Everybody Hates Gavin

Gavin Polone has ticked off so many people that even Google knows about it.

While researching this column, I plugged “Gavin Polone HRTS” into the search engine to look back on the producer’s stellar job hosting industry luncheons in 2005 and 2006. When bringing up the results, Google asked me, “Did you mean Gavin Polone HURTS?”

It was a fitting question, as the producer’s recent opinions have stung writers to the point that he has replaced Ellen DeGeneres and Carson Daly as the biggest target in the pro-WGA blogosphere.

“Oh yeah, I’m in the belly of the beast,” says Polone, a former agent and manager turned producer with credits ranging from Gilmore Girls to Curb Your Enthusiasm. “They tell me I’m ugly, my movies stink and I got fired as an agent.”

Polone is on the firing line because he depends on writers, but thinks the WGA has made a mess of the talks with the AMPTP and he’s not afraid to say it out loud. “I’m not against writers, I have a great affection for them and they tend to like me,” he told me. “It’s just the people who are running the WGA started with no plan and have continued making mistakes.”

And whether you agree with him or not and while it may cost him some business, I give him credit for having the guts to go on the record. He once redefined how you host an industry panel with his hysterical and biting turn as emcee at a 2005 Hollywood Radio & Television Society luncheon. While those luncheons are often glorified back-slapping socials, Polone opened that year by declaring the “television business is going to hell” and that new technologies are sending the business toward “creative and financial bankruptcy—enjoy your chicken.”

And now he is shaking things up again, questioning the WGA’s strategies from the start. He thinks the “super-hyper-aggressive angry rhetoric” has been a mistake. He thinks the WGA leadership is after more power and a bigger constituency while the members just want more money.

He uses the WGA’s interest in jurisdiction for reality writers as an example: He thinks the members don’t care about that; they just want higher DVD and online residuals,and the leadership should honor that.

He says WGA chief negotiator David Young has been a “huge mistake from the beginning, someone who has been trying to apply standard labor tactics for supermarket or construction workers to a very different union.” He is challenging WGA West president Patric Verrone to “show some real leadership” and bring in someone else like a big attorney from the outside to be the chief negotiator.

So will that actually happen? “No way,” Polone says. “It’s all about ego now.”

For the record, Polone also thinks the AMPTP’s public relations efforts have been “really bad from the beginning” and that chief Nick Counter “could have done less name-calling.”

But Polone’s concern now is with the writers, as in getting any of them to work with him again. He just put to bed a movie, Ghost Town, with Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni, and also has a pilot at NBC, but he is admittedly anxious about future projects.

“It will hurt me, absolutely,” he admits. “Writers have called each other saying 'you should stop working with him.’ My business depends on my working with writers, and I’m sure some writers won’t work with me now and maybe some studios will wonder if I can get writers.”

So Gavin, why not shut up, for once?

“I just don’t care; I’d rather be honest and put my name on it, which not many people seem willing to do,” he says. “I’m not trying to attack people personally, but I guess I could probably rein it in a bit from time to time.”

E-mail comments to ben.grossman@reedbusiness.com