Mathes started at WME in 2009, rising to the rank of coordinator in 2012 and then agent in 2013. His clients include Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, Carlton Cuse, John Legend, John Krasinski, Idris Elba, David Ayer, and Adam McKay’s HyperObject. He also led efforts to adapt podcasts into TV series, selling projects like “Limetown” to Facebook Watch, “Dirty John” at Bravo, and the upcoming “Gaslit” at Starz.
Aubin started at WME in 2010, at first working as an assistant for people like Ari Emanuel, Ari Greenburg and Marc Korman. Her client list is made up of showrunners like Kelly Marcel and Jane Goldman, filmmakers like Damien Chazelle and John Carney, and first-time series creators Nida Manzoor, Justin Noble, and Francesca Sloane.
Wang began his Hollywood career at Paradigm, in the mailroom. He was there from 2009-2015, at which time he moved over to WME. He now represents clients across a range of genres, including “Shang Chi” director and co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton, Francesca Sloane, Enzo Mileti and Scott Wilson, and Silka Luisa.
Potter joined WME in 2011, starting out in the mailroom. She went on to work for Melissa Myers, Cori Wellins, Paul Haas, and Ari Emanuel before being promoted to the TV department. One of her focuses is building a roster of women and people of color in the TV directing space. That includes filmmakers like SJ Clarkson, Minkie Spiro, Kate Dennis, Natalia Anderson, and Meera Menon among others. She also reps creators such as Justin Hillian, Tracy McMillan, and Fernanda Coppel, as well as the TV businesses of Amy Adams, Emma Stone, and Team Downey.
Variety spoke with the quartet of newly minted partners to discuss the current TV landscape and what they view as some of the biggest challenges they currently face.
What does the industry landscape look like to each of you as you move into this new role at WME?
AUBIN: I was Ari Emanuel’s assistant when ‘House of Cards’ premiered and the entire TV landscape shifted underneath our feet over the next five years. I think our generation, we’re not bracing ourselves for major industry shifts, we expect them. They’ve become the norm.
MATHES: The TV marketplace constantly evolves and it’s constantly challenging. We’re telling incredible stories and we represent an array of artists that want to do incredible things. And now that things have shifted from more linear to digital, there’s all these new variations that keep things exciting.
WANG: I think what excites me about where we are now is…it’s not just about marketing and salesmanship. I think there’s a real premium placed on quality and craftsmanship and people wanting the best. That’s what excites me. I want to put together the best, highest-quality types of shows with the best, highest-quality creators.
POTTER: I think such a key part of this job is problem solving, and problem solving at an extremely high level. I think being a partner of this company, there’s so much access and information so that that problem solving becomes easier. And that makes for a much better experience for our clients.
What do you view as the biggest challenges your clients are facing right now?
MATHES: I would say the biggest trend we’re looking at right now is just the media consolidation. And companies really trying to stay within their verticals. A lot of these companies want to control and keep their IP on their own platforms. So if you have a piece of Disney IP, it’s unlikely going to be on a place like Netflix or Apple or Amazon.
WANG: Because of the media consolidation, there’s very little cohesion in the marketplace. Most of these places don’t actually have mandates in the same way they used to have back in the day when broadcast television ruled everything. There would be a very specific clear set of things they were looking for for this buying window. That doesn’t really exist in the same way now. Now, if you’ve called people for an official response, everyone everywhere just sort of takes a ‘We’ll know it when we see it’ approach.
AUBIN: There’s a huge interest in big IP and a huge interest in highly-original storytelling. So I think one of the challenges is blending the two. The perfect example is Andrew Wang and I represent Francesca Sloane, who co-created the upcoming “Mr. or Mrs. Smith” series with Donald Glover [at Amazon]. Their take on this iconic title is so singular and unique. Nobody else can tell the story the way that they’re going to tell and that’s so exciting for us as representatives and also fans, but it also poses a challenge of kind of finding a way to infuse originality into IP.
POTTER: I think then the inverse of that is if you have original stories that you want to tell, being able to put them together in a way where there’s characters at the center that attract massive talent does seem to be a really big driving factor in the market right now for original ideas. People are definitely taking bets on that if you have the right talent involved.
What is one change you would make to the business right now if you could?
POTTER: I think that some of the stuff that comes up in deal making vis-a-vis options and positioning are just a bit antiquated. So they have to be in the deals and then you end up having to go back to undo it every single time. I wish we could all just collectively drop that because it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
AUBIN: The way that development deals for writers are structured is still on a per episode basis, which was based completely around the network model. So that made sense when you were producing 24 episodes in one year. But practically, what the buyers are asking for is to produce fewer episodes over a longer period of time. And so converting those development deals to getting writers paid for the amount of time it takes is a key issue that we are all battling on.
WANG: I think one thing that is actually true for every platform is it’s very unclear what the path from development to green light is. And it’s getting more and more muddled as time goes on. There’s more people added into the middle, there’s more infighting, and so on and so forth. So the one thing I would wish for is a cleaner path from development to production.
MATHES: I would love a much more friendly deal making process amongst all individuals.