Dramatic License

Adi Hasak is tapping into Europe to bring fresh stories to U.S. TV, which he believes is about to become “more politicized than ever.”

Adi Hasak is something of an anomaly in the U.S. television industry. Despite not having an agent or an overall deal with a studio, the writer-producer has nevertheless secured straight-to-series orders for his first two TV projects.

With the Jennifer Lopez police drama Shades of Blue on NBC and Eyewitness, a remake of Norwegian crime thriller Øyevitne, on USA Network, Hasak is on a run.

Discussing the latter, Hasak says he was drawn to the series because of its portrayal of a relationship between two young men, both of whom witness a murder in a forest, in a way that hadn’t been seen on U.S. television before.

“We’d never seen LGBTQ characters in the lead of a drama that isn’t a gay-themed show. I thought that was riveting,” he explains. “And I loved the Columbo aspect of the murder mystery, where the audience knows who the killer is five minutes into it. It wasn’t like a lot of the other murder mysteries that have come out of Scandinavia.”

Born in the Netherlands to Russian Jews from New York, Hasak went to high school in the U.S. before moving to Israel. There he graduated from university and began working as a journalist. Then, after writing two movie screenplays, Hasak turned his attention to TV.

Having previously compared his role in the TV industry to that of an Uber driver going up against taxi cabs, Hasak describes his style of showrunning as “entrepreneurial” and is more involved in getting shows off the ground than most.

Indeed, Hasak’s lack of ties to any U.S. studio means he is free to carve out his own deals and act as an entry point for European distributors seeking to get their shows remade stateside.

“In the past, I would go to a European distributor and the first question they would ask me was, ‘Who’s doing domestic in the States?’ If I had nobody, they would tell me to come back after I had a domestic partner,” Hasak says. “Now it’s the opposite. They don’t want me to tell anyone else so we can incubate it together because they want to have an ownership stake.”

Having worked with DRG to bring Eyewitness to the U.S., Hasak is now onboard a remake of another of the U.K. distributor’s European scripted formats, Black Widows, which originated at Finnish broadcaster Nelonen.

The drama follows three best friends who decide to rid themselves of their husbands and change their lives for the better. “It could go anywhere,” says Hasak, who claims to have a “big name” actress attached to the show, but declines to reveal who.

Hasak’s relative independence in the TV business also gives him plenty of scope to vent his thoughts on president-elect Donald Trump, whom he believes will “have a huge impact” on the industry.

“For those of us old enough to remember Vietnam, that’s where we’re going. I remember as a young man, there was a complete dichotomy as far as where the artists and the corporations were going,” says Hasak, pointing to Scorsese’s Mean Streets and United Artists’ It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World for comparison.

“We’re heading towards that type of scenario. There are going to be two waves: one is going to want to play it safe, with TV shows full of glitz and glamor that we saw under the Reagan administration; and some of us are going to want to roll up our sleeves and get real dirty. That’s going to be the conflict.”

Hasak questions whether cable channels such as FX, which are part of huge media corporations, in this case, Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, will be willing to air a show that could potentially upset the incoming POTUS.

“It’s going to be interesting to see whether corporations, in general, will play along with this new administration. Creators, I think, are going to want to push in a certain direction. The question is, will the people who are distributing content want to go that way? Or will they want to play it safe?”

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This article was originally published in the Day 2 issue of the NATPE Daily. Read more from NATPE Daily Day 2.