My Deal

Hosted by

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

I heard a story recently that may or may not be true, but since it perfectly conforms to my prejudices and biases, I'm going to just go ahead and tell it, act as if it's true, and not bother to pin down its accuracy. Okay? Here goes:

The president of a certain television network, not too long ago, was tasked with choosing which scripts he or she wanted to order to pilot production. This happens to all network presidents at least once a year –- sometimes more than that -– and it's pretty much the most important job they have, aside from taking credit for hits they originally hated and foisting blame for bombs they championed.

Okay, so in this instance, this particular network president was supposed to order a few pilots from among the scripts on his –- or her –- desk.

And he –- or she -– wouldn't do it.

The network president's deal, apparently –- his (or her) employment agreement with the media behemoth that owns the network over which the network president presides -– wasn't done yet, wasn't finalized, to the satisfaction, I guess of the network president. And so the network president staged what was, essentially, a work-stoppage. A mini-strike. A picket line of one.

The point here is, this wouldn't be much of a story if it was about an actor, say, or even a writer. Actors are always holding people up for more money, waiting for the deal to close – pretending to be sick or something, staging mini-rebellions, just for a little bit more money or bigger title card or a producer credit or something. And writers -– well, if we had any leverage at all you can bet we'd be storming around the place, walking out of meetings, stopping mid-pitch -– anything, anything childish or embarrassing or silly –- just to up the deal a bit, to get a bump here or there, to –- to use the phrase I used to love to hear my agent use -– "tweak the internals" of the deal.

But a network president is supposed to be, I don't know, an executive. But -- and this is a worrying trend among all executives, all over the place -– more and more, they're behaving like talent -– like spoiled, impulsive divas, with deals of their own to work out, and childish deal points to settle, like car allowances and perks and severance packages.

I can't tell you how many years I spent, working for various studios and networks, without a fully-executed deal in place. I can't count the number of projects I hopped onto without nailing down the details. Maybe that was foolish, but the idea that I'd stop at the studio gates, refuse to go to work, until the long form was signed, is just ludicrous. I would have been embarrassed to behave in such a silly, childish way. And I'm a writer.

You see, the entertainment business used to be run like a lower-rank, slightly seedy boarding school: actors and writers and directors were like kids running around wild until the few grownups in charge stepped in and cracked some heads.

And that's the difference. Back then, you always knew who the grownups were.

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll ask for it in writing. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long