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But on the Internet, John Doe can easily make JohnDoe.com. “The reason why portals are willing to give up a portion of their ad sales is because there’s always going to be option No. 1 on the Internet,” Nadler says, pointing to the model where creators go out and get advertising on their own. “These Internet content creators have the power to go right to the audience, who are the ultimate judge and jury. And there is money to be made if you can ratchet up the counts.” In reality, that is easier said than done. Because how do you then promote your show? How do you get people to see it? Who’s auditing your deals? Who’s checking to see how many people visit the site and determining the advertising rates? That is business stuff that the funny dudes filming videos in their parents’ living room don’t want to deal with.
The entire system, which Nadler finishes diagramming with relish, is complex enough to give me a migraine. The online agent, however, revels in the delicate Calder mobile scaffolding of “compensation structures” and “deficit financing” and “monetization of value.” He eats this kind of complexity for breakfast. Or lunch.
It is a hot, muggy night in downtown San Diego, where the annual Comic-Con is in full frenzy. UTA Online is throwing a cocktail party with its client Oni Press, a comics publisher responsible for titles like Jason & the Argobots and Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen Adventures. Nadler, Garese, Zimelis and Reber stake out a strategic table on the patio of the chic and trendy Luna Lounge, where a strikingly beautiful waitress delivers cold bottles of beer. Loungy, trippy hip-hop music spills out of the open door as more beautiful people slink through the velvet rope. Nadler is excited about having made contact at the convention with Spike of Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival. “They have a whole archive of videos dating back 20 years. But they haven’t explored their full potential online yet,” he says. As people fall in line to get in, the guys keep up a running narration of who is there — fellow agents, former fellow agents, the rapper Xzibit and his crew, the cast of Heroes, a pretty blond girl who we think is actress Kate Bosworth but turns out to be model Jamie King. “Barrett’s here,” says Nadler. “And he’s brought a friend. And she’s cute.”
“No way,” says Zimelis, turning to look at her.
“Comic-Con was interesting,” says Garese, taking a seat. “Obi-Wan Kenobi called me ‘bitch’ when I accidentally stepped on his foot.”
An agent at an industry party is never just at the party. He or she is always working the angles, consciously or not. Good schmoozers, it is said, are good listeners. Nadler, Zimelis, Garese and Reber are great listeners.
“Schmoozing means saying hello to everybody in the room that you know. It’s part of meeting the client’s needs,” Garese tells me. “There are 10 or 12 parties happening simultaneously right now, and these people, many of whom don’t even live in San Diego, could be at any one of those. But they’re here. They have come out just to be at this party. You let them know that you appreciate that.” All the way down the block, people flit from one bar and restaurant to another. Girls in short dresses and teetering stilettos alight from cabs and hop onto sidewalks at an alarming rate.
“No, that’s not it for me,” Nadler says, returning to the table after saying hello to some people he knows. “Primarily, schmoozing means saying hello only to the people I need to say hello to. Of course, you’re gracious, you say hello to whoever says hello to you, you’re never rude.” As he’s getting ready to go out, he figures out what his battle plan is for the evening. Nadler’s agenda for that night is to say hello to Masi Oka, who plays the time-traveling Hiro Nakamura on Heroes. He will wait for somebody he knows to be talking to Oka, then go up to that person and join in on the conversation, a smoother scenario than introducing oneself out of the blue — though he is prepared to do that too, if necessary. Oka isn’t yet a UTA client, but they want him to be. In the near future, Nadler will be sitting in on a signing meeting with Oka and other people from the agency, with Nadler representing the online division and all it has to offer. I say that it seems like a lot of preamble and a long way to drive to make one contact and say hello to one person as a preface to one future meeting. But those are the lengths to which they will go for their clients. Moreover, everybody seems to have his own interpretation of exactly how to schmooze those clients.
“It’s a gray area, no doubt,” Garese concedes, his eyes never leaving the growing line. “For me, it’s about making people feel welcome. Making them feel comfortable. How do you learn that? You learn it when the next day after a party, people come up to you and say, ‘Where were you, dude? I was there. I didn’t see you.’ ”