These are the biggest challenges in the TV and film market, according to top agents

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

United Talent Agency partners Rich Klubeck and Dan Erlij are used to the rough-and-tumble nature of Hollywood. They have to be in order to push for more original voices and stories on-screen.

Erlij, co-head of UTA's television literary department, represents such risk-taking talent as "Succession" creator and showrunner Jesse Armstrong. Klubeck is a partner in the Beverly Hills agency's motion picture group, with clients including "The White Lotus" creator Mike White.

Clients at UTA, Hollywood's third-largest talent agency, have received nearly 60 Primetime and Creative Arts Emmys in roughly 30 categories and nearly 30 Academy Award nominations this year. One of its clients, comedian Ali Wong, was the first woman of Asian descent to win an Emmy lead acting award for her role in "Beef."

But there are challenges ahead. Studios including Paramount Global are laying off hundreds of workers, killing nearly finished projects and becoming more cautious . All the more reason why agents need to have their clients' backs.

"I wouldn't paint a rosy picture of the exact market we're in right now, but things are still selling," Erlij said. "You can still cut through the noise."

The two agents spoke to The Times earlier this month. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Q: What has the market been like after last year's dual Hollywood strikes? What are studios interested in buying?

Erlij: On the TV side, there's a somewhat conservative approach in the marketplace right now. People are looking for what they're seeing across the board as commercially appealing, somewhat escapist, somewhat fun stuff. There's been some shows that have succeeded in the last six months that have led to some of this perspective. Things like (the Apple TV+ thriller) "Hijack," the "Reacher" series that has succeeded for Amazon.

There's a just a real fight for eyeballs right now in a way that's been different. The buyers are less willing to take risks than prior to the strike. I think it's going to be a momentary thing. If everybody's looking for the same thing, at a certain point, you're gonna have a saturation of those kinds of shows and the audience is going to be looking for something different.

We are committed to following our clients as artists in supporting those visions. Of course, we're going to tell them what the market is telling us, but we don't want them just to be followers. We want them to be able to do what they really want to do.


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