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‘Blacklist’ Creator’s TV Agent to Speak at Northwestern

Kevin Crotty loves the television show “The Blacklist.” But why he loves it is different from why the network show’s millions of other fans love it.

“It’s going to pay for my children’s education.”

Crotty is a partner and board member at ICM Partners, one of the largest talent and literary agencies in the world. His company represents “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan, “House of Lies” creator Matthew Carnahan and “The Blacklist” creator Jon Bokenkamp. Crotty will be discussing his career in television at Northwestern on Wednesday, Nov. 5 as part of the Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprise’s speaker series.

On Thursday, I spoke with Crotty, who is also a Northwestern alum, on the phone about his experiences working in the entertainment industry, and how the world of television has changed since he first started.

“The television business as a whole has expanded,” Crotty said. “There are a lot more outlets to sell scripted television… it’s a very good marketplace right now for the creators.”

Referring to “new players” like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, companies that have recently begun creating original television programming, Crotty said that the advent of so many new outlets has made it easier for television show creators to get their material produced.

“For someone who is a very good writer, there almost is no excuse to not be able to sell it anymore,” Crotty said.

He was quick to point out that this doesn’t necessarily apply to new writers who have yet to be discovered. Though there is more opportunity for new shows, there are diminished learning opportunities for novice television show creators. What’s more, television networks have significantly less patience for a new show than they did in the past, which means cancellations occur much more quickly than they did before.

“They [networks] spend so much money on marketing these new shows now if it doesn’t break out of the clutter they have to move on to the next,” Crotty said. “It’s very hard to grow a show from low ratings to success.”

I asked Crotty if he believed in the hype around Netflix’s programming model. The company famously said it relied on algorithms about it user preferences in deciding to make its hit show, “House of Cards” with director David Fincher and actor Kevin Spacey.

Crotty gave a resounding no.

“I don’t believe the hype from Netflix,” he said. “I believe in the right time with the right script and the rest of it is, ‘Does the audience respond?’”

Crotty believes there will always be a place for talented programmers making gut decisions about what should and should not be made.

“The reality is Netflix is going to have stinkers and so is everybody.”

When asked about his favorite shows (besides “The Blacklist”), Crotty listed off “Breaking Bad,” “Kingdom” (a new show on DirectTV about Mixed Martial Arts), “Modern Family” and “Homeland.”

“I also love Shonda Rhimes,” Crotty said about the creator of the hit shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and, most recently, “How to Get Away With Murder.” Rhimes is also represented by Crotty’s company.

“She pays for everything here.”

Crotty will be speaking on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. in Frances Searle Building, 3-417. The event is free, and a networking reception will immediately follow. Click here to RSVP.