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Netflix chief content officer Bela Bajaria struck an upbeat tone about Hollywood’s labor situation Thursday, saying the difficulties of recent months would eventually give way to the satisfaction of making stuff again.
As it was when she “lived through” the 2007-2008 WGA strike, there is a rush when peace is declared, Bajaria said. While there was no word of a deal as of Thursday evening, even the prospect of it was tantalizing, she suggested.
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“There are so many amazing things that are stalled, and that haven’t come out yet. They’re cutting or they’re in post,” the exec said during a panel at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York. “The part that I’m excited about is, once you start with a green light and you’re in production, and then it pauses, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so excited to get this name, and people will see it.’ ”
As with the previous strike, she added, “The thing that holds true is that when there’s incredible momentum and creativity and excitement to get back and create and make all these things.”
Earlier in the panel, she emphasized, “This is not the outcome that we wanted as a company. None of the companies in the AMPTP wanted this outcome. It has been a really great hardship on everyone, when you think about how many people a strike touches. It has been really difficult, and right now our focus to really find a solution and get everybody back to work as fast as possible.”
Eric Newman, principal and producer at Grand Electric, the production outfit behind Netflix’s Painkillers, joined Bajaria on the panel. He said it was “challenging” to bring the show to the streaming service at a time of such intense labor angst. “We all need each other,” he said. Amid encouraging signs in the WGA negotiations this week, he said he has elevated hopes for “getting past the rhetoric” and returning “to doing what we do together.” The entertainment business, he added, is an “independent marriage of art and commerce.”
As far as predicting outcomes, he demurred, “Everything I’ve speculated about over the past 130 days has been so wrong.”
One takeaway from 2007-08 was debatable. Partly as a result of that shutdown, there was a surge of unscripted programming, which Newman called a “loss” for the industry. “Reality TV is great,” he said. “I don’t watch it, but I think it’s a great concept.” At that point, cross-talk ensued and then Bajaria, architect of Love is Blind and countless other unscripted smashes during her run at Netflix, said, “I’m going to jump in here,” and the discussion continued.
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