Talent Agent Uses Perseverance, Savvy to Represent Hollywood’s Elite

Acquiring mentors, paying dues key to success

What are the personality characteristics that help you do this job well?

A good agent must be tenacious and willing to exhibit a certain amount of codependence with an artist. My clients can tell you I am notorious about arguing and fighting for an opportunity. I will get in my car, drive to their house and try to convince their wife that a role they may or may not choose is right or wrong. I care. Their success means more to me then just my paycheck or my reputation. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had much attrition, but it is pretty common in this industry.

For someone at a large agency who represents mainly African American clients, what are some challenges you’ve encountered??

Sometimes my black clients get stuck playing the same roles. My job is to help them mix up their roles in the same way that Caucasian actors do, so that they exercise their talent and don’t get too used to playing the same characters. That is something that artists themselves don’t even think about. But I think about it because these guys look like my father and I have a different level of interest with them.

I represent a man named Michael Kenneth Williams who played Omar on “The Wire.” Michael is very dark and he has a scar that bisects his face. I think if he were represented by [a white agent], every time you saw him he would be playing characters like Omar, a drug dealer. Instead he is replacing the Oscar winning actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in the Todd Solondz film, “Life During Wartime.” He is being treated as an artist and an actor; not as a color.

How diverse is the talent agent business?

There are hundreds of agents in Los Angeles, New York, and London.  I can name all of the black agents on one hand and have fingers left over. In order for minorities to be portrayed in different ways on television and the big screen there has to be more minority agents. Most black men on TV are carrying a gun because they are either the cop or the drug dealer. To broaden [those roles] you need someone at the table who says no.

What can be done to help increase the numbers of black agents in the industry?

Becoming an agent requires an apprenticeship. To be successful as an agent you need a mentor. Someone already is in the mix has to be willing to let you sit in their office while they show you everything that they know how to do–from negotiating deals to signing clients. There aren’t enough people out there who are mentoring black assistants.

If more celebrity actors and actresses walked into their agencies and said there need to be more black assistants, there would be more black assistants. Actors need to step up and make their power known.

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  • Debra Fulton White

    Screenplay Query/Synopsis

    My name is Debra Fulton White and I am an emerging screenwriter from the San Diego area who has recently finished polishing a full-length screenplay titled “View From A Small Bird’s Eye.” I am seeking representation for production and was hoping that you might have time to consider my work or offer an appropriate referral. I am the author of the inspirational romance novel “My Land Is Your Land,” self-published in 2006. I am also the author of “Naturally Beautiful,” another inspirational romance novel released November 2008. The inspirational screenplay, “The Present Is The Gift” was completed in 2009.

    Here is a copy of the short synopsis of “View From A Small Bird’s Eye” for your consideration. Thank you in advance for your time.

    WGA WEST Registration #1276883

    Logline: An illegal Chicana falls for a wealthy, young African American mogul and struggles to get back to her hometown in Juato, Mexico because she’s “got it so good here!”

    Genre: Urban Inspirational Romance

    VIEW FROM A SMALL BIRD’S EYE is an uplifting account of incredible strength, passion, and determination revealed in the lives of three neighbors whose paths intertwine with extraordinary results. This inspirational romance, with a hint of comedy, tells the story of an illegal immigrant, Maria Montenegro, as she is faced with realizing her dream of becoming a legal citizen. Set in a modern urban atmosphere, the three main characters all reside on the very same cul-de-sac, unbeknownst to one another. Many of the events are witnessed by a little brown bird which, in many ways, is a metaphor for the eye of God and the intricacies of His ways.

    Maria has to complete her studies in one week before she returns to her hometown of Juato, Mexico. The stunningly beautiful Latina struggles with finishing her American studies at a junior college and worries about being “found out” regarding her illegal status before she takes and passes the Immigration and Naturalization test. Her whole goal is to gain enough education so that she can take her knowledge back to her hometown and educate her family and friends on how to become “legal” American citizens. Meanwhile, she wrestles with the day-to-day challenges of being a single mother, the unsolicited advances of would-be-suitors, and the very real threat of deportation.

    Handsome, young African American mogul, Destin Tyme, is in the business of providing “goods” to his community. Contrary to the negative stereotypes of young Black men, Destin is actually one of the “good guys.” He makes things happen and is always in control but is sideswiped the moment he first lays eyes on Maria. Her feminine charms lay claim to his heart and position him on the path of discovering the “Flavors of Mexico!” He is spellbound by her beauty and innocence and sets out on a quest to
    capture her heart, again, not knowing that they live on the very same, three house, cul-de-sac.

    Pastor Don, who lives in the house between Maria and Destin, faces the challenges of removing himself from a life of crime involving hustling and pimping. He is torn between the syndicate and the church but vows that the latter is his true calling. Inadvertently, Maria helps him discover “a way out” and this sets him on a path of recapturing his commitment to the church.

    All three main characters live in extremely close physical proximity to one another, yet they seem to miss one another by mere moments throughout. Even when they are actively seeking one another at various points in the story, they can’t seem to connect. Only when the catalyst of the small bird leads them to one another at strategic moments throughout the story, can their destinies finally be realized.


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