I’ve spent the last week reading up on artist management, a discipline I am fairly new to...or am I?
I’ve previously mentioned the CEO of Paramount, Brad Grey, who worked in casting prior to forming enough A-list relationships to create a successful career as Executive Producer of television shows such as The Sopranos. Brad also created a company called Plan B with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston prior to being chosen as Paramount CEO.
In my opinion, Brad’s secret to success is artist management. He knew how to speak to talent so as to involve them in his projects and companies on a level that is higher than a paycheck. In a very real way, the movie industry is not about making money or movies so much as it is developing artists who then make better and better movies and bigger box office, DVD, television, and international revenue, and I believe that is one reason why he was chosen to lead Paramount. Paramount is an organization of artists, and Brad speaks the language of artists who are gaining skill and momentum and the significance and stardom they crave. He also knows the people who can get them what they want next, or at least eventually.
If that is not what actually happened, Brad, my apologies, but I think it is exactly the way a studio should be run, and applies just as much with non-studio productions. Indy producers may not be able to offer top artists exactly what they want in pay, but they can offer them work that keeps them in the public eye while allowing them to play higher stakes, creative roles studios rarely green light but always admire (not to mention their peers admire.) Producers who learn to speak artist learn how to grease the wheels of business with their most important asset, creative partners who make their movies magic.
In other words, artist management is about more than managing one person’s career. It is about helping manage the careers of everyone you meet, especially the people who will make you and your entertainment endeavor successful. It is about collaborative relationships, which are the DNA of every successful film venture, whether it has a six figure or nine figure budget. Just look at the credits of your favorite film. The public may not need to know who the key grip was or may not even know what a grip is, but the key grip’s career is advanced by having his name in silver screen ink and correspondingly on IMDB Pro. A-list actors are even pickier about where their name shows up, whether in a title card or in a prominent place at the start of credits.
A Scarlett Johansen sized paycheck ($20 million for Avengers 2) is a destination that every film along the way can enhance the probability of, and every producer and artist should know it. On the road to that number is not only box office success, but critical success, which often requires a price tag detour or two (or ten), not just an eight figure look. It requires appeal to international audiences, which comes from making movies that appeal to more than just home grown America. It requires development of an artist as a brand of cross cultural, international, yet personal appeal.
Artist management, in short, is the core of a successful Producer’s education and philosophy, whether your goals are financial or fame or simply and deliciously art. It should also be a key desire of any smart artist to benefit from the artist management talent of not just their own personal or business manager, but of others in the industry who can help them advance.
How many and what caliber of artist’s creative teams are you directly and indirectly a part of? That is a measure of your influence and present potential in the entertainment arts industry.
Artistically and profitably yours,