There was a (bearded?) elephant in the room at Wednesday's Hollywood Radio & Television Society luncheon, when panelist and Duck Dynasty producer Dierdre Gurney saw the conversation turn to talent renegotiations. Dierdre and husband Scott Gurney are behind the A&E reality hit, which is currently holding off on a renewal while the cast tries to secure a big raise for the fourth season.
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Fellow panelist Craig Piligian, CEO and EP of Pilgrim Studios, was deep into an examination of his own experience with demanding talent -- of his approach to managing the stars of his hit fishing series Wicked Tuna he said, "You have to show the talent that you could to the show without them" -- when he and Original Productions president and CEO Phillip Segal encouraged Gurney to comment on the Dynasty development.
“The Duck Dynasty guys… they don’t need the money. They’re having fun, right?" asked Segal. "It isn’t about the money, right? They were wealthy to begin with."
“Look, there are two main factor at play,” said Gurney of her series’ stars current salary standoff. “One is social media. They want immediate feedback about themselves. The second is promotional appearances, the fees for which will always out-weigh their show money.”
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Gurney went on to say they need their stars -- the bearded Robertson clan -- need to be focused on the show and that it was “hard to watch” the talent go through the negotiation process.
“These A-type personalities… the network says, ‘Can't you get them to be behave?' No. They are crazy, which is what makes them compelling characters,” said Segal.
Gurney responded further that she hopes someday that the model of a ratings-boost will become the norm. “I love this model," she said. "When a show blows up, the stars benefit. If not, they don’t feel cheated."
“So, are you getting ratings bonuses?” pressed Piligian to Gurney.
She smiled and demurred. “I hope it’s the model going forward.”
Segal, summed up the thrust of the conversation thusly: “When a show is a successful, it becomes a problem.”
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