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Hollywood writers fired their agents. Now agencies are sidelining writers in new deals

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Raf Green, most recently a co-executive producer on the National Geographic drama series "Genius," is concerned that U.S. writers will become more like "a hired gun" in TV.

"That's certainly not just a loss of power, but it's a loss of the creative integrity that has helped TV to be one of the most creative parts of the industry," Green said.

Green said that when he raised his concerns about agencies packaging shows without writers at a member meeting in August, WGA West Executive Director David Young questioned the validity of his information. He was "very dismissive of my question," Green said. Young declined to comment.

Some argue that it doesn't matter when writers join a project, or whether they are part of a package.

"Madam Secretary" creator Barbara Hall said she believes that writers will always play a crucial role in developing TV series because they must conceptualize the IP from podcasts and books and make them into shows.

Hall negotiated for creative control over a series called "Clues" that she will executive produce and write with David Grae based on a popular Israeli series that will be developed for CBS. "Clues" was packaged by WME last month and will be produced by Keshet Studios, along with CBS and Universal Television, but Hall said she was not part of the package.

"There isn't a show until there is a writer," Hall said. "All they have done is sell the rights to something. Owning a podcast is not a television series. Owning an article is not a television series."

While packaging remains a contentious issue between WGA West and the talent agencies, both expect that the money made in packaging fees will decline as deep-pocketed streamers invest up-front in buying global rights to projects.

 

Still, Drogin, a former executive producer on "Suits," worries that the practice of packaging shows built around existing intellectual property -- and without writers -- could make it even more difficult to pitch original ideas.

"Suits" is a legal drama written by Aaron Korsh, based off his own experience working as an investment banker in New York.

"We become adapters of material and that would be a loss because a show like 'Suits' would be less likely to happen in that kind of a world," Drogin said.

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