For a company engaged in any kind of creative or aesthetic endeavor, few things are as important as the relationship between the company’s President, and its key artistes. The President may have as many intermediate layers beneath him, as imaginable. But, the important agents, managers, lawyers, and even the artistes themselves, rightly demand to, and should, speak with the President himself (or herself, as fortunately now is the case). The company “runs” on auto-pilot; or, at least, that’s the job of the COO. This isn’t the President’s job. Rather, it’s liaison, and interaction, with the creative engine – ostensibly, the company’s raison d’etre, in the first place.
For a record company President, this might mean hanging out with artists, going to rehearsals, watching them perform. For a film company President, this might mean being on sets (not to do anything, except let the performers know you’re there), maintaining relationships with influential managers, agents and lawyers, hanging out with directors and writers, and similar types of activities.
To me, this is so much of a truism, a basic maxim, I continually am flabbergasted at the number of companies violating it. It is the artists (talent, performers) who “matter” to a creative company, not some stupid President. The President can be, and often is, replaced. For whatever reason, though, many Presidents come to believe they are who matters, not the creative talent.
The latest illustration of this is an article in today’s Daily Variety, LaPorte, N. & McNary, D., “Shaye denies Jackson ‘Hobbit’ gig – New Line topper says director not welcome,” Daily Variety (Jan. 11, 2007). “In the most recent sturm und drang over J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel, long-discussed as a project for ‘Lord of the Rings’ helmer Peter Jackson, New Line co-chairman Bob Shaye told Sci Fi Wire that Jackson would never direct ‘The Hobbit’ as long as Shaye is running New Line. … ‘It will never happen during my watch,’ Shaye said of Jackson directing ‘The Hobbit’ along with an ‘LOTR’ prequel. New Line and MGM own the rights to both films.”
I submit this is the height of idiocy. And in doing so, it’s not my intention to “take sides” in what evidently is a long-running dispute over participations in previous Tolkien films directed by Mr. Jackson. Rather, it’s quite obvious Mr. Shaye has rebuked the common-sense principle, set forth above. The President of a creative company ought never reach impasse with its creative talent. Let the lawyers fight over contracts and the meaning of words, that’s what they’re for. No matter how bitter the dispute, the President always needs to be in a position vis-à-vis creative talent, where things are beautiful, and never will change. By destroying, or at least seriously impairing, the company’s creative relationship with Mr. Jackson, Mr. Shaye significantly damages New Line’s prospects.
I suggest to Mr. Shaye he not keep a lot of personal effects at his office, as this is the type of behavior that will put him on the beach in short order.