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  • How Do You Land a Literary Agent?

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    Lucy Stille

    APA Literary Agent, Lucy Stille

    One of the most difficult challenges for screenwriters coming out of film school is landing the right agent — or any agent for that matter. To clue our students in on how this process works and how truly competitive the screenwriting market is, producer Tova Laiter invited Lucy Stille, a prolific literary agent. Lucy has represented storytellers in the film and television business since 1985. Her clients include writer/directors John Sayles and Raymond DeFelitta, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Nilo Cruz and bestselling authors Dean Koontz, David Baldacci, Tami Hoag and Erik Larson.

    She began her career at Playwrights Horizons in New York, and went on to work as a publishing agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and ran the boutique agency Schorr, Stille before helping to create the Paradigm agency in 1993. During her twenty years at Paradigm, she helped it grow from a boutique agency into the fifth largest agency in Hollywood.

    In 2008, Paradigm asked Lucy to return to New York to develop new voices for film and television as well as seek out underlying literary material that could be the basis for film and tv series. She’s currently working with APA, a talent agency that represent a number of well known actors, writers, comedians, and filmmakers.

    lucy stille at nyfa

    Producing Co-Chair, Nick Yellen and Screenwriting Chair, Melanie Oram with Lucy Stille

    Lucy provided insight into Hollywood like no other guest speaker before. She didn’t hold anything back, letting students know the harsh realities of the business of Hollywood. The system will be churning out the same stories for years and years to come. As writers, it’s your job to provide a unique voice and tell that story in a completely fresh and interesting way. “I’m looking for distinctive new voices,” said Lucy Stille. “We also want people who are good in a room, and people we enjoy talking to.”

    After all, writers and agents may have to be on the phone daily — who wants to talk to a complete bore with no personality? She did add that pitching is a skill that can be taught if the writer’s material is strong enough.

    For all of our student writers, Lucy recommended building a strong portfolio of material that showcases your best genre and, as a director, have a short film that ‘blows people away’. While all of these aspects are easier said than done, she also admits it is crucial to network. So while you’re working on your next masterpiece, be sure to befriend the students around you, because one day they may be the agent or producer you need to pitch to.

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    November 5, 2014 • Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 8348

  • Renowned Manager/Producer Ben Press Speaks at NYFA Los Angeles

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    Ben Press

    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!”

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    March 14, 2014 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 7543

  • Randall Emmett Recounts His Journey to Mega-Producer Status

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    Emmett

    Producer Randall Emmett

    Last week, prolific film producer, Randall Emmett spoke to New York Film Academy students, providing them with some valuable insider Hollywood advice. Beforehand, Randall screened his most recently released film, Escape Plan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, which premiered only four days before. The film, with its mega-star personas and epic action scenes, was a good compliment to a larger than life producer like Randall Emmett.

    Randall has produced over seventy feature films and has at any time five films in different stages of production. With a reputation for packaging movies and getting them made, Emmett’s films have been both box office ‘hits’ and acclaimed works, debuting at Sundance, Berlin and Toronto, with many nominated for Independent Spirit Awards. Randall’s films include 2 Guns (starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg), End of Watch (starring Jake Gyllenhaal), Righteous Kill (starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro), 88 Minutes, The Amityville Horror, and Narc among many.

    As a kid, Randall was obsessed with acting and would make short films with the family’s home video camera on the weekends. After spending a summer in high school as a PA on a movie set, Randall realized he wanted to work behind the camera and decided to attend film school in New York for college. In a sea of aspiring directors, Randall was the only student who wanted to produce. At the time, producing didn’t really exist as a discipline or specialty, so Randall learned through “trail by fire.” Starting in his sophomore year, he produced an abundance of his senior classmates’ thesis projects, offering to deliver their films for five thousand dollars. Randall would go to extremes, far beyond the efforts of the average film student to get the best equipment rates, locations, and actors for his director. He would wear numerous hats to finish the film, acting as producer, AD, production manager, casting director, etc.

    Randall described the incredible amount of work he performed in school not as a burden, but a “magical experience,” because he was so in love with filmmaking. In his senior year, Randall took the highly unconventional route and chose to make a feature for his thesis. He wanted to leave school with what he believed would be a real product. Randall and his thesis team asked everyone for money, scraping together about twenty-five thousand dollars to make the film. Shooting a feature on 16mm film for such little money was a huge feat at the time, but Randall pulled it off. After moving to Los Angeles, he actually sold the film he made in college.

    The famous Aaron Spelling, a mentor of Randall’s, encouraged him to work at an agency. Although Randall was opposed to working in an office, he took this advice and worked at ICM. This proved to be invaluable experience as he learned how agencies, the center of Hollywood’s universe, operated. Meanwhile, he met Mark Wahlberg through an acquaintance. They hit it off and became friends, because they both shared a passion for movies. Later, Randall left ICM and took a job Mark Wahlberg offered him to be his personal assistant. The show Entourage, which Mark Wahlberg created, is based on his crazy life with Randall as he was a rising movie star in Hollywood.

    Randall had been trying to package movies throughout his time in Los Angeles. After he finished his assistant work with Mark Wahlberg, Randall found himself broke and sleeping on his friend’s couch in his late twenties. At this point he had been led astray countless times by “investors” that ended up never having a penny to their name. However, Randall didn’t give up, and finally met George Furla who ended up funding his first feature in Los Angeles. They have been producing partners ever since.

    Randall’s story is one of the underdog independent producers that now dominate Hollywood. His main message to students was to always believe in yourself no matter what level you’re at. This type of excitement attracts others and opens doors. It was Randall’s extreme positive energy that had students falling in love with him all evening as he told his story. Randall Emmett is just one of those people who you want to see succeed and we wish him continued success in the future.

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    October 30, 2013 • Guest Speakers, Producing • Views: 26205

  • Literary Agent Says TV is Where it’s At

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    melinda jason

    Once again, producer Tova Laiter put together an exclusive event for New York FIlm Academy students in Los Angeles. One of the toughest obstacles coming out of film or acting school is landing the right agent — or landing any agent for that matter. Given the full house at Warner Bros, Theater 4 for this event, students were anxious to get some inside information from Melinda Jason and her business partner Simon Ore. Melinda is a prominent literary agent at Conspiracy LLC – with her partner Simon Ore – a production and management company based in Los Angeles. As a former lawyer at 20th Century Fox and former Head of Literary Department at Gersh, Melinda has also established producing deals with Universal Television, Disney and Sony Pictures, and has produced five feature films. Some of the talent she is most famous for discovering are Michael J. Fox, Dean Pitchford (writer of Footloose), Ron Bass (writer of Rain Man and My Best Friend’s Wedding), and David Saperstein, whose manuscript Cocoon she sold to Fox. Melinda and Simon Ore are currently developing an animated series, several feature films, and several television pilots, including one in partnership with Producer Nick Welchsler (The Road, Requiem For A Dream, Sex, Lies & Videotape, Drugstore Cowboy).

    Melinda wasted no time in getting straight to the point, “In order to get yourself out there nowadays you have to be a great writer, get a producer, make content and create experiences!” Melinda, who has a first look deal with Fox Television, thinks television is where it’s at today. “TV is great now, it’s on a higher level intellectually, you can get your writers paid and once they are respected there they really get to show what they’ve got. These writers really think, they do research. The arch is different than in film, the characters have a lot of potential. TV is about being strategic.” Melinda clearly cares about her writers.

    Simon spoke in terms of what young writers tend to do when getting off the ground. “Sell your passion!” exclaimed Simon. “Once you are in, find the happy medium in compromising with your work.” Don’t sell out, don’t be unreasonable and inflexible.

    Melinda continued on, saying how a good writer must constantly read. “Read good stuff and bad stuff, lots of it. Go to places like www.simplyscripts.com and do the work.” Simon added that a writer needs to be patient. “Some of it is not over when you’re done. Take a break. Come back to it.”

    One thing the pair really stressed is how in today’s market, writers need to MAKE CONTENT! “Create something, put it on the internet.” However, once you get the ball rolling with credibility, it is important to know where content belongs. “Know the networks, they want different things,” said Melinda. “You have to know where content could live.”

    Her final words of advice, “You have to be really careful to never make a choice based on money. Follow your passion. You must feel strongly about it!”

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    September 27, 2013 • Film School, Filmmaking, Guest Speakers, Screenwriting • Views: 7466