Students were thrilled to hear renowned manager and producer Ben Press speak this past Monday at New York Film Academy Los Angeles’s School for Acting. Ben’s radiant energy spread through the packed room as he entertained and enlightened students with stories from the Hollywood agency world and solid career advice to those starting out in the industry. Manager/Producer Ben Press started as assistant to legendary ICM agent Ed Limato and his roster of stars: Richard Gere, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Anthony Hopkins, Steve Martin, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando among others. As Paradigm Talent Department Co-Head, Ben packaged America’s Next Top Model, produced/hosted by Tyra Banks and negotiated the $1.5 million talent holding deal for William Baldwin (one of the industry’s most lucrative). Ben now manages clients Elle Macpherson, Rick Yune, Jennifer Esposito, as well as Taylor Swift’s future feature film acting career.
Ben press never thought he’d work in entertainment. Off a whim and recommendation from a college friend, he landed an interview at ICM, one of the industry’s top agencies. The tradition in Hollywood agencies is to always start from the bottom. After nailing his interview with ICM, Ben did just that; his first job was literally working in the mailroom and pushing a cart. Being accepted into the agent trainee program at top agencies such as ICM, CAA and UTA, however, is a highly sought after position as mailroom workers are likely to be promoted within the company. Whereas the traditional route is to slowly climb the agency ladder, Ben took a different approach. Legendary ICM agent Ed Limato was who Ben wanted to work for and he didn’t want to wait in line to get that job. Ben convinced Mr. Limato’s current assistant to allow him to come into the office early and help him organize and plan for the day. This way Ben would know the ins and out of Ed Limato’s office and be prepared when his opportunity came. The way Ben Press’s opportunity did come is a twist of fate so far-fetched it’s hard to believe even within the context of Hollywood’s crazy world. Because of his determined nature, Ben had already made a name for himself at ICM in the short time he was there and landed an interview for the job of Ed Limato’s assistant when his former assistant was leaving. Ben was wary of his chances of getting the job, because he seemed to be the candidate with the least amount of experience. Soon after his interview, Ben came across a female agent trainee who had collapsed in the mailroom and wasn’t breathing. Luckily he had just learned CPR and immediately began performing it on her as he ordered the other trainee’s to call 911. Ben ended up saving the woman’s life. When Ed Limato got wind of the fact that Ben Press had saved someone’s life in the office he said, “I want THAT guy working for me!”
Ben worked for Ed Limato for three years, in which time he gained invaluable information about the agency world. Mr. Limato was regarded as a God among agents and his air and influence was of a level that just doesn’t exist anymore. The most important thing that Ben said he learned from Mr. Limato is to treat every client, whether they are big money earners or not, with the same love, respect, and dedication. This way, when the underdog actor or actress becomes a big name, they will remember you treated them like a star from the beginning and will always remain in your representation.
Ben got to where he is not just because he’s worked hard, but more importantly, because he’s worked smart. He say’s, “What’s more important than what you say ‘yes’ to, is what you say ‘no’ to. You’re defined by what you turn down.” Too often, Ben says, people try to do too much, and as a result they spread themselves too thin and are unable to succeed in any one area.
When it comes to actors, Ben realizes that they don’t always know what’s good for them. As a talent manager, Ben often has to play mind games with his clients to coax them into accepting roles that he knows will advance their careers. As the saying goes, “You can’t see the forest from the trees.” Ben provides the proper outside perspective they need to make the right decisions. For instance, Ben knows never to act too excited about a project he wants a client to do. If he’s too enthusiastic the client will pull away. Conversely, if a client thinks he is no longer being considered for a role he formerly didn’t want, he will suddenly want it. “They always want what they can’t have,” Ben says.
After a long time working as an agent, Ben Press has transitioned to working as a Manager at a production and representation company Evolution. Ben enjoys the variety his position at Evolution allows as he continues to do the job he loves of representing actors as well as produce movies. He is excited about his bright future at Evolution.
Perhaps the most useful bit of advice Ben gave students was that, “You’re in this industry to hit home runs. Swing for the fence, so when you do make contact, you’ll hit it big.” This is exactly what Ben has done with his home run career that he achieved by never holding back. We wish Ben Press continuing success as he continues to expand and further his career.