Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak didn’t mince his words when discussing the state of U.S. television at the EFM’s Berlinale Series Market today.
“America is a disaster zone right now,” he said during a panel on entrepreneurial showrunners. “Nothing is working.”
His comments come after a bruising year in the U.S., where most major media companies have been forced into layoffs and some have engaged in content write downs that the creative community has taken hard.
Hasak – best known for creating the Jennifer Lopez-starring NBC drama — also took aim at Disney, noting it has just laid off 7,000 staff and claiming its current strategy is akin to “a mental breakdown.”
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“Everyone thought Disney was genius to buy Fox and now it’s all revisionist – ‘they overpaid for it.’ People freaked out because Disney can’t launch any of their shows, but they’re making the same f***ing show all the time. They’ve released three different Star Wars series in a month. It makes no sense.”
Hasak also pointed to Fox’s plan to reboot buddy cop series Starsky & Hutch as evidence U.S. networks and streamers are overreliant on tried and tested IP, and noted that while it’s understandable to want a proven track record, the plethora of titles out there meant this strategy isn’t watertight.
“Studios just want to be reinforced and feel there is some shot for success. The problem is most IP is not a bestseller,” he said. “Europe is much for embracing of original content,” he added.
Last year, Hasak launched The Box, a Viaplay original drama about a Kansas City detective who believe she is losing her mind, only to find supernatural forces are at work. While set in Europe, it was produced out of Europe.
Disney’s wobble could cause a “ripple effect” on the wider market, said Hasak. More generally, he claimed “the bubble is bursting” for global streaming and predicted that a “realignment” is coming. However, he struck a more conciliatory tone by adding: “At the end of the day, people watch content and content wins at the end of the day.”
Hasak’s comments came during the Entrepreneurial Showrunners: The Future of Creative panel discussion here in Berlin led by Deadline’s International TV Co-Editor Max Goldbart.
The discussion turned to the potential impacts of the likely U.S. writers’ strike on international TV production. One suggestion is American writers will look for more work in Europe and Asia.
André Zoch, Co-Founder of German producer Dog Haus, which is co-producing fantasy drama The Gryphon for Prime Video Germany, said his company would welcome U.S. writers “but does not need them.”
He noted Dog Haus has been contacted by U.S. agents just this past week to “propose ideas from some top-quality people.”
Zoch said European writers are often encouraged to take control of their projects but are not used to the process. “We keep telling our showrunners, ‘You have the freedom’,” he added.
Bennett McGhee, Co-Founder of Home Team, which has a development deal with Universal International Studios, said “the idea of someone taking complete creative control scares me, but we are trying to empower talent to be in charge of their show and we’ve definitely seen more examples where the writer isn’t just the writer and is there at every stage.”
Elsewhere, Babka Productions Co-founder Jono Bergmann warned the price of acquiring IP has become “very expensive” and suggested one answer was to engineer opportunities.
“When we started the company, we were competing for IP,” he said. “The barriers to entry, even with good ideas, were high. We bridged that by developing on our own.”
Bergmann said his outfit “worked with journalists very early and made an amazing network of international writers.”
By giving these journalists “skin in the game” and “a say on how projects are constructed,” Babka was able to secure several unique stories. Babka is now developing a scripted version of Netflix’s animated doc short Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis, which was Oscar nominated.
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