Digital Expertise Now Required for Talent Agents

Pioneering Hollywood agent Brent Weinstein says innovation “about being fearless.”

Brent Weinstein United Talent Agency

"Technology enables. It opens doors. It breaks down barriers. It allows people to do things that they just couldn’t do before," said Brent Weinstein, head of digital media at United Talent Agency.

Talent agencies aren’t just publicist houses anymore as clients no longer are seeking representation just to help land a movie or TV role. They’re looking for expertise in what Brent Weinstein calls the “digital space,” a vast area that includes online entertainment, social media, video games and the practice of digital consulting. As head of digital media at United Talent Agency, one of the largest such firms in the world, Weinstein is responsible for a portfolio that also doesn’t resemble the past. Alongside the traditional clientele of actors, writers, directors and recording artists are emerging technology companies and corporate brands in a variety of industries, including intellectual property, computer and video games and entertainment marketing.

From UTA’s offices in Beverly Hills and New York, Weinstein and his team often forego the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to work with companies ranging from early-stage startups all the way up to large public and private corporations. The man who started UTA’s broadband division in 2006, immediately making the agency a pioneer in this area, recently shared his thoughts on the convergence of technology and entertainment.

What has mobility done for the entertainment industry?

I think the ability to connect directly to audiences is going to open up a lot of avenues. You’re seeing recent artists like Louis C.K. taking their projects directly to the masses as opposed to going through traditional distribution companies. In that case it was very successful for him. I think that you’re going to see a lot of artists and creators and companies figure out ways to go directly to their consumers through mobile devices.

I also think you’re going to see a version of entertainment specific to mobile begin to develop. I believe that film is a very different medium for television, and there are people who have been incredibly successful in film that haven’t been as successful in television because it’s so different, and vice-versa. There are some people who are unbelievably talented and successful in television who haven’t been able to translate their skill set to film. I think digital media, and specifically mobile, is as different from film and television as they are from each other.

And I think that over the next several years, we’re going to see artists emerge and companies emerge that really have figured out how to harness the specific nuances, opportunities and maybe even limitations of mobility in order to create the real paradigm for how to be successful on that platform. And those people will make a lot of money.

And a lot of empowerment for both sides?

I think that the innovation that comes out of the tech side certainly enables the consumer and empowers them to do things that they weren’t able to do before, which in turn changes demand and consumption. When a couple guys created YouTube, it changed the way that people viewed content on the Internet. It changed the ease in which they could access it, which in turn changed the expectations of the audience. Now you expect to be able to go online and find anything you want with the click of a button, which in turn is leading to more innovation and Hulu and things like that.

What are the big shifts with regard to mobility and entertainment?

I think the two biggest changes in media today are the notions of control — being able to access content anytime, anyplace, on any device. That access still isn’t great today, but I think that we’re seeing it become better and I think that once it becomes easy for everybody, we’ll truly be at the dawn of a new age. The other main issue that we deal with on a day-to-day basis is choice.

So if control allows people to access their content in a way that’s most convenient to them, choice is about having more options than ever before. Years ago, it was three broadcast networks. Then it became a handful of cable channels. Then it became a lot of cable channels. And now with the Internet and really with innovative things like YouTube’s new original programming strategy, the number of offerings for audiences and consumers and the way those things are really broken down into really specific interest group and niches, it’s really fantastic.

It used to be that you had no Food Network, and then there was the Food Network. And now you can have the Omelet Network or the Souffle Network or the Dessert Network. I think that the abundance of choice is going to be a massive theme over the next few years.

Which aspect of these changes do you find most inspiring?

The thing that I’m most inspired by is the innovation that as a country we seem to continue churning out. Back in 2006, everyone thought mobile phones were one thing, and companies spent billions and billions of dollars in R&D and manufacturing and marketing and distribution for flip phones, where everyone was arguing about how to get content on the deck, right? And then Apple introduced the iPhone, and in an instant it changed the way we thought about mobility, mobile entertainment, interacting with one another. It also introduced this new environment called apps, which in turn allowed for a multibillion-dollar industry for people who create apps for a variety of purposes. I think the fact that we live in a society that allows people and companies to innovate in that way, to literally change the world overnight, when they get it right is something that’s inspiring.

What does it mean to be innovative?

I think that it’s about being fearless. I think it’s about looking at the status quo, about the way it’s always been, and not being afraid to completely tear apart. I think when you look at some of the most innovative things that have come into the marketplace, it has been things that completely and radically changed the status quo. So I don’t think innovation is about iteration. I think innovation is, in a weird way, about destruction of what existed before in order to build a better mousetrap.

Is mobility or technology, in general, helping our hurting creativity?

My opinion is that maybe in the history of mankind, nothing has enabled creativity the way that technology has. Technology enables. It opens doors. It breaks down barriers. It allows people to do things that they just couldn’t do before, and I could give probably hundreds of examples. But I believe that technology and the innovation that comes from technology are going to help push the media business forward, and I think it absolutely is a good thing.

Digital Expertise Now Required for Talent Agents

Pioneering Hollywood agent Brent Weinstein says innovation “about being fearless.”

Brent Weinstein United Talent Agency

"Technology enables. It opens doors. It breaks down barriers. It allows people to do things that they just couldn’t do before," said Brent Weinstein, head of digital media at United Talent Agency.

Talent agencies aren’t just publicist houses anymore as clients no longer are seeking representation just to help land a movie or TV role. They’re looking for expertise in what Brent Weinstein calls the “digital space,” a vast area that includes online entertainment, social media, video games and the practice of digital consulting. As head of digital media at United Talent Agency, one of the largest such firms in the world, Weinstein is responsible for a portfolio that also doesn’t resemble the past. Alongside the traditional clientele of actors, writers, directors and recording artists are emerging technology companies and corporate brands in a variety of industries, including intellectual property, computer and video games and entertainment marketing.

From UTA’s offices in Beverly Hills and New York, Weinstein and his team often forego the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to work with companies ranging from early-stage startups all the way up to large public and private corporations. The man who started UTA’s broadband division in 2006, immediately making the agency a pioneer in this area, recently shared his thoughts on the convergence of technology and entertainment.

What has mobility done for the entertainment industry?

I think the ability to connect directly to audiences is going to open up a lot of avenues. You’re seeing recent artists like Louis C.K. taking their projects directly to the masses as opposed to going through traditional distribution companies. In that case it was very successful for him. I think that you’re going to see a lot of artists and creators and companies figure out ways to go directly to their consumers through mobile devices.

I also think you’re going to see a version of entertainment specific to mobile begin to develop. I believe that film is a very different medium for television, and there are people who have been incredibly successful in film that haven’t been as successful in television because it’s so different, and vice-versa. There are some people who are unbelievably talented and successful in television who haven’t been able to translate their skill set to film. I think digital media, and specifically mobile, is as different from film and television as they are from each other.

And I think that over the next several years, we’re going to see artists emerge and companies emerge that really have figured out how to harness the specific nuances, opportunities and maybe even limitations of mobility in order to create the real paradigm for how to be successful on that platform. And those people will make a lot of money.

And a lot of empowerment for both sides?

I think that the innovation that comes out of the tech side certainly enables the consumer and empowers them to do things that they weren’t able to do before, which in turn changes demand and consumption. When a couple guys created YouTube, it changed the way that people viewed content on the Internet. It changed the ease in which they could access it, which in turn changed the expectations of the audience. Now you expect to be able to go online and find anything you want with the click of a button, which in turn is leading to more innovation and Hulu and things like that.

What are the big shifts with regard to mobility and entertainment?

I think the two biggest changes in media today are the notions of control — being able to access content anytime, anyplace, on any device. That access still isn’t great today, but I think that we’re seeing it become better and I think that once it becomes easy for everybody, we’ll truly be at the dawn of a new age. The other main issue that we deal with on a day-to-day basis is choice.

So if control allows people to access their content in a way that’s most convenient to them, choice is about having more options than ever before. Years ago, it was three broadcast networks. Then it became a handful of cable channels. Then it became a lot of cable channels. And now with the Internet and really with innovative things like YouTube’s new original programming strategy, the number of offerings for audiences and consumers and the way those things are really broken down into really specific interest group and niches, it’s really fantastic.

It used to be that you had no Food Network, and then there was the Food Network. And now you can have the Omelet Network or the Souffle Network or the Dessert Network. I think that the abundance of choice is going to be a massive theme over the next few years.

Which aspect of these changes do you find most inspiring?

The thing that I’m most inspired by is the innovation that as a country we seem to continue churning out. Back in 2006, everyone thought mobile phones were one thing, and companies spent billions and billions of dollars in R&D and manufacturing and marketing and distribution for flip phones, where everyone was arguing about how to get content on the deck, right? And then Apple introduced the iPhone, and in an instant it changed the way we thought about mobility, mobile entertainment, interacting with one another. It also introduced this new environment called apps, which in turn allowed for a multibillion-dollar industry for people who create apps for a variety of purposes. I think the fact that we live in a society that allows people and companies to innovate in that way, to literally change the world overnight, when they get it right is something that’s inspiring.

What does it mean to be innovative?

I think that it’s about being fearless. I think it’s about looking at the status quo, about the way it’s always been, and not being afraid to completely tear apart. I think when you look at some of the most innovative things that have come into the marketplace, it has been things that completely and radically changed the status quo. So I don’t think innovation is about iteration. I think innovation is, in a weird way, about destruction of what existed before in order to build a better mousetrap.

Is mobility or technology, in general, helping our hurting creativity?

My opinion is that maybe in the history of mankind, nothing has enabled creativity the way that technology has. Technology enables. It opens doors. It breaks down barriers. It allows people to do things that they just couldn’t do before, and I could give probably hundreds of examples. But I believe that technology and the innovation that comes from technology are going to help push the media business forward, and I think it absolutely is a good thing.