Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Is a Culturally Specific Talent Agency Too Risky?

The question of being too focused.

This past month Ming interviewed with the “nuts & bolts” folks: lawyers, financial auditors, etc. As he compiles his findings, we turn the musings of this blog to another thread that arose in his interviews so far: the idea that an APA [Asian Pacific American) specific agency may just be “too focused.” Take one interviewee (a director of casting). He compared the idea to investing in stocks. Ming reports his thoughts as follows, “…often, to reduce risk, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, you need to diversify.” So, would an APA specific agency be just that? Too focused, and thus too risky?

Another interviewee may just agree. This interviewee (an executive at a major agency who happens to be an ethnic minority and a supporter of East West Players) cites her years of experience in the agency trenches for these words of advice. “Information is power.” A mainstream agency may have more access to information (think: opportunities) simply by the nature of the range of projects that would come through their doors…er, or in these days, emails. So, would being APA specific, in fact, do our talent a disservice?

Of course, we have to pause at this; because the underlying implication is that casting directors will only turn to this agency for APA roles. It is a danger we have acknowledged; and one of the reasons we hope this model will also be an advocacy tool. Can we broaden this way of thinking? How can we also establish connections that will open lines to non-ethnic specific roles as well as deepen the quality of connections to APA roles?

One Answer: The talent. Another casting person advised: The key is to be selective [of talent] and to be clear with casting [directors] on whether a talent is ‘ready’ or still ‘developing.’ [See previous blog: It’s a relationship business. (duh)]. One network executive goes as far as noting that sometimes it doesn’t matter who the agency or management company is. What matters is that the talent [that they support or represent] ‘is committed to the craft.’

So, these are some of the questions now face…

Do we believe in the stock of APA talent? (Pun sheepishly intended.)

45 years of APA focused theatre may say something to that. (Incidentally, we ponder: What would people have said if our founders did a feasibility study on starting an APA focused theatre in 1965?)

Acknowledging that we face these unique challenges, how can we approach the modeling of an agency prototype to address (and thus mitigate) these issues straight on? This is to be answered in the next steps of our exploration.

We thank our interviewees thus far who have been generously candid, offered many wise words of advice, and helped us see more clearly possible obstacles.

--Lisa Tang, East West Players

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