Exit Interviews: Part 2, The Big Agent
Secrets to a good career, strike pessimism, and why Netflix gets so much bad press
The Exit Interviews is a series of anonymous conversations with industry veterans on the year that was. Exit Interviews, Part 1, The Writer was the first installment. This series will also feature a top producer, a top marketing executive and a PA. These posts are for paid subscribers only.
With 2022 drawing to a finale, it’s time to hear from the experts. In annual Ankler tradition, I end the year by asking a handful of the wisest people I know in the business their unvarnished opinions — under the cover of anonymity — about what went down in 2022, and what lies ahead. Today, I talk to one of the industry’s smartest top agents about Netflix, looming strikes, executive paralysis and which directors and actors have played their careers just right.
First of all, what do you think of this year?
For a dead industry or a dead business model, there seem to be signs of life. Considering all the self-inflicted wounds and otherwise disastrous things that have happened, it could be worse. I'm an optimist by nature — if you weren't an optimist, you wouldn't be in the business really. If you didn't believe that this movie or this actor will work, or this director, I couldn't do it.
But there are signs of life. I agree with your assessment that a lot of these adult dramas didn't work. It's never been easy. So the idea that this proves that adults will never go back to theaters, I don't necessarily buy it when there are examples that they do. And again, these hard dramas, I don't know when they're supposed to have been successful in history, when there was such a big audience.
Do you think this year was a turning point?
Yes, compared to the state we were in: a place where the laws of gravity had been repealed and no benchmarks for success, smarter minds decided it was a great idea to just jump off the cliff together and fuck up a hundred-year successful business model by throwing everything on streaming. So yes, this was a turning point because again, people saw, oh yes, having things like Elvis or The Batman that established a real theatrical presence still created disproportionate value.
I was listening to someone list the names of the 30-plus movies Netflix made this year. Maybe there were 15 that I literally heard of. I'm a person who is trying all day to get jobs for people in this field. Not only hadn't I seen them, literally I never even heard what these things were. So the fact that this can't continue is just like a feeling that I'm not insane after all.
A friend of mine who is a studio chief said, ‘Who are the young executives who took an idea, can take an idea and take it from idea to movies?’ I'm like, ‘Nobody, they don't do that anymore.’ The business has stopped wanting that to happen. Once upon a time, I remember Warner Brothers, the vice presidents there seemed like the Murderers' Row of talent.
How have things changed for agencies this year?