But the era of the writer/producer may be nearing its end. More of today’s TV content is being created by “non-writing” producers, and this changing of the guard is making it challenging to get a new series green-lit.If you’re a non-writing producer with a good idea for a TV show, you may be told to pitch it, jump ship to sell the idea elsewhere, or hire a writer and shoot it yourself. This varied methodology has disrupted the usual process of getting a show made, and TV producers now have to work harder than ever to get ahead.
A panel at the 2014 Produced By Conference recently addressed this issue, as Producer Marshall Herskovitz (Blood Diamond) spoke with Peter Micelli, (pictured left) a leading TV agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), about the challenges in today’s television industry. Herskovitz specifically asked how up-and-coming producers can find their way in an “incredibly complicated” landscape. “When I have someone come to me and say they have this outlandish or big idea, I just tell them to write it,” Micelli said. “Because I think today there is so much competition and people have so many wild and interesting ideas, and in a weird way it’s actually gotten harder to get people to commit to buying those ideas.”
There is one weapon that will aid producers in their fight for recognition. Micelli stressed that the best thing a new producer can do is have control over some kind of intellectual property or some kind of creative control. “You do that by hiring the best writers you can find while managing the basic story arc,” he explained. “I think writers still matter a ton. There are a lot of great producers out there but if you don't have a great writer, once you get that 13-episode order, it’s over. That’s why TV writers have been so important to the business. It’s not just about one script, it’s about who is going to give me 13 scripts under the schedule in which we need, and they’re going to all be of quality and written within a budget that’s doable.”
Despite the industry changes, Micelli says that writers in television still have a lot of power. As a producer you have to remember you are competing with the best in the industry, like J.J. Abrams and Jerry Bruckheimer.“You have to think, ‘What am I not bringing to the table that will prevent a high-end writer from going to one of those tried-and-true [producers] instead of coming to me?’ It’s almost the same philosophy as an independent studio,” the agent noted. “‘What more can we offer that’s going to get the talent to come play on our field?’ Intellectual property is really the greatest equalizer. So much of great television is the team that’s going to execute it. If I was a producer sitting in the audience, that’s something I could be doing and focusing on. I would be trying to figure out what kind of intellectual property I could take control of that would make the game come to me.”