Producer lands cooking show on Oprah network

Television production is returning to life, and Steve Makhanian is feeling it on South Glendale Avenue after securing a commitment to host 40 episodes of a cooking show on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Makhanian runs Glendale Studios, where everything from Toyota commercials, Makhanian’s own Direct Shopping Network and VH1’s paean to hard rock, “That Metal Show,” are in motion. This week Glendale Studios announced it will be home to 40 more than episodes of “Christine Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love,” a cooking program that debuted in January on the new Oprah Winfrey Network.

“We’ve been very fortunate for the last year or so,” Makhanian said. “There has been a lot of TV production and a lot of pilots.”

The shows come after a couple of years in the doldrums, Makhanian said. So-called runaway production took work from Southern California, he said, and the industry obsession with reality TV generated little work for independent studios.

FilmLA, the movie and TV production advocacy group, announced last month that in 2010 production of commercials rose by 28% in Los Angeles over 2009, TV production grew by 12% and films by 8%. On Feb. 2, Time-Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes said he expects Burbank’s Warner Bros. Studios to crank out more pilots in 2011, with a focus on comedies.

“Studio shows dried up, but they have come back,” said Paul Abeyta, a producer whose credits date back to “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Abeyta works with game show host Pat Sajak, who last year moved his production company P.A.T. from the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City to Glendale Studios.

“Glendale is more of a boutique studio operation,” Abeyta said. “Whether [the show] has an adequate budget or a slim budget, they work with you.”

Makhanian’s father and uncle bought the studio in 1985. Makhanian grew up around the lot as he attended Glendale High School and Glendale Community College before working with camera gear, and then as a cameraman for years on “The Judge,” one of the many courtroom shows shot on site.

“When I started coming here, Steve was just some punk running around, pulling cables,” Abeyta said.

Makhanian has run the operation for 15 years, working with his father — who died last year — to launch the Direct Shopping Network in 2002. The network is shot at a studio steps from Makhanian’s office, with the pitchman onstage above rows of tables holding computer screens and phones for the 25 workers who take calls at peak hours.

Most of Makhanian’s 65 or so employees work for the network, while as many as 100 might be on site at a given time for visiting productions.

The main building once housed a uniform factory, Nally’s Career Apparel, but has been outfitted with 20 dressing rooms and warrens full of recording equipment.

“You can’t forgo new technology,” Carlos Martinez, who handles marketing for Glendale Studios, said. “We will go without food to get the right equipment.”

Makhanian said the business plan is simple: “My model is to keep it filled at a lesser rate, but offer the quality the producers expect.”

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