Monday, November 1, 2010

Current Musings from Arts Education Director Marilyn Tokuda

Hi A-ha! Followers,

It’s been an interesting process from inception to this point in time. Ming Lo our chief researcher for our talent agency project continues to interview people. Our referrals along the way have been great resources. We have another interview this coming Monday with a man named Jerry Velasco. Jerry Velasco’s resume reflects his persistence in achieving his goals and has been successful in different careers including: producer, publicist, arts advocate, union organizer and as a personal manager. I like his mantra, “If you believe in what you are doing, you will achieve your goal. Si se puede!” (Yes, we can! Hm sounds familiar) As an Advocate for the Arts, the labor unions and Latinos in the Entertainment Industry, his work has brought tremendous hope and encouragement, especially within the U. S. Latino community. The reason I’m excited to talk to Jerry is because at one point he wanted to open a Latino specific talent agency and I’m anxious to find out why this didn’t materialize. This was many years ago so times and attitudes have changed.

On September 27 we had a teleconference with various artists, entertainment execs and community people. Ming Lo moderated the conversation. This was an opportunity to hear from potential actor clients as well as those who might hire our talent. Some of the issues addressed? Who would the agency benefit the most? Newbies, mid-career, veteran actors? Would an online national talent directory be more beneficial? Would there be a conflict of interest with East West Players (EWP) with regard to casting our mainstage productions? Would casting directors look at EWP agency as marginalized talent population? What would be the incentive for agents to stay? What are the benefits of being an all APA agency? How do people feel about non-Asians being represented? And what are the possibilities of partnering with another agency? As expected questions opened doors to new questions, new challenges and new opportunities!

Overall some of the conversation I found predictable. I went in thinking that while the agency would be a great place to cultivate new emerging talent, it would be a challenge to have veteran artists cross over. Why would anyone want to leave someone who was doing a great job for them (although actors are notorious for changing careers many times during their lifetime)? As predicted a recurring response that continually emerged was that the agency would probably best serve younger artists embarking on their careers. No surprise to me. The great idea that sprung from this response? Why not consider partnering with a bigger, well known and established agency that you can feed your artists into once they outgrow our agency? That was truly an A-ha! moment for me! This could be a great symbiotic relationship provided we find the right match. If I knew an agency that had a relationship with a well known and established agency and there was potential that I could one day make the leap to that agency…would I become a client? You bet! I don’t know how common this is in the agency world but it does exist. (Of course, Ming brings up very practical concerns on the feasibility of exploring these new ideas, given our time constraints and resources; but I will let him speak to that in his blog.)

My stomach is grumbling so I’m going to grab some lunch. I do look forward to letting you know how our conversation with Jerry Velasco goes so until next time…bye for now!

Marilyn Tokuda, Arts Education Director, East West Players

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