Excerpt: 'The Newsbreaker,' by Larry Garrison

I learned more on the job with Dick Clark's company in a week than I had in months on my own. In my first week, I got my first mention on the front page of Variety, a trade paper that reports on the industry. "Garrison Moves From Quoting Stocks to Producing TV/Film" was the title of the article that neglected to mention either my success as an actor or all the years it took to get to that point. Sometimes good situations were hard to come by, no matter how hard I worked, but once in a while they just fell in my lap. I owned the rights to part of the story on the Lindbergh kidnapping. Richard Hauptmann's ninety-four-year-old widow, Anna, was willing to tell how Richard was innocent and reveal the facts on "The Crime of the Century." One day, some producer named Bill Self called me and said he was very interested in partnering with me on it, an offer I immediately declined. I remember asking him, "Why in the world would I want to partner with you?" He laughed and told me it might be a good idea to ask my boss about it.

Later that morning, I was in Dick Clark's office going over some of the projects we had in development and I mentioned the call. "My God, that is the grandfather of the industry!" Dick said wide-eyed. "That guy is president of CBS Theatrical." After some back-pedaling with Dick and a humbling phone call to Bill, I had a new partner for the film, and my career took a sudden turn for the better.

I can't tell the exact moment that my attention switched from the development of entertainment programs to the news side of the business, but the pairing of the two is a natural. By being a producer, I can give my clients something the networks could never dream of offering, a big paycheck. I also realized that I could be more effective as an independent producer, so I left the Dick Clark Film Group after a year and went independent. It was easier to procure the rights to stories and hype them in the news, so networks and studios would come to me, rather than the other way around. Later in my career, I affiliated myself with MTM, Mary Tyler Moore's company, as an executive producer with offices, but again I realized that being independent is the only way to go.

Some news shows will pay a few grand, or much more, for a picture or video that will entice someone to go on-screen and spill their guts for the nation to see. But if the story is credible and big enough, I can beat them out and offer the possibility of changing that same person's standard of living. Of course, not all of the stories that come to me have the potential of becoming a movie or a book. Most of the stories that warrant such exposure are often taken away by my worst enemy, public domain -- a producer doing the story without owning the rights. The only way I have to protect my clients is by controlling their news rights and maintaining independence from the news agencies. This way, I control the spin on a story and how it is released to the public. It is a game of telephone. The people who represent the news shows know exactly what I am doing and would love to keep me out of the picture; but when I secure the news rights, they have no choice but to work with me. I now enjoy a reputation for being good at what I do. Ironically, the competition often calls me on slow news days and asks, "Hey, Larry, do you have any good stuff we can use right now?"

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