‘Pawn Stars’ propels Leftfield Pictures into new territory

Leftfield Pictures' Pawn Stars, a hit for History, has opened many doors for the New York-based production company. Leftfield's director of development, Rob Shaftel, talks about the origins of the series, the importance of casting and what the prodco is cooking up now.
April 26, 2010

Although New York-based Leftfield Pictures already had shows in development before its Pawn Stars became a hit for History, the series has definitely accelerated the prodco’s development pace. It’s now working on shows for 15 different networks, including more episodes of its current signature series.

Pawn Stars consistently delivering huge ratings [for History] has opened up a lot of doors for us,’ says Leftfield’s director of development Rob Shaftel. ‘We’ve had more opportunities to pitch our show concepts centering on the great characters that our casting team finds.’

Some of those pitches have led to series and specials on WE tv, TLC, MTV and A&E. Leftfield is behind the newly announced Wild Flowers for WE tv, following the exploits of a florist in Las Vegas. Also on the slate is Seeing vs. Believing for TLC. Set to air on May 2 in primetime, the one-hour special follows a ‘believer’ and a skeptic as they travel across America searching for the truth behind unexplained phenomena.

As for Leftfield’s casting team, the prodco has an eight-person, full-time casting department led by Courtney Napurano, which is now in the position of offering networks casting help. ‘The combination of Pawn Stars along with other characters we have pitched recently has led networks to come to us saying, ‘Here’s a world we’re interested in, can your casting department find the characters?” Shaftel says. ‘We love characters that are seemingly ordinary people who do extraordinary things in the most unlikely environments, like a pawn shop,’ says Shaftel.

And how did Leftfield came upon the Harrisons, the pawn shop-operating family that Pawn Stars is centered around? Shaftel says Leftfield principles Brent Montgomery and Colby Gaines were in Las Vegas for Gaines’ bachelor party and during their trip, they drove past a couple of pawn shops and thought there was definitely a story to be told in the pawn shop world. ‘They had the Leftfield casting department search for a family-owned pawn shop in Vegas, and that’s when they found the Harrisons,’ he says. ‘They put the Harrisons on tape, pitched them to History and worked with the History development and production team to fine tune the editorial direction to fit the History brand.’

While some may think a pawn shop is an unconventional locale for a History show, Shaftel says that every item that comes into the pawn shop has a story to tell. ‘It’s up to Rick, Corey and the ‘Old Man’ [Richard Harrison] to assess the item [as something that] is truly historical,’ he says. ‘Also, pawn shops themselves played an important role in history. Long before banks, there were pawn shops and a lot of people don’t know this, but pawning was the leading form of consumer credit in the United States until the 1950s.’

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.