At the “Produced By” Conference, Producers Guild Of America president Marshall Herskovitz, did the unthinkable at his packed master class: Versatility Equals Survivor! Producing For Television And The Internet. He tried to tell the truth, but, like all the producers who spoke at the confab, didn’t name names. Though he’s had a high level of success in all three media films with films such as Traffic, I Am Sam and Blood Diamond; TV shows My So Called Life and Thirtysomething, and the web series Quarterlife which came and went quickly as an NBC network series, “Two of those are lousy places to be right now for producers trying to break in.”
Of course, he cited film first, saying it’s probably the worst of the three and the worst time to be a movie producer. “Studios don’t believe producers are necessary” he stated. He criticized studios spending all their time and money on big bloated budget films and leaving everything and everyone else in the dust. He even criticized the “outrageous” pay that top actors receive. He noted how one film, without saying its name, grossed almost $500 million worldwide yet the studio that put up the $200 million to finance it made only $25 million profit. Instead, the film’s star made $80 million. “That’s a business model that’s broken,” Herskovitz rued.
Herskovitz also used his Blood Diamond as an example of a film that probably wouldn’t get made today, even though it made money. “It just didn’t make enough money,” he stressed. “The terrible thing about movies today is they come and they go,” he said. “But television stays and stays.” Herskovitz painted a much brighter picture for TV, though he did have harsh criticism for the pilot system. (A Marriage, the recent pilot he and Ed Zwick developed at their Bedford Falls, wasn’t picked up by CBS for next fall.) “The pilot system in television is utterly broken. It’s a huge waste of money,” he said, promising to try to change it. But he did not elaborate.
Finally, Herskovitz had harsh criticism of the Internet, which he said hasn’t figured out a successful business model yet. He did, however, encourage fledgling producers to use the web “as a place to make a name for yourself and learn your craft”. — posted by DHD stringer Rebecca Ford
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