Tim Sullivan, co-founder of Los Angeles-based prodco Gang of Wolves and a veteran unscripted development executive, passed away on May 18 at the age of 42, following a battle with bile duct cancer.
Sullivan and business partner Anthony Carbone (Fear Factor) co-founded Gang of Wolves in 2018, and scored an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television last summer. Prior to that, he had headed up unscripted programming for SVOD platform Fullscreen, and previously had held development executive positions with Zodiak USA, Core Media Group (now Industrial Media), Goodbye Pictures and Magical Elves, among other prodcos.
News of Sullivan’s passing prompted an outpouring of remembrances from friends and former colleagues in the unscripted production industry.
“No one loved ideas or had more ideas than Tim,” said Natalka Znak of Znak & Co. and former CEO at Zodiak USA. “He was part of my development team when I moved to LA. He was brilliant to pitch with, he was so bright and funny and charming, and it felt safe to be in a pitch room with him by your side. And even when he set up his own company, he still gave me great ideas. I will really miss our conversations, his ideas and that sharp mind, but mostly I will miss that great, big, lovely friend.”
“Tim’s favorite thing was sitting in front of a whiteboard, cracking a format and trying to figure out how to make the perfect show tick,” offered Anthony Carbone, co-founder of Gang of Wolves. “And he was great at it. But what made him special is how he was always so open and generous with his creativity. Didn’t matter who came knocking — even some development exec from some other company — if anyone needed a little help, Tim was on it. He didn’t just want to make his ideas better; he wanted to make everyone’s ideas better. The loss of his creative brainpower is a loss for all of us.”
“His up-for-anything attitude was accompanied by a deliciously dark sense of humor that made everyone in his orbit laugh out loud,” said Rich Bye of Goodbye Pictures. “There was almost no situation, no matter how desperate, that Tim couldn’t find the funny in. While we worked together at Goodbye Pictures, his distinct brand of comedy continually lifted the spirits of my entire team during the slings and arrows of the development process.”
“I was working for Zodiak Rights in LA while working alongside Natalka, Mike, Claire, and Tim, who all worked at Zodiak USA,” said Glass Entertainment president and GM, JC Mills. “I became curious about development, so Tim encouraged me to sit in on their meetings. He’d be honest with his feelings about my ridiculous ideas, but wouldn’t let me give up until we (read: he) found the hook. He was able to take a kernel of nothing and turn it into something – a rare skill in our business. He was generous with his time when he didn’t have to be. It was that time with Tim that set me off on a different path for which I am, and will be, eternally grateful. Sláinte, my friend. – you will be missed.”
Eli Holzman, CEO at Industrial Media and IPC and a former colleague while at Magical Elves, offered this reminiscence: “I have this one memory of him that stands out, outside a bar on Abbott Kinney, [when] he and Claire O’Donohoe were a somewhat new couple. They were arm in arm, very happy, very much in love. I knew each of them separately. And here they were together and totally perfect together.” Sullivan and unscripted industry executive O’Donohoe had worked together at Zodiak USA and were married in October of 2015.
“Tim’s ability to deconstruct an idea and build it into an ironclad format was unmatched,” said Mike Duffy, co-founder of Ugly Brother Studios and a longtime friend and former colleague of Sullivan’s while at Zodiak USA. “He was hilariously cutthroat during brainstorm sessions, saying things like ‘Oh God, no!’ and ‘Hard pass!’ He was joking of course, but he was always right.
“Those of us who were lucky enough to work with Tim know that he was one of the most brilliant collaborators. He was a big guy with a giant intellect, but the two things that he’ll be remembered for are his wicked sense of humor and warm heart. Producers loved him. Buyers loved him. Every colleague past and present loved him.
“Tim was one-of-a-kind. This is a tragic loss for our television community,” Duffy added. “We will never forget our friend and creative partner.”
A memorial for Tim Sullivan is scheduled for Tuesday, May 28th at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica promptly at 2:30 p.m.
Sullivan is survived by his wife Claire O’Donohoe, son Rory, parents Paul and Betsy, sister Laura Murphy, brother-in-law Travis and nephew and niece, Charlie and Annabelle. A fundraising page offering support to wife Claire and their son Rory has been established at GoFundMe. Those wishing to offer donations in remembrance can also visit the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation’s website.
(Photo by Hannah Duffy)