Anyone who’s been involved in the creative industries knows there are only two rules:
1. Nobody knows anything (c. William Goldman)
2. Talent and hard work are important, but they’re?nowhere near as important as dumb luck
In a world where nobody knows anything, men (it’s normally men) with massive self-confidence will do better than men or women with little self-confidence.
Such men will make flip decisions, trading careers and millions of dollars on a whim, on the basis that the creative industries still need?hits, which is just another word for?bets, and most bets don’t pay off.
Which brings me to Harve Bennett.
Whether or not you know who Harve Bennett is says a lot about you. If you do know who he is, you’re probably either a pretty hardcore Trekkie, or a big fan of the minutiae of popular Seventies television. I didn’t know who he was, and I was watching Star Trek III: The Search for Spock last night, and I noticed he produced?and wrote it. It occurred to me to look him up.
Mr Bennet worked in the programming department of ABC Television in the Sixties, and eventually became Vice-President of Daytime Programming.
Let us pause there. The guy who wrote and produced Star Trek III: The Search for Spoke was a daytime programming executive.
He moved into TV production, working with Aaron Spelling and Universal Studios. He worked as The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman and the David McCallum version of The Invisible Man (which he co-created with Stephen Bochco, no less). On all these shows he’s listed as executive producer, which I take to be a form of showrunner.
And then Star Trek came along. This is how Wikipedia describes what happened next:
While working at Columbia Pictures TV, Bennett was also brought to Paramount Pictures to work in their television division producing television series. Only a few weeks into his contract, he was called to a meeting with then top executives of Paramount Barry Diller and Michael Eisner, along with Charles Bluhdorn who was then head of Paramount’s parent Gulf+Western. Bluhdorn, dissatisfied with the results of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, was looking for someone new to take over the next film in the series.
According to Bennett, Bluhdorn asked him what he thought of the first Star Trek film and, after Bennett said he found it boring, Bluhdorn asked him if he could make a better picture and if he could do it for less than $45 million (the eventual budget of the first film). When Bennett said that he could, Bluhdorn said “do it” and he was hired.
That’s how the creative industries “work”, folks. An Austrian industrialist who made his fortune from car parts decided a film was boring, asked his underlings (and imagine, having Diller and Eiser as underlings!) and they brought in a guy who’d started out in daytime television, and before the end of the day he was in charge of the most potent sci-fi franchise in entertainment history.
That, as they say, is show-business. And who’s to say it was better or worse than any other way of doing it?