CANNES, France – Adi Hasak has no use for Hollywood. He’d like nothing more than to bypass the big studios entirely, working with international distributors to put his projects before the public.
“I’m really getting into this global environment and making my own path,” the Israeli-Dutch producer says. “The distributors are hungry to get into content creation. I’m cutting out the studios. I have no interest in working with them.”
That might sound rich coming from a man who created and executive-produced NBC’s Jennifer Lopez-led drama “Shades of Blue” and who serves as showrunner on USA Network’s recently launched crime drama “Eyewitness.” But in an interview with Variety ahead of his keynote address Wednesday at Mipcom, Hasak says he’s serious about forging an independent path and avoiding the traditional power centers of the television world.
“I liken [the studios] to these huge aircraft carriers in the ocean, and there I am in my little dinghy. I can’t keep up with them, but I can maneuver much sharper than they can,” he says. “I am the studios’ worst nightmare. I compete with them. They create IP [intellectual property], I create IP. They need a broadcaster, I need a broadcaster. They have money, I can find money.”
From now on, Hasak, who is Israeli but was born in the Netherlands, says he intends to secure an international distribution partner first, before approaching a U.S. broadcaster. Hollywood studios tend to demand ownership of all rights, including international, to a show, but Hasak — being entrepreneurial by nature — wants to retain an ownership stake in his shows.
Yet it was a traditional U.S. network, NBC, that gave him his first big break three years ago. Hasak pitched “Shades of Blue” as a spec script, following which NBC boss Bob Greenblatt ordered it straight to series, with Barry Levinson as director and Lopez as star. Hasak says that if he could do it all over again, he would do it differently.
“If that happened today, I would go out and shop it in the international market, and stay away from the studios,” he says. “That way the principals would have an ownership stake in the show.”
As for “Eyewitness,” British distributor DRG introduced Hasak to Norwegian show “Øyevitne,” and he pitched the idea of an English-language adaptation to USA Network, which ordered it straight to series. It is being sold internationally by NBCUniversal Intl. Television Distribution.
Hasak sees his as an empowerment story. In the new “gig” economy, anyone can set up in business and compete with the big guys. “I found that once I put my hands on the wheel and started steering, stuff started happening. As long as I was waiting for third parties to help me, nothing was getting done,” says Hasak, who has no agent.
Whether he continues working with U.S. networks or not, he foresees their demise. “It’s like the Berlin Wall. One day we are going to wake up and [the network system] is going to be gone,” he says. “It’s an antiquated model and it really needs to go. It is ridiculous that a network programs a show and dictates to me when I can watch it. They’ll become streaming entities.”
Cellphone companies will become increasingly powerful in the content business, and the phone will be the way a lot of people consume content, Hasak predicts. “That’s revolutionary, and it is incumbent on us storytellers and providers of content to look at how we provide the consumers with our narratives,” he says. “We’d better embrace [this new world], or we’ll end up like the record companies in the ’90s.”
Hasak’s next TV project will be an American adaptation of “Black Widows,” a Finnish crime series produced by Moskito Television. The original show, whose format rights are controlled by DRG, centers on three couples, “who spend a weekend at a summer villa by the sea. As the husbands head off for a fishing trip, the wives wave goodbye. As the boat accelerates, and as it heads away from the shore it suddenly explodes,” DRG explains in its catalog. “The three women witness the horrific scene. Within a matter of seconds, their husbands have gone… Just as they planned … It is time for the women to start anew. But things are never that straightforward. Are they?”
Hasak will be producing the American version of the show through his production company, Adi TV Prod., and will reveal international partners at a later date.