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The Knick and Peak TV: Talent Managers and their Indie-Auteur Clients

STUBBS, Andrew (2017) The Knick and Peak TV: Talent Managers and their Indie-Auteur Clients. In: TRANS TV, Westminster University.

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My paper takes The Knick (2014-2015) as a case-study for exploring the role of Anonymous Content, a talent management and media production company representing several indie-auteurs such as Steven Soderbergh, Cary Fukunaga and Sam Esmail, in the production and promotion of Quality TV in the 2010s.
In the 2010s, scripted television series have apparently become so pervasive that John Langraf, CEO of FX Networks, claimed that 2015 and 2016 represented ‘peak TV in America’ (Goodman, 09/08/2015). Consequently, Langraf argued that competition made it harder, first, to find ‘the level of talent’ needed to create and sustain ‘compelling original stories,’ and, second, to ‘cut through the clutter and create real buzz’ (Goodman, 09/08/2015). At the same time, opportunities for talent and producers in indie or specialty film in Hollywood declined following the closure of several studio specialty divisions (Balio, 2013: 148). Accordingly, I argue that this created a set of circumstances that encouraged Anonymous Content to concentrate increasingly on TV, where they leveraged the marketable brand of their indie-auteur clients in the development, sale and promotion of their productions.
To do so, I focus on a single Anonymous Content production, The Knick (directed by their client, Steven Soderbergh), analyzing promotional, extratextual and critical discourse alongside industrial strategies and practices. I begin, however, by outlining the influence that the sale of House of Cards (2013-) by Fincher and Media Rights Capital to Netflix had on Anonymous Content’s strategies. In turn, I draw comparisons to other Anonymous Content or Soderbergh productions, including True Detective (2014-), Mr Robot (2015-) and Maniac (2018-), as well as Red Oaks (2014-) and The Girlfriend Experience (2016-), respectively. As a result, I contextualize Anonymous’ strategies within a period of intense competition over subscribers, between premium cable channels and subscription services, like HBO/Cinemax and Netflix, respectively. As Michael Newman and Elana Levine have stated, the attribution of authorial discourses is part of the process elevating certain TV shows above an ‘undifferentiated mass’ (Newman & Levine, 2012: 4). In this paper, therefore, I explore the role that talent managers and their clients play in the development, production and promotion of content in an era of Peak TV, and the implications this has for notions of ‘Quality’ and the ‘Golden Age of TV.’

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Film, Media and Journalism
Event Title: TRANS TV
Event Location: Westminster University
Depositing User: Andrew STUBBS
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2019 16:12
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:54

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