Inside The Washington Post’s Big Hollywood Deal
For all its associations with the khaki-ness of the nation’s capital, The Washington Post nevertheless exudes a certain sex appeal. It was the paper, after all, that inspired All the president’s men, The ultimate American political thriller, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman like Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate. More recently, when Marty Baron retired last year after his run as editor, the A-listers in his video dispatch included Liev Schreiber, who immortalized Baron in Projector, and Steven Spielberg, who directed the 2017 drama Pentagon Papers, The post office, featuring tom hank like Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep like Katharine Graham.
Despite his Hollywood credibility, The Washington Job didn’t exactly have a strong presence during the IP gold rush, even as other major outlets methodically extracted their content and weaponized it for the streaming wars. But everything is changing now that the Job became bedfellows with two Hollywood heavyweights: Imagine Entertainment and Creative Artists Agency, who are giving the 144-year-old institution a jolt of creative mojo. Two months since announcement of a “strategic partnership” – in which Imagine “will create scripted and unscripted film and television properties derived from The post officeand CAA will broker the deals — the arrangement is already bearing fruit, with four projects “actively in development,” Imagine honcho Brian Grazer said. “It is one of the oldest and most reputable newspapers in America and perhaps in the world. Getting privileged access to stories and being able to, at times, speak to reporters, is simply extremely valuable, especially if your affinity is to make fact-based movies and TV.
As Peak TV hit its climax over the past few years, news organizations have become optimistic about selling their IP, not only due to voracious demand from networks and streamers, but also as a way to diversify revenues amid the collapse of their traditional business models. . The New York Times, for example, struck a deal with Left/Right to produce documentaries for FX and Hulu, while turning its Modern Love column into an Amazon Prime series. Vox Media and BuzzFeed have created in-house studios to develop scripted and unscripted features for Amazon and Netflix. vanity lounge‘s parent company, Condé Nast, has an extensive entertainment division that drives our on-screen content. Etc.
But a mix between one of America’s major news outlets and one of its major production companies – with one of Hollywood’s Big Three talent agencies in the mix as their broker – seems like a sui generis. “Actually, I wish I had thought of that!” said Richard Plepler, the former HBO boss who now has a development deal with Apple TV+. “There are so many IPs out there, so many stories going around, and breaking through is a big deal. Traders call it “edge” – maybe it’s AI or some superior research team. In the content business, you’re also looking for the edge. So obviously if you have a deal with one of the biggest news agencies in the world, for me that’s a real plus.
The Job set the wheels in motion earlier this year when publisher Fred Ryan began testing his West Coast contacts, including willow bay and Elizabeth M. Daley, both of whom he knows from having served on the board of trustees of the University of Southern California. (Bay, a veteran broadcaster married to the former Disney chief Bob Iger, is dean of the university’s School of Communication and Journalism; Daley is a film school dean.) Ryan said it was Daley who suggested he contact Grazer, co-founder of Imagine with Ron Howard—to choose his brain over the agents who could best help the Job develop in film and television. “We hit it off right from the start when I explained what we were trying to do,” Ryan recalls. Grazer said to me, “As I was talking with Fred, I was starting to think, if he’s going to do this, it should be us. I would like to do that. We would have access to all the past stories that have been written and everything that is written now.
Grazer immediately proposed that the CAA represent the partnership. They set up another call, this time on a loop with the CAA power agent and the general manager. Bryan Heavy, and the Jobis then head of communication, Kristine Coratti Kelly, now head of communications and marketing for CNN. “I immediately felt that enthusiasm from Bryan Lourd,” said Ryan, who then flew to Beverly Hills for meetings with Lourd and Grazer. “We just knew on the spot that it was the right partnership, so we said, okay, let’s get the teams together.”
In April, Ryan welcomed a few dozen people from CAA and Imagine to the Posts Headquarters of St. K. Grazer, who was in Rome at the time (fresh from a meeting with Pope Francis) Zoom from Italy; Howard joined virtually from Los Angeles. The group must be flies on the wall for the Posts daily press meeting, then sat down with the editor Sally Buzbee and other newsroom brass. “It was a big deal for me,” said Lourd, who majored in journalism at USC and met alumni. Job editor Donald Graham to rub elbows at Allen & Company’s annual Sun Valley conference. “The Job is that story for anyone who ever cared about journalism. All the president’s men, and Redford, and how important he was to my early ideas of stardom – I was super excited to be there. So excited that Lourd ended up joining the Job as a guest for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend, where his table companions included White House Bureau Chief Ryan Ashley Parker, and senator Amy Klobuchar. His goal for the collaboration, he told me, is “to put in place the right structure to give the Job and its journalists an access point to professional producers, to try to understand what would lend itself to other formats, be it a podcast or a series or a film.