Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Are the Qualitative Aspects of Establishing a Talent Agency?

As our [East West Players] coordinator Ming Lo concludes interviews with “qualitative” interviewees, he muses on the right-brain, left-brain divide:

In our modern culture, much has been made of the “right-brain” vs. “left-brain” differences – that is, the artistic and the intuitive (right brain) vs. the logical and rational (left brain). I happen to think that there’s no reason that we should all be capable of both, but sometimes, it seems that society doesn’t really agree. Many people adamantly declare themselves to be one or the other. Artists violently shy away from math and shudder at the thought of business. Meanwhile scientists, doctors and accountants would rather take the SATs again than stand in front of an audience and do a monologue.

Our goal is to figure out whether it makes sense to set up an Asian talent agency in Los Angeles – a question that mixes the artistic with bottom-line thinking. To come to a conclusion, you have to look at the qualitative side (Do actors want to be part of such an agency? Does it fill a market need?) as well as the nuts and bolts numbers (How much is office space for an agency? How much is the phone bill?).

The challenge is, sometimes, people are qualitative or quantitative, but rarely both.

There was the agent’s assistant. She’d worked in various agencies for many years, and so I asked her, “Any idea what the rent is for an agent’s office, or some of the other expenses?” Her reply: “You know, I hear these numbers all the time, but they just don’t register.”

Process has an impact on the outcome. So, I asked a casting executive at a network, “So, how does the casting process work at your studio?” I thought it was a very basic question, but the answer was another question: “What does that have to do with your question [about whether it makes sense to establish an Asian agency]?”

In the interviews, I say, “I’d like to ask about your background.” Twice, the reply was, “Why is that important?”

This thing always remind me, what’s obvious and makes sense to one person, often does not to another. A bit of a challenge, but makes the process interesting.
Ming’s next steps will include more “quantitative” side questions—researching successful 501c3 models that blend for-profit with non-profit and meeting with our finance/legal team for “nuts and bolts” of the proposed business plan.

--Lisa Tang, East West Players

1 comment:

  1. The reason why they don't want to answer the question about their backgrounds is because casting agents are rarely ever qualified to be doing what they do. They are communications majors that are enamored by stars and were willing to suffer as office assistants for years.