Thursday, 23 September 2010

Confessions of a Celebrity Manager

OK so Celebrity Managers are a bit of a misunderstood bunch and there have been more than a few clashes between PRs/Media/Celebrities and Celebrity Managers over the years. But they are a very hard working bunch - and lets face it, they deal with a breed of person that can be um...tricky to say the least...on a daily basis. Considering the grizzly celebrity experiences many PRs have had, if you actually think about it we should perhaps all hug a Celebrity Manager today. So what really pisses them off?

First, a definition of the difference between a Manager and an Agent:
A Talent Manager overseas the entire career of an actor/personality and a Talent Agent sends them out to auditions. Agents are primarily for actors, who usually have both a Manager (In Entourage, it's E) and an Agent (Ari Gold). A media personality would generally only require a Manager.

Celeb Managers vs PRs
Alot of PRs believe the invitations they send to managers and agents never actually make it into the celebrities hands - an unfortunate reality that has been proven to me personally too many times throughout my career. But I am pleased to report that there are ones who send them on every time. At one particular agency in Sydney it's company policy to send an email to their talent listing the events they've been invited to, and if the invitation is particularly spectacular they are forwarded on by post. This agent says however that they are tired of being blamed if the celebrity is a no-show. She insists that they love seeing their talent in the papers as much as we PRs do but they have no control over what they attend - "We control their careers - not their lives."

This manager cites an occasion when two of her talent were invited to a marquee at the races, and herself and the owner of the agency were also invited to come along with them. On the day the talent didn't show, and the PR kept harassing them as to when the talent would be showing up. Eventually, the star texted to say one was ill and they weren't coming - and since then the PR won't respond to any emails from the manager, believing that she only used her star's name to get into the marquee. "It can be very frustrating - don't blame us when our client screws up! We do our best, but there's only so much we can do."

*Tip: It's recommended PRs always send an email version of their invitation to the agency so that it can be forward onto the celebrity - thus showcasing the style of the event much more clearly that a one liner in an email from their manager.

*Tip: It's probably best to stop calling agencies and asking if their talent will be attending your event. They pass the invites on (we hope), but they don't act as their social conduit - meaning unless you hear from the celebrity themselves, assume they aint comin'. Your best bet is to develop your celebrity relationships as best you can and you'll get their home address, cutting out the middle man once and for all.
A pet peeve of one top Sydney Celeb Manager is the standard line she hears from PRs: "there's no fee, but this is great PR for your client". At the end of the day, they work on commission and many PRs forget this.
Celeb Managers vs Media
One Sydney agent told me that a gossip journo directly contacted one of their talent and asked to build a relationship with her and tell her the truth about all the rumours. When the celebrity asked the journo if she could please go through her manager for any questions, the journalist replied with a harsh email about the star's stupidity and how she had just made a very big mistake by not sitting down and talking with her…The agent says “the journos need to build a relationship with the Manager as it will be much more beneficial to them. The Manager will then sometimes give them the first hint of a juicy story, the big scoop and off the record information.”
Another grumble is when the tabloids get the information wrong about clients: "Nobody fact-checks these days. A journalist calling a manager of the person they're about to do a story on should be the first thing they do, so at least when they say “this rumour was denied by management” you know they've done their research if they run the fact-less story anyway."

Celeb Managers vs Celebs
It's here we need to perhaps be more understanding of the trials that Talent Managers go through. As was clear from my previous blog "Celebrity Meltdowns", you would be hard pressed to find a PR in this town who doesn't have at least one horror story about a holier-than-thou celebrity they've worked with, so spare a thought for the people who have to put up with bad behaviour on a daily basis. This is NOT to say that all celebrities are badly behaved, but when I sent a request to all my favourite agencies for input for this blog - the one thing they all sang in unison was that dealing with celebrities is HARD WORK. Comments range from "trying to control a celebrity is like trying to control a child. It can't be done" to "it is very rare to find a celebrity who isn't 100% selfish" to "the majority of celebrity clients are driven by greed and ego and often resent that you take commission."
One Sydney manager once represented a celeb who was calling the office asking questions about a job they had done for a corporate DVD a while back. The client had taken the money to do the DVD in lean times. What the manager later found out was that the client was doing a deal on the side with a competitor for a decent sum of money and it didn’t suit them to have the DVD still in circulation, and had no intention of paying commission. She says: "Needless to say we weren’t thrilled and quickly came to a settlement and parted company. You can’t work with clients who don’t want to work with you."
One female celeb client demanded that a promotional banner featuring the endorsement of another female celeb client be removed from the company meeting room. The banner was duly removed prior to all meetings with this particular client (and then put back up). And, "our staff made sure they never crossed paths in the office." Ooh...don't you just wanna know who it was? ;)
A huge bug-bear for managers is celebrities being unappreciative. Some spend weeks, months and years waiting for hard work and good reputation to convert into new business – which is fantastic when it does, but if it doesn’t the client won’t admit it could have something to do with the market simply not being interested in them. "In the client’s opinion, it is because we as Agents are not doing our job."
And my favourite is of course the delusional 'celebrity': "Upon hearing that national treasure Brian Henderson was retiring from the National Nine News, a reality TV star who had been known for about 5 minutes once suggested they should be put forward as a viable replacement."
Advice to Celebrities
It's apparently often very clear to managers who is going to make it and who won't - and alot of it comes down to attitude. One agent states that there are regular exceptions to the above 'celebrities are hard work' rule, and that the best client relationships happen when expectations and egos are left at the door. Not surprsingly, she states many of these clients achieve great success and are happier personally.
Clients getting arrested can be tricky...especially if there is CCTV footage of the lewd act they got caught engaging in. Imagine sitting a client down together with the Executive Producer of the show they worked on and asking with straight faces, “This is not a time to lie to us otherwise we cannot work to protect you. Will that footage reveal you getting a blowjob in the middle of the main street?” Fun times.
So is it all blood, sweat & tears for these hardworking folk? No. One says that despite the hard times, “I wouldn’t change this job for the world. It can be so much fun, has a lot of perks, you make great connections, get the inside dirty goss about the rich & famous, go to fab events and on occasion when you do get the gratitude you deserve, it’s amazing”.
Could you do it? xxx

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