Back when Casey Wasserman’s bespectacled grandfather Lew Wasserman was Hollywood’s top power broker, he was known to step in to clear up labor stalemates with a sense of fairness and the authority to get cooler heads to prevail. His grandson, whose music/sports powerhouse firm just acquired Brillstein Entertainment Partners, learned a lot from his famed grandfather, and believes he’d have a plan to solve the current AMPTP battle with WGA and SAG-AFTRA, and that he would not have let it get this far, with thousands not getting a paycheck for over five months. Hopefully the resumption of talks this week will bring the kind of resolve Wasserman describes, even if there is so much mistrust between the sides that there is no leader whose word carried the weight that Wasserman’s did back in the day.
“The first thing he would do is point out the fact that it’s hard to solve problems if you’re not talking to each other,” Wasserman told Deadline. “He was a successful leader in the industry when it came to labor, because he was a respected leader on behalf of the studios and a trusted counterparty on behalf of labor. Those conditions allowed him then to spend the time, put in the effort to get transactions done. It’s hard to have leaders and respect when you can’t even sit in a room and talk to each other. The first thing he would do is, let’s commit to really get in a room and solve these problems. It’s not like these problems are never getting solved, so let’s actually commit to solving them as opposed to this trading barbs situation we’re in which is not going to solve the problem. It certainly has defined the problem, but it’s not going to solve the problem.
“The second thing, he always had the context of the broader community at heart,” Wasserman said.
“The effect of these strikes is meaningful on a whole host of people who are not on strike. It is affecting their livelihoods, their families, their ability to live, function and operate in a city that is become more and more expensive and difficult in the best of circumstances. I can assure you, unequivocally, that he would have been at the table, making sure everyone understood that this isn’t just about us, this isn’t just about the pertinent issues for talent, or the complicated issues for the media companies. This is about being cognizant of the community we live and operate in, and doing everything we can until it’s done, to get people back to work.”
Some wondered if the expansion of signatory entertainment companies into streamers might make it harder for even someone like Wasserman to work his magic. His grandson doesn’t think so.
“While the players changed, the conditions haven’t changed,” he said. “The fundamentals of getting a labor negotiation haven’t changed. The obvious comparison is to sports. How much sports teams cost, the kind of owners there are, how much players are making, the value and reach of those players has changed. But in the end when it’s time to make a labor deal, the commissioner of the NBA, the head of the player’s union, a small handful of players and owners lock themselves in a conference room at a law firm or a hotel or office, and know that playing and resolving the issues is the fundamental value proposition they all share from. And it is incumbent on them to commit the time, whatever it take and for as long as it takes, to get a deal done before you get to a work stoppage.”