Guys and $$$: the ancillary dance
By ELIZABETH GUIDERAlmost every creative heavyweight in Hollywood has such a guy. Not an agent or a manager or a personal trainer, but rather a guy whose job it is to bug studios to make sure the top talent is getting its fair share of the spoils.
These folk are generally referred to simply as "my guy," as in, "My guy thinks you're underreporting the revenues my show is making in syndication," or, alternatively, "My guy thinks there's DVD potential in that movie I did for you 25 years ago," or "My guy thinks my hit series ought to have its own Web site, rather than be only on the network's site."
In other words, these are the folks that look after the long-term interests of top-tier movie and TV talent, as distinct from what the studios do for these creators.
Studios and talent are equally "thrilled" when deals are first signed. But once the movie or series is back in the vault or on the shelf, the leverage shifts to the studio and away from the creator.
The guilds are supposed to play this "residual" role for working actors, directors, writers and producers, but the really big guys have come to rely on their own hired guns.
George Lucas has always had such people to ride herd on "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones." Ditto the Broccolis for their Bonds. But they are no longer exceptions. That's because ancillary markets and new platforms have opened up new vistas for content: There is, in theory, a lot more money to be divvied up by profit participants.
The cadre of number-crunching negotiators shuns press and would rather be drawn-and-quartered than divulge the work they do for their clients. But they are an increasingly integral part of the inner workings of Hollywood.
By most accounts there are a half-dozen or so who make a living doing these "interventions." Most worked within the studio system at one time, usually on the financial, marketing or distribution side, but found themselves expendable during one or another wave of consolidation. Some come and go between jobs, as it were, but a tiny few make their living exclusively as "go-to guys."
Consider the cudgels they have taken up on behalf of their clients:
After "CSI: Miami" faltered in syndication with only $1.25 million an episode from A&E, Jerry Bruckheimer's guy helped maximize syndie revs for "CSI: NY," securing a "spike" from Spike TV, which forked out a whopping $2 million an episode for the Gotham-set skein.
Steven Bochco's guy helps assess what value Bochco's long-running "NYPD Blue" might still have in second-cycle syndication and in foreign, since Bochco owns half the negative, Fox the other.
Since financier George Soros bought 60 DreamWorks movie titles for $900 million, Soros' guy works on how to lean on Paramount to make sure those titles are properly exploited across all platforms.
The attitude of the studios toward these reps is ambivalent: From the conglom perspective, these guys can be irritatingly intrusive, because they have access to the companies' books, they ask discomforting questions and they take up a lot of time.
On the other hand, studio execs have a lot on their plate and can't always focus so relentlessly on one show or movie that might benefit from extra attention. These producer reps are paid to do just that for their clients. Most importantly, they can help studios avoid needless friction with talent -- including that worst of all possible fates, a lawsuit.
None of the studios wants a repeat of the James Garner legal battle over revenues from "The Rockford Files," the complaints from David Duchovny about his share of "The X-Files" haul or, more recently, Peter Jackson's tiff with New Line over gross points from "The Lord of the Rings" films.
"It's not just about a proper cut of the money, but rather about how to maximize the potential for money," insists one source close to the cadre of reps.
Says another source who has worked in this area: "It's about goosing the studios to pay more attention to assets, their timing in syndication, their inclusion in or exclusion from packages of product, their possibilities in online and new media, their spinoff or format potential."
Everyone is really on the same side in this, these sources insist. It's just that congloms' interests don't always dovetail with those of creatives.
In the push and pull of Hollywood's competing interests, these guys, however much they fly under the radar, are there to push back.
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