloped for a Latino audience with the grandmother played by Rita Moreno. It will be on Netflix in January.
During his 28 years in Los Angeles, Adilman has seen technology change the industry. The addition of streaming networks to cable and traditional networks is providing more opportunities, but also more challenges.
“You have to find the right business models and the right creative,” Adilman said. “It’s not business as usual. On the other hand, it’s exciting and invigorating. It has opened up new avenues of creative expression and of sales.”
Adilman’s advice for students is straightforward: Be willing to do the work. The industry is very competitive and it is hard to gain entry. But, once you do, you have to have a great attitude, pay your dues and work hard.
“You gotta want it, you gotta be super passionate,” Adilman said. “It will not be an easy road. It’s hard. You have to know what you want, you have to know how to sell yourself, you have to be indefatigable, pound the pavement, network, have every meeting or call result in another meeting or call.”
Adilman never lets up on his own work. He is always reading new writers, tracking deals and going after people he wants to work with. “That’s the day-to-day stock in trade,” Adilman said, “building your roster, finding and attracting writers and ideas, and developing shows.”