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Having filled movie theaters with fun titles like Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, Paul Feig says the secret to successfully hot-housing his own TV shows, like Fox’s Welcome to Flatch and HBO Max’s Minx, is knowing when to step up and when to step back from fellow creators.
“I don’t want every show we produce to sound like my voice. I’m tired of my own voice,” Feig said at The Hollywood Reporter‘s virtual Power Lawyers celebration during his keynote address about the current TV landscape dominated by streaming platforms.
Through his Feigco Entertainment banner, Feig detailed his role in making decisions on finding great ideas, hiring the right people to realize them and then getting out of their way. For an original voice, he pointed to Minx creator Ellen Rapoport.
“Her voice is so unique, and the show is getting rave reviews. She’s really done it all, and we’re there to help protect her vision and let her have her voice. That’s what we’re trying to do with all our shows,” Feig, sporting one of his customary three-piece suits, told THR television features editor Mikey O’Connell.
Peak TV has been good to Feig, as more streaming platforms means more potential landing places for content. “It’s a good time to be in the business if you’re creative and trying to get stuff made,” he argued.
Driving deeper into the small screen at Feigco Entertainment, where Dan Magnante leads the TV arm, has its challenges. “We’ve definitely kind of blown up,” Feig said as his company has about five TV shows in various stages from development to season renewals.
The constant challenge, he adds, is finding the right product, whether ideas or scripts, to produce. “Then it’s about finding the best people to run it, either who brought you the idea or bring someone on to help them protect their vision,” as a project moves from casting to pilot production and a possible series deal.
When finding a home for his TV series, Feig isn’t hot on head-swiveling exclusive producing deals with a major streamer as enjoyed by Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes. He prefers the first-look deal he has with Lionsgate TV, where Feig covers his overhead and he can go elsewhere with projects.
“You tend not to have projects stranded somewhere. These companies are good at saying that’s not for us, you can take it somewhere else,” he explained about first-look deals. And Feig has advice for anyone shopping passion projects in Hollywood.
“Keep them in the bottom drawer,” he insisted. Most long-gestating projects, if they get made, will end up as tiny indie films.
“I love small, personal films. They’re my favorite thing in the world, if done well. But I’ve seen so many directors have a big hit, and then go, ‘This means now I can go in the drawer and make the passion project,'” Feig said. He added that emerging directors forget they will be judged on their second big movie after that surprise hit got them through the studio lot door.
Ignoring that reality could make their first box office hit a fluke. “You’d better make sure everyone else likes it,” Feig said of passion projects, or that there’s even the prospect of a commercial payback for a major studio that partners up. Otherwise, you’re headed to “movie jail,” as Feig put it, recalling his early film flops like the 2003 indie I Am David and the 2006 family comedy Unaccompanied Minors for Warner Bros.
Fortunately for Feig, Bridesmaids earned him a gold-rimmed get-out-of-jail card as a Hollywood director. “I’m grateful to Judd Apatow and Kristen Wiig for supplying that,” he recalled of his jailbreak.
The Power Lawyers event, which coincided with the publication of THR’s Power Lawyers list of the industry’s 100 top attorneys and was sponsored by City National Bank, included a welcome from THR editorial director Nekesa Mumbi Moody before Ajay Patel, the global head of legal at Amazon Studios, was feted as the 2022 Raising the Bar honoree.
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke presented the award to Patel, who oversees a fast-expanding team of lawyers worldwide as Amazon Prime deals with strategic partnerships, guild agreements and litigation while chasing new subscribers around the globe. Besides structuring and negotiating legal agreements for original TV and movie projects, Salke pointed to Patel continuing his pro bono legal work by launching the Los Angeles chapter of the South Asian Bar Association.
At Amazon, Patel and his team have spearheaded a number of pro bono initiatives, including on cases surrounding immigration, uncontested adoptions and addressing high school students in underserved communities on civil rights issues.
“What I find so admirable about Ajay is he’s committed to making Amazon Studios the very best in the business, while also making the world a better place,” Salke said.
In accepting the award, Patel reflected on succeeding with a legal career in an entertainment business that on leaving law school he considered as unlikely as becoming a pro athlete or an astronaut. “I now find myself today getting an award and recognition for work I do in that very industry that I could only dream of being a part of when I started my legal career,” a grateful Patel said.
And Denise Colletta, senior vp and team leader of entertainment banking at City National Bank, also appeared to honor this year’s class of power lawyers and legal legends. “While I’m certainly not an attorney, I wouldn’t be able to do my job without guidance from people like yourselves,” Colletta said.
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