Creator of Survivor
British import Mark Burnett is an Emmy Award winning television producer known for creating and executive producing such successful reality shows as “Eco Challenge,” “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.” The former nanny and t-shirt salesman won his Emmy Award in 2001 for “Survivor” and a 2000 Sport Emmy Award for “Eco-Challenge Morocco.” Other series he has produced include USA Network's “Combat Missions” (2002), NBC's “The Restaurant” (2003), “The Contender” (2005), “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (2007) and “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” (2008).
Burnett, who was named one of Time Magazine's “100: Our List of the Most Influential People in the World Today” in 2004, was inducted into the Broadcast and Cable Hall of Fame in November 2007.
Apart from his prosperous producing career, Burnett is known as an author who has published several books, including “Survivor: The Ultimate Game” (2000), “Survivor II: The Field Guide” (2001) and the autobiographical “Dare to Succeed: How to Survive and Thrive in the Game of Life” (2001). Also a philanthropist, Burnett was honored with the Philanthropist of the Year Award from the Reality Cares Foundation and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation.
Currently the husband of actress Roma Downey, whom he married in 2007, Burnett has two sons with his former wife Diane (divorced in 2003).
Childhood and Family:
Mark Burnett was born on July 17, 1960, in London, England. The only child of Ford Motors factory employees was raised in London until his family relocated to Dagenham, a small town in Essex. He started his career in the British military at age 17 and later served as Section Commander of the notorious Parachute Regiment in Northern Ireland and Falkland Islands. After leaving the army, he immigrated to the United States in 1982.
Mark has been married twice. His marriage to his first wife, Diane, ended in divorce in 2003 after producing two sons, James and Cameron. He tied the knot with his present wife, British actress Roma Downey (born on May 6, 1960), on April 28, 2007, at the couple's home in Malibu.
Mark enjoys scuba and sky diving.
London-born Mark Burnett left his family and home in Britain for the United States of America in 1982 shortly after completing missions with the British Parachute Regiment in the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland. Originally, he was determined to pursue a career as a military advisor for the British Special Air Service in Central America, but changed his goal after arriving in Los Angeles. Thanks to another British immigrant, Burnett landed a job as a nanny in Beverly Hills and with his military background, was also hired as a bodyguard. After a year, he left the Jaeger family to baby-sit two boys of the Burt family and was later given a position at the family's insurance office. The hardworking guy also worked as a t-shirt salesman at nearby Venice Beach to get extra money. He eventually quit his insurance job to launch his own credit card marketing company.
A year after attaining his American citizenship, in 1991, Burnett headed to France to lead the first U.S. team to compete in the “Raid Gauloises,” a robust adventurous journey frequently dubbed “the world’s toughest race.” Considering the business potential of the outing, he documented the race and sold it to ESPN. This marked Burnett's first attempt in show business. Eventually, he bought the rights to the “Raid Gauloises” and adopted the concept into his first television series, “Eco-Challenge.”
Burnett was able to bring the reality/adventure series to mainstream television and has since served as executive producer on a number of “Eco-Challenge” events and programs. He netted a 1996 Sports Emmy nomination and a 1997 International Documentary Association nomination for “Eco-Challenge: British Columbia” (1996) and a 2000 Sports Emmy Award in the category of Best Program Achievement for “Eco-Challenge: Morocco” (1998). He was also nominated for an Emmy Award in 2001 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Program (Special Class) for “Eco Challenge Borneo” (2001).
“In ‘Survivor,’ I’ve tapped into death and rebirth. When someone’s flame is extinguished and the lighting goes from orange to blue, it represents death. The rebirth is when the tribe lives on without that person. That’s why (host) Jeff (Probst) always ends by saying ‘See you tomorrow.’ I deal with all those human touch points of emotion: camaraderie, attraction, integrity, sportsmanship. Machiavelli said it best, that being a leader and making hard choices is difficult. People won’t love you, but the trick is to never make them hate you. That’s the essence of ‘Survivor.’ You’re figuratively killing others and then asking them, for their pains, to give you a million dollars.” Mark Burnett
After “Eco-Challenge,” Burnett enjoyed even more success with the reality series “Survivor.” Debuting in America in 2000, the show was an instant hit and credited by many as a creator of the genre of reality television in the United States due to its massive success. As an executive producer, Burnett has kept the show one of most-watched programs in America and jointly picked up a 2001 Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Program (Special Class). He also received five Emmy nominations for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (2002-2006) and a 2004 PGA nomination for Television Producer of the Year in Reality/Game/Informational Series.
Burnett next executive produced such reality shows as “Combat Missions” (2002) for USA Network, “Boarding House: North Shore” (2003) for the WB, “The Restaurant” (2003) for NBC, “The Casino” (2004) and “Rock Star: INXS” (2005), as well as the comedy series “Are We There Yet?” (WB, 2003) and “Commando Nanny” (2004). However, it was the Donald Trump-hosted reality series “The Apprentice” that gave Burnett his next major breakthrough. Released on January 8, 2004, the show went on to become a top-rated program on NBC and earned Burnett two Emmy nominations for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program (2004, 2005).
In 2005, Burnett created the sport-themed reality series “The Contender,” hosted by Sylvester Stallone and Sugar Ray Leonard. The boxing show lasted for four seasons until 2007. Also in 2005, he executive produced “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart” (2005) and was nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards in the category of Outstanding Service Show (2006) and Outstanding Lifestyle Program (2007) for his work in the series. Subsequent credits included “Gold Rush” (2006), “Amne$ia” (2007), “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” (2007), “Pirate Master” (2007) and “My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad” (2008). He also teamed up with Steven Spielberg for a FOX show titled “On the Lot” (2007).
Emmy: Outstanding Non-Fiction Program (Special Class), “Survivor,” 2001
Sports Emmy: Best Program Achievement, “Eco-Challenge Morocco,” 2000