Thursday, November 30, 2017

Where have all the executives gone? Long time passing

Whenever I read the industry trades (which is now various websites instead of daily magazines), there are always daily articles about executive job changes. This person is out as “Head of Scripted” for some company, and that person has been named “VP of Development” for that studio, etc.

With the incoming announcements come press releases praising the new hire as the second coming. For exit articles the organization thanks the person very much for their service and the ousted party is quoted as saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

By the way, “more time with his family” is confirmation that the person was fired.

But what has amazed me over the years is how many executives come and go. It truly is the revolving door of Hollywood. Names pop up in important positions and you wonder “who are they and where did they come from?”

And then… where did they go? Because being a mid-level executive has about the same shelf-life as a porn star. I think back over my career at all the people I took meetings with – network execs, D-girls, studio honchos – and most of them are now gone. They’ve disappeared. How do you go from VP of Development for a major broadcast network to out of the business completely in a year? And this was BEFORE sexual harassment claims.

My longtime agent, Bob Broder put it best. When we had a project we were hoping to sell, he said, “You pitch the chair not the person.” He's right.

It’s just the mercurial nature of the business, and yes, writers make a lot of fun of suits, but I’ll be honest. I miss a lot of these folks. They were smart passionate people, and I hope that wherever they are now they can finally buy a house, or at least not live in one that’s on wheels.

13 comments :

Dave Creek said...

I've always wanted to know what broadcast network programming people do all day. The morning and evening news shows are a given. Maybe there are talk shows, game shows and soap operas left during the day, but not nearly as many as there used to be, and they don't turn over that often. Late night hosts change only after years, sometimes decades.

Prime time is more volatile, of course, but it's not like they need a replacement show every day for something that's being cancelled (though it may seem like it at times). How does that exec fill an 8-hour day? Or is it much less than that (or more!)?

My speculation is that for every "yes" to a proposed show, there are many more where the answer is "no," so a lot of it is just weeding through the mediocre material for something that could be a smash hit. It might still be mediocre, of course.

blinky said...

Wasn't Steve Bannon one of those execs? We do know where he is now.

VincentS said...

Yes, "To spend more time with [his, her, my]family," should always be taken with a grain of salt. When I hear that I always think of the scene in ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN (screenplay by William Goldman) when Robert Redford (playing Bob Woodward) repeats that to Deep Throat (played by Hal Holbrook) referring to the reason given for John Mitchell resigning and Redford adds that he thinks it's BS and doesn't believe it and Holbrook glibly replies, "No, but it's touching."

jcs said...

PODCAST/BLOG REQUEST

You often wrote about your interactions with network execs. I think it would be fun to have a retired/veteran exec on your podcast/blog to explain what's going on on the other side. What's the rationale behind forcing a showrunner to cast a certain actor? Do network notes really improve shows or are you just handing them out to show upper management that you're a proactive guy? Is there a strategy to discover promising TV writers?

Mike Bloodworth said...

The execs probably do what everybody else in Hollywood does, start their own production co. To paraphrase another old saying, Production companies are like a**holes. Everybody's got one. By the way, what is a "D-girl?" Is she anything like a "B-girl?"

Anonymous said...

@Mike

"Development"

D. McEwan said...

30 years ago I was the Associate Editor of The Hollywood Reporter Studio Blu-Book Directory. One of the things we had to do was attempt to list, with contact info, all major execs at all studios. It was ridiculously impossible because the even if every single one was accurate when we went to press, some of them would no longer have their jobs by the time the books were available to buy. The joke I told which became the standard line on the Blu-Book Staff was that studio executives' listings were accurate until lunch.

Donald Benson said...

Recalling "The Prisoner", where every week (except for the final two-parter) there was a new Number Two in command, usually without comment or question. Also the Dilbert strip that introduced the Bungee Boss, who zooms into frame at the end of bungee cord declaring wholesale changes before he zooms out again.

Wondering how this affected organization charts. In most businesses (and in government), anyone with power tries to fill lower spots with friends and loyalists. If a VP is suddenly replaced at a studio, does the new one make replacements down the line to the nephew in the mail room?

VP81955 said...

I'm certain to at least some of the execs, "D-girl" referred to her cup size.

James said...

I've always wanted to ask this and here's a chance. If I like a show, I read the credits. I remember seeing "Richard Villarino" prominently at the end of Cheers episodes for years. He's someone I've never heard about--he exists only because of his title card. Do you have any Richard Villarino stories?

Lorimartian said...

A while after leaving The Late Show, David Letterman said something to the effect (and it may not be original with him), "Before you step down to spend more time with your family, make sure you ask your family first."

Andy Cowan said...

I wish the current day suits who greenlight endless "so and so moves in with so and so" pilots would move back in with their families. My eyes glaze over at how often I read the "moves in with" descriptions in Deadline Hollywood. The only thing more repetitive is the commercial for McDonald's about that employee getting the college scholarship. Hopefully, his Master's thesis will be about moving disparate personalities together before watching the hilarity ensue. He'll make millions.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to add except the sheer joy of seeing a veiled Pete Seeger/Kingston Trio reference. That truly made my day Ken!