Women in Entertainment 2010 - Power 100 List
Sharon Jackson has lists. Hundreds of them. On her BlackBerry. On legal pads. On Post-Its. In her office. On her fridge. For just about everything, she’s made a list.
But the list that counts most for the obsessive agent is her clients, and she’s amassed a who’s-who of comedy stars, from big earners (Jack Black) to the quirky (Jason Schwartzman) to the unexpected (John C. Reilly) to ones who straddle film and TV, like How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel, for whom Jackson recently landed his longtime dream project: writing Disney’s relaunch of The Muppets.
"The through line for anyone I work with is that they literally have to move me."
So it’s strange that, in person, Jackson herself is actually quite serious — or at least, her humor is rather quirky. The showbiz veteran, who spent 15 years at UTA before jumping to WME, is direct, if not intense, and has a nonstop work ethic that continues despite having a 6-month-old daughter with husband Woody Jackson, a composer and touring musician who recently scored the hit video game Red Dead Redemption.
It might surprise people who know how businesslike she is that even comedy makes her cry, if it’s really good. “I’ve cried at funny moments,” she admits, her eyes sparkling behind her purple, plastic-framed glasses. “That’s my litmus test in knowing someone’s special. The through line for anyone I work with is that they literally have to move me.”
Emotion isn’t the word usually associated with Jackson, who’s not known for her cuddly personality. But sitting in her office at WME, where she has worked since 2008, she’s surprisingly mellow. Music is the prevalent theme, not comedy. She’s got a framed picture of Tom Waits on her wall; can rattle off rock trivia at a moment’s notice; and even met her husband at Club Largo, where she first saw Black in Tenacious D, after which she landed the band an HBO series.
“It definitely caught people’s attention,” she says. “It was the moment that crystallized Black in pop culture and got him High Fidelity.”
Fidelity is what Jackson — the former Sharon Sheinwold — brings to her clients. That and knowledge about the industry, which she sees as increasingly crucial, across all platforms. “To represent people well,” she says, “you have to offer them more than they could get across the street. You have to offer them perspective in all areas of the business.”
But she’s also brought an aggressiveness that has rubbed some people the wrong way, not least her former colleagues at UTA. “If I love some of the talent,” she admits, “I just will not be stopped.”
Although she doesn’t directly address her exit from UTA — an agency that, in the days when Jackson started there, was known for a degree of in-fighting that has since vanished — she hints it had a bit to do with camaraderie: When asked about the transition to WME, she says it was “great. I love having so many inspiring colleagues.”
Jackson got her own inspiration while growing up in Islip, Long Island, the child of a high school principal and a lawyer who were supportive of her decision to pursue entertainment. She went to film school at NYU before enrolling at the AFI, after which a professor recommended her for a job in the UTA mailroom.
She loved it. “I was in the mailroom with [HBO’s] Sue Naegle, [agents] Marty Bowen and David Kramer,” she recalls of her then-colleagues, all now prominent in the industry. Then she quips: “Many other things probably have scarred me for life but not that.”
Nor have her clients. Many have been with her for years, though in the early days she had more time for indulgences with them, like playing Scrabble with Black. “Back then, we were pretty evenly matched,” she says. “Now he is playing at tournament level. I can’t compete with that!”
With other clients including Glee’s Lea Michele and writer Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Jackson is going to need even more of those lists. In fact, she admits to having lists of lists, which she saves like heirlooms. And she keeps making them, even during WME meetings.
“There’s an incredible amount of doodles on those lists too,” she admits. “And then there’s these drawings of people around the table. It gets pretty elaborate."
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