I May Destroy You's Michaela Coel lifts lid on tug-of-war with Netflix that cost her $1m – but she had the last laugh
MICHAELA Coel, the celebrated creator and star behind I May Destroy You has revealed why she turned down a $1million Netflix deal.
The show's creator and actress, 33, was approached by the pay-for online streaming service in 2017, when they enticed her with a £800k ($1million) agreement to have the series which takes a frank look at sexual assault, on its platform.
Generally, Netflix buys all the rights to a show – including intellectual property (IP) when it acquires a title, which leaves the content makers without any authority.
But in a frank and at times emotional chat with comedian and her friend, Reggie Yates, Coel revealed her reasoning for turning down the lucrative deal.
Speaking at a socially distanced event at London's Union Chapel for GQ Magazine's GQ Heroes 2020 series, Coel said she could never give up the IP for this show.
She said I May Destroy You "was so specific and required so much" from her as a creator and actor, as she called out the "ethics of just taking everything".
"I think sharing IP is one thing, but some of our industry is quite exploitative in that it wants all of the IP from the artist and if the artist is generating the idea, I just don’t think that’s fair. I think it’s so dodgy," Coel explained.
"It’s like, we will take it, because we’re looking for scraps, anything, because it’s hard. But the ethics of just taking everything."
The Chewing Gum creator compared the experience to how streaming giants "buy all the rights" when acquiring music for a series.
"For artists, especially working class artists, I don’t think one big cheque is helpful," Coel said.
"I think a steady cheque, like they’re going to be making from your music, is much more helpful. I think it’s not looking for our longevity and it’s dangerous."
But Coel had the last laugh, as she was able to create an authentic and universally celebrated show.
Yates said: "In I May Destroy You, this is the first time in forever that I see a London that I recognise."
Coel also spoke in July about how she refused Netflix's offer when she realised she wouldn't be paid a percentage of the copyright.
She then fired the US-based Creative Artists Agency, who were working for her Stateside, after they pushed her to accept so they could take a cut.
Coel told Vulture how the tricky negotiation played out and said: "There was just silence on the phone. And she said, 'It’s not how we do things here. Nobody does that, it’s not a big deal'."
Michaela added: ‘I said, “If it’s not a big deal, then I’d really like to have 5 per cent of my rights."
Backing down, the scriptwriter even compromised to 0.5 per cent of the copyright.
Michaela played Arabella, a writer who is sexually assaulted in an experience based on real life, as well as penning the gritty show.
She has previously admitted she suffered from "imposter syndrome" following the success of I May Destroy You, and told how she had to seek advice on how to take a compliment.
The star has also told how the BBC 'let her do anything' on the groundbreaking show including tackling the taboo of periods.
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