'Blackfish' Director Signs With Black Box Management (Exclusive)

1:55 PM PST 02/06/2014 by Rebecca Sun
Black Box Photos
Mike Dill (left); Lowell Shapiro

Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite joins the two-year-old boutique firm, which aims to find voices with "a unique edge," says co-founder Mike Dill.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has signed with young boutique firm Black Box Management, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The filmmaker, who also produced and wrote the documentary exposing the treatment of orca whales in captivity, was nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury prize last year and is up for a BAFTA Film Award for the work.

Cowperthwaite represents Black Box's aim to find voices with "a unique edge," says co-founder Mike Dill, who launched the company with Lowell Shapiro in the summer of 2011, with financing from UTA co-founder Marty Bauer. Black Box became independent shortly thereafter, in September of that year.

"We felt like there wasn't that small, specific company out there who had a meaningful place across the board: film, TV, talent, literary," says Dill, who began his career at CAA. (Shapiro got his start in William Morris' corporate consulting division.) "We want to maintain a very concentrated boutique list and be able to focus on all of our clients equally, in a meaningful way, closer to the sort of partnership that Bernie Brillstein had with his clients."

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Like many other kids from L.A.'s arts and entertainment community, Dill and Shapiro attended Skylake Yosemite Camp, where they met the summer they were 13. Similarly, they grew up with many of their clients, such as Dill's sister Harper Dill, a former writer on Fox's The Mindy Project now working on several features. "We come from a 'work with your friends' generation," Dill says. "The lines are going to be blurred no matter what, and we actually prefer that. We like to work with people who we're gonna spend time with inside and outside of a work context, because ultimately that's what's gonna yield the best result."

Dill and Shapiro, who plan to hire a third manager this year, currently represent a roster of 24 clients that includes New Girl writer Camilla Blackett and actor/comedian Tone Bell (Whitney). As a production company, Black Box has produced branded content for American Express, Pepsi and O.N.E. Coconut Water as well as the My Damn Channel webseries Daddy Knows Best, which drew 7.5 million views to its first season. The shingle also has recently produced its first film, the upcoming horror comedy The Many Lives of Jovan Cornejo.

"We have skill sets in all of these various areas of entertainment," Shapiro says. "And when you're independent like we are, you have the ability to work in all these areas, and you're not pigeonholed to one thing."

"We've likened our brand to early Death Row Records, circa 1993," Dill says with a laugh. "We're usually a little off-center with our clients."

Dill, 32, and Shapiro, 33, are encouraged by the growth of their company over its first two years but look to maintain their core ethos even as the business expands. "The real goal is to preserve absolute transparency, the organic friendships with our clients and also the sort of slightly younger approach to business that we have," Dill says.

Adds Shapiro, "If in 20 years people are still receiving material and meeting with clients from Black Box, and they recognize it as something special because they come from Black Box, it means we've done our jobs correctly."

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