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Entertainment behind the scenes

Hollywood ex-agent sees studios holding sway over talent

May 5, 2009

sam-haskellIn the wake of last week’s merger between talent agencies William Morris and Endeavor, some in the movie and television industry have suggested that the deal could allow talent agents to gain some leverage over the studios who run Hollywood.

But in a column last week in show business newspaper Variety titled “Studios still hold power post-merger,” former editor-in-chief and one-time studio executive Peter Bart wrote that with their control of increasingly scarce production funds, studios can dictate deal terms to talent.

On Monday night in Los Angeles, former William Morris superagent Sam Haskell said he agrees. At an event celebrating the release of his  memoir, Haskell acknowledged that it has been a seesaw struggle over the years.

“I think it has gone back to the studios because they are the ones spending all the money (on) their projects, and they have to be certain that they’re going to make their money back before they venture it,” Haskell told Reuters.

Haskell, who was head of television for the William Morris Agency, said that he left the agency five years ago, in part over philosophical differences with his colleagues.

“I believe that you should motivate people through nurturing, not fear,” he said.

According to an article on Tuesday from Los Angeles Times writer Patrick Goldstein, a “funeral atmosphere” exists at William Morris since the merger with Endeavor, and Goldstein expects that the younger Endeavor agency will wield the upper hand in the new company.

Haskell, whose book was released on April 28 and is titled “Promises I Made My Mother,” has appeared on television news shows in recent days to talk about his memoir. Haskell was raised in Mississippi and he represented comedian Ray Romano during his run on the popular CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.” 

(Photo courtesy Random House)

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