Hollywood Reporter Roundtable: Female Agents Discuss Their Work in a Male-Heavy Industry
There are plenty of vital positions in the entertainment industry we inevitably end up appreciating less than we probably should. So much has to go on in the background for each element to crystallize and become integrated into the final product in an organized way. The agent is a large part of this — the intermediary between the creative artist (writer, director, actor, etc.) and what their next gig will be — or, from another perspective, where their next paycheck will come from. Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter (you can watch the other roundtables we’ve shared here), we are now privy to a great deal of anecdotes, recollections, and candor from a number of high-profile agents, all of whom happen to be women.
The Hollywood Reporter on the state of things in this field:
Nowhere is gender disparity among Hollywood’s corporate ranks more painfully acute than inside the top talent agencies, where the percentage of women agents can dip as low as 15 and nary a female CEO can be found. Sure, women have made huge strides as network and studio chiefs (Exhibit A: the dozens of such execs who appear on this year’s Power 100 list), but such advancements have yet to materialize in the agency world, where in-your-face, ballsy machismo seems to remain the default sensibility.
This reality, among others (24-hour care of clients, pressure to embrace new revenue streams, shrinking budgets), was discussed with candor — and not a few laughs — among the six agents (WME’s Sharon Jackson, Gersh’s Leslie Siebert, CAA’s Maha Dakhil, UTA’s Blair Kohan, Paradigm’s Debbee Klein and ICM Partners’ Lorrie Bartlett) who gathered for THR‘s first-ever on- the-record conversation with top agents. With the diplomacy required by their profession, they tackle the struggle to straddle work and family life (five of the six are married mothers), why it’s OK when clients leave and how an innate sense of nurturing actually can be an agent’s best weapon.
Here is one of several clips THR has shared, a single-topic snippet from the full discussion — in it, the agents discuss the moment they realized they’d ‘made it’ in the industry, and how they felt about that:
It’s pretty amazing to hear that, like anyone else, success is both uncertain in the formative days (and continues to be, because the industry and its economy are constantly in flux). On the other hand, at this point, they can look back on moments shared with huge stars with both an appreciation for how far they’ve come (and how hard they’ve worked to get there) and also a down-to-earth collaboration-with-equals mentality.
This next clip deals with the duties for which the agent is usually responsible, but that they wish could be handled by someone else instead (the longing for phantom-underlings, a universal symptom of any intrusive and intensive job).
Of course, unless we are agents ourselves, there’s likely many a thing we don’t understand about the job, and there are many misconceptions that might be surprising:
If you are interested in watching the full-length (and uncensored) discussion, THR has made that available as well:
Which parts of the conversation were — or were not — surprising to you? What have you, as directors (or what have you), experienced yourselves working with collaborators’ agents? What about experiences with agents working with you directly?