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Listen: Producer Christina Wayne on Peak TV’s Tough Economics for Indie Producers

The Peak TV bubble would seem to have been a bonanza for independent producers. But the sheer volume of TV content in production in recent years has made the traditional job of assembling and shepherding a television show that much more complicated in many instances.

In today’s edition of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, Assembly Entertainment CEO Christina Wayne speaks candidly about the challenges indie producers face in getting projects on the air even in a boom market.

The former AMC development executive who championed “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” Wayne has been in the trenches as a producer for a decade. At present her projects include a drama series based on the “Mercury 13” female astronauts project from the early 1960s, with Jessica Chastain producing, and a YouTube comedy pilot “It’s a Man’s World,” penned by Theresa Rebeck. Wayne is also coming off a two-season run for Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here,” stemming from her previous tenure as head of Canada’s Cineflix Studios.

Listen to this week’s podcast below:

“There is such a huge demand for content one would assume that it would make my life as a producer easier but in fact it’s made it more difficult,” Wayne says. “TV is such an incredible medium now. It’s being produced at such a high level. I often find myself waiting to take out a show to the buyers and then you have Guillermo del Toro sitting in the waiting room, and you have George Clooney there. You have every top-level person trying to bring out their passion project. Unless you package your show to the nth degree, it does not sell.”

The development process can also wind on for years as the most fertile cable and streaming outlets sift through dozens and dozens of options. The high level of employment for creatives and crew members makes it that much trickier, and costlier, to recruit top talent to projects.

“It’s so hard to say ‘I have a pilot shooting in three months from now’ and to find somebody who can actually do it in the time frame you’re looking at,” Wayne says. “You can’t say ‘I want you to do this for $5. You have to entice people to fit in in their schedule because they have so many options.”

For producers, the compensation for all the work put in to assembling a show doesn’t kick in until it’s actually in production or sometimes only when it’s on the air. Until a project goes before the cameras, “I’m just another unemployed producer,” Wayne quips.

Wayne also discusses the “myth” of the backend windfall even on successful series, and she details the inspiration for her subscription online educational venture TelevisionSchool.com.

Strictly Business is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring comedian/actor/producer Kevin Hart, CBS’ David Nevins, HBO’s Richard Plepler, 10 By 10’s Tyra Banks, AMC Networks’ Josh Sapan, FX Networks’ John Landgraf, Spotify’s Dawn Ostroff, Snap’s Nick Bell and others. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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