“We want to package you,” he offers.
“Yeah, we’ll take a package on this project and you get your ten-percent commission back. Like with Homicide?
Hanh? “Jake, what the fuck are you talking about.”
“Homicide was packaged and we’ll do the same thing with The Wire.”
“Jake, slow down, what the hell does ‘packaged’ mean?”
And for the first time, Jacobs explains it to me: In order that my agents — the folks who held an absolute fiduciary responsibility to negotiate in good faith on my behalf and on behalf of my book — could be players in the creation of the TV project from that book, in order that they could own a chunk of the project itself and profit by millions of dollars from the work I had asked them to sell, they were willing to return my 7.5 percent commission and the commissions of any other talent they represented, packaging all of us together in a happy bundle for the network. Yes, incredibly, to avoid the most overt and untenable conflict-of-interest, they were willing to heroically give back to me a few thousand dollars in exchange for millions of dollars in points on a piece of NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street which ran for seven years.
“Jake, no one told me. No one said anything to me. Ever.”
There was a quiet on the phone. Until I asked a second question: “What other talent did you package with me?”
At which point, there was no more quiet.David Simon