In the film and television business, life doesn't end at retirement or when "looking for new opportunities." In fact, in many cases, it starts at those stages--most often, in consulting. And that's when the real work begins. But what exactly does a consultant do? And why are they so in demand? VideaAge sought out the folks who've done it and lived to tell the tale.
Consultancy is now an art that is in demand worldwide. We contacted a wide selection of former TV executives in Europe and Canada, but it was mostly the Americans who were willing to speak openly. However, Frank Mulder, who recently retired from his job as a buyer for Holland's Public TV Broadcasting, commented: "It's no use being a consultant in the Netherlands," noting that what buyers want is only to be informed early about upcoming product. "Nowadays, buyers prefer to deal directly with production companies and majors."
As far as money is concerned, a consultant tends to make a good living, with income around $200,000-plus per year. Jobs are few and far between, allowing for "good-quality" family time for those who still have kids at home or a tolerable spouse. For steady income, some American consultants, especially those in the Los Angeles area, also toil as expert witnesses in court cases involving disputes over contracts, libraries and the dollar value of content. And some even generate revenue by sitting on various media company boards.
"Consultants, as a rule, are unemployed executives with a certain skill set," said Los Angeles-based Norman Horowitz, a former bigwig at MGM (and other studios) who's worked in an advisor capacity since he was "thrown out" in the late '90s at the ripe old age of 65. "People want to hire you to exploit that skill set," he said, then continued: "People might also hire you out of fear. When an exec has just left his or her job, people think, 'What can he do for me later?' or 'How can he hurt me later?' They take my calls to make sure they're covered."
According to Horowitz, the word "consultant" is actually a misnomer. "They hire you to do a job, but it's not every day all day. Few companies actually hire people to 'consult,' they want the consultant to actually do things for them on a part-time basis. They don't want you to just consult."
Horowitz didn't mean to get into consulting. He just sort of fell into it. Shortly after his ouster at MGM, he took a trip to Australia with his son. "An independent movie producer said to me: 'While you're there,...