Writer-producer-actor Tyler Perry is adamant about more than a few things: he loves working with "crazy" Turner Networks president Steve Koonin, he won't take notes from studios because he knows his audience best and he won't join the Writers Guild of America, ever.
At a NATPE panel, Perry made it clear he's still irked over a dust-up with the writer's union as he formed his 34th Street Studios in Atlanta last year. Perry said he'd negotiated deals with other unions such as the Screen Actors Guild prior to finishing up with the WGA, adding the other unions provided contract concessions to him as a start-up studio.
But before the WGA talks could be concluded, four writers on his House of Payneshow were let go. They went to the union alleging he fired them for trying to unionize. A picket line by the union marred the grand opening of his studio complex.
Perry said he eventually got his WGA concessions, but he's still surprised about how nasty the process became. Because of that, even as his shows have become WGA signatories, he personally will never become a member of the union, he said.
But he can still write on House of Payne and Meet the Browns because "it's my show," he smiled.
Perry praised Koonin, calling him "crazy" because he took a gamble on Meet the Browns when the producer couldn't sell the show. He self-financed the 10 episodes that TBS ran. Koonin gave Perry an unprecedented 80-episode order when most networks give shows six- or 12-episode orders. Shows don't have a chance to get going in that amount of time, he said.
In an aside, Perry noted this was his first "legal" visit to NATPE. Before he became a media mogul, he worked at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, the former home of NATPE conventions. He used to pick badges out of the trash and go on the show floor on the final days to check out the content, he admitted.
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