Tuesday, April 07, 2015
CAA vs. UTA -- Hollywood's REAL game of thrones
I'm quite happy where I am. Both my TV and theatrical agent are terrific.
Next question we in the industry ask is “Which side am I rooting for?” Me? UTA. Not just because they’re my agency, but because in all the years I’ve been in the business, clearly the worst representation I’ve ever had was my one horrible year with CAA.
Agents are supposed to help you shape the career you desire. CAA decides how best you could suit their plans and steers you only in that direction. And often those plans are to benefit another more important client, not you. You need an agent to protect you from your real agent. You are merely a commodity to be packaged at their whim. Oh, and their parking is really shitty.
CAA is outraged by this UTA poaching and have reacted with a flurry of lawsuits. This tells me they’re really pissed, which only fuels the citywide schadenfreude. Outraged CAA executives call this a “lawless midnight raid.” Uh… isn’t that how they started? Same with Endeavor. That’s how it works in the piranha tank.
Obviously, CAA’s policies have been met with some disagreement among its “foot soldiers” (that’s how one-time CAA chief Mike Ovitz referred to his highly valued agents – foot soldiers). Agents rarely change tenpercenteries based on artwork.
What’s tough is if you’re a client of one of these defecting agents. Especially if you have two agents – one for TV and one for film. Do you go with the departing agent or stay with the remaining agent? First of all, most clients are initially pissed. Why? They hear about the upheaval after the fact, usually via the media. So they’re completely blindsided.
But agents need to be very stealth and letting one client know, even in secrecy, invariably leads to the lead story on that night’s ET.
So once the word is on the street then it’s the mad scramble of agents trying to persuade their clients to follow them or stay put. For that five second window the client is in a position of power. The agents court and promise the moon. Once the client makes his decision and signs, the promises are all forgotten or ignored, but the client has to be an idiot to believe the promises in the first place.
What will the end result be to viewers and moviegoers? Nothing. Hollywood weathers these seismic changes every few years. Agencies merge, split off, have coups, but it’s the same pieces just repositioned on the same chessboard.
For now though, CAA (also known affectionately as the Death Star) is reeling. Yes, they’re still making billions in profits but not as many. But in the backrooms I’m sure the CAA top brass are plotting their next movw. “Who can we get to break into UTA and steal their artwork?”