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NEW YORK — Since returning to The Weinstein Co. last year, Meryl Poster, president of television, has immersed herself in the fashion world and other drama-filled industries.
Among the shows she’s producing are “Project Runway All Stars,” which makes its debut on Thursday on Lifetime Television; “Project Accessory,” which wrapped up Dec. 22; “Project Runway,” which will begin its 10th season in June; “Mob Wives,” whose second season premiered Sunday and has already been renewed for a third season on VH1, and “The Nanny Diaries,” which she is producing with Ryan Seacrest for ABC.
Having previously worked for Harvey and Bob Weinstein at Miramax Films for 16 years, serving as co-president of production (where she executive produced such films as “Chicago,” “The Cider House Rules,” and “Chocolat”) Poster said she was excited to make the move to TV.
“Harvey made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” said the 47-year-old show business veteran. “It’s very hard and it’s very emotional making a movie. I’m trying to save my emotions for my children as much as I can,” said Poster, a divorced mother of two children, ages 13 and 10.
These days, she finds no shortage of material for her TV shows. “So many great artists are playing in the world of television. There’s a lot more opportunity to make things, instead of develop. You just get to explore so many different worlds,” said Poster, who was raised in Fort Lee, N.J., and makes her home here.
When Weinstein lured her back after five years at NBC Universal, two new shows, “Project Accessory” and “Project Runway All Stars,” had been ordered but hadn’t been created yet, so she would have a hand in doing so. “That was very appealing to me. So the first thing I did was get Isaac Mizrahi [for “All Stars”]. I felt Isaac Mizrahi was the only personality that could match Michael Kors,” said Poster, referring to Kors’s role as a judge on “Project Runway.”
Poster worked with Mizrahi when Miramax released the designer’s documentary “Unzipped” in 1995. While taping “All Stars,” she said, she would constantly tell Mizrahi what to wear on camera. Now that he’s doing publicity for the show, he’s been calling in to check with her on wardrobe. “But I told him for publicity, he could wear whatever he wants. On the shows that I produce, I have to tell him what to wear,” said Poster. She is certain this could be a breakout role for him. “This is the right format for Isaac. George Clooney did so many TV shows until he hooked into ‘E.R.,’ ” she said.
“Project Runway All Stars” is hosted by model Angela Lindvall and features Georgina Chapman, who is married to Harvey Weinstein and is co-founder and designer of Marchesa, as the other judge. “That did not come from Harvey,” insisted Poster. “He wasn’t even so sure about her doing it. Vera Wang was supposed to do it, and she fell out at the last minute. Lifetime suggested Georgina because she’s been a guest judge and she’s off the charts great.”
Some of the contestants were selected because of their availability and others were fan favorites, she said. “It’s the exact same setup [as ‘Project Runway’], but the stakes are higher, the prizes are bigger. And you see the difference with the ‘All Stars’ than original ‘Runway.’ They’re not as frantic, they’re calmer and they’ve had experience. They work together and they realize that working together doesn’t limit their ability to win. They’re much more collegial, and there are no real breakdowns.”
Asked why she believes reality shows continue to resonate with viewers, and why Weinstein likes to produce them, Poster replied, “Because people can see themselves. It’s more the reality of the fantasy. And it’s much less expensive to produce.”
Season nine of “Project Runway” was the number-one reality competition series on ad-supported cable among women, averaging 2.9 million total viewers on Lifetime. She explained that the “Project Runway” franchise is profitable because they have integrations, meaning there are sponsors such as L’Oréal and HP. “And the exposure for them is great. It’s not a tawdry kind of show, it’s a legitimate fashion show,” said Poster, who is known for her ability to connect media and commerce.