By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
The UTA offices, at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, are sleek, modern and hushed, save for the clattering of fingers on keyboards. Silent assistants lined up like schoolchildren in a row of desks listen to headsets permanently grafted to their ears. The senior agents sit across from them in offices behind a wall of glass. At times, it isn’t clear who’s watching whom.
Only one or two out of several hundred trainees get through the system to become agents, and the ones who “make it onto desks” are, like puppies, simultaneously put upon and cherished — the agency mantra is that they like to “grow their own” agents. Trainees spend months in the mailroom waiting to get promoted to assistants, who then wait to be promoted to departmental assistants, who then wait to be promoted to agents. The dress code is formal — there are no casual Fridays. Each day I run into young men in long-sleeved button-up shirts and ties, pushing mail carts along a specified route, a demoralizing task that serves the dual purpose of letting you know where you stand in the Hollywood pecking order (nowhere) and teaching you to put agent names with faces and desks.
At his job interview, Nadler was grilled by then-senior UTA agent Marty Bowen, who was Charlie Kaufman’s agent and whom actor Ron Livingston plays in the movie Adaptation. “Great suit,” Bowen said to him. “You look like an agent. You’re gonna do well here. But what’s with the tie? That’s an ugly, terrible tie.” Nadler tells the story with glee: “It was my A-outfit. The suit and the tie couldn’t possibly part ways. Then, on my first day, when I was pushing the mail cart, I got to Marty’s office. He saw me and said, ‘Wait a minute, you little fucker. Didn’t I tell you not to wear that tie?’ ” Bowen grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the tie off.
Nadler smiles at the memory. “It was the best thing that could have happened to me. I told my mom about it, and she was like, ‘I don’t know about this, Jason, I don’t know about this industry you’re in.’ But it wound up being the talk of the office for a good year afterward. Every time people saw me, they would joke about it. It broke the ice, and people got to know me.”
Much later on, after they’d become friends, Nadler had Bowen write on a slip of paper, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have,” which he plans to frame, along with the tie, and hang over his desk.
How do you marry the glam, shark-infested, image-conscious, schmoozing world of the Tinseltown talent agent with the world of Internet geeks, dorks and nerds? Truth be told, those distinctions are fast becoming outmoded. One is just as savvy as the other about those respective worlds: In the messy playing field that is the Internet, neither party can afford to regard the other with disdain. Convergence applies not only to the fusion of all forms of entertainment — television, music, print, film, online video — but to the people and desires driving those technologies. Genres, in every sense of the word, are merging.
Nadler and company’s newish-looking office occupies valuable corner real estate with large windows and great light, yet it is filled with IKEA tables, high-tech swivel chairs and a squashy orange sofa. For the moment, the sofa is serving as Zimelis’ desk — such was the speed with which he’d been hired away from the rival Gersh agency in Beverly Hills that he hadn’t yet acquired any furniture.
A sticker stuck to the aluminum in/outbox on Garese’s desk — overflowing with issues of The Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety — implores, “Stop laughing. Computers are cool now.” On Nadler’s desk, next to a book titled Take Charge of Your Mind: Core Skills to Enhance Your Performance, Well-Being and Integrity at Work, there is a bag of dried plums, a bottle of vitamins, a tube of sunscreen and some Garbage Pail Kids Pee Chee folders.
“I think the book is a gift from someone,” Zimelis says. “I don’t think Nadler’s actually trying to take charge of his mind. He’s got a pretty good sense of what’s going on in his mind.”
The first time I meet them, the agents are playing Guitar Hero, jamming on the guitar-shaped video-game controllers. The phone rings — a call from a client — and in a flash, Nadler is off the guitar. When he hangs up, he asks Zimelis, “Would those guys be interested in being our client’s mobile distributor?” referring to a well-known telecommunications company. (He can’t tell me the name of the company or the client for fear of jinxing the deal.)
“I don’t know the answer,” says Zimelis.
“That’s my little project for the week, to figure out our client’s mobile play,” Nadler muses, rocking back in his chair.
The day unfurls in a small symphony of similar phone conversations, ?e-mail conversations, instant-message conversations, hallway and elevator conversations, conversations with assistants and managers and producers and buyers. The guys schedule lunches, breakfasts and drinks after work. There are conferences with executives, with old clients, new clients, potential clients and clients from other parts of the agency.