Next Generation 2011: Agents
PICTURED From left: UTA's Jenny Maryasis, WME's Doug Lucterhand (seated), ICM's Mark Gordon, Paradigm's Ben Weiss, APA's Mike Berkowitz and CAA's Tom Young
Mike Berkowitz | 33
Partner/Comedy Department Head, APA
Berkowitz has worked in the comedy trenches for more than a decade and counts Louis C.K., Craig Ferguson, John Mulaney, Mike Birbiglia, Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr and Kevin Hart among his clients. But his early passion was music. The Bronx native enrolled at Berklee College of Music to study guitar, piano and songwriting with the idea of starting a band. Once he realized his talent for booking gigs exceeded his musical skills, Berkowitz built a music-repping business out of his Boston apartment. "I wanted to be David Geffen," he admits. Moving back to New York in 2001, Berkowitz began a five-year stint at Rick Dorfman Entertainment that brought him into the world of comedy. He built his own list and began developing his clients' stand-up careers across a variety of platforms, eventually taking his business to APA in early 2006. "Marketability is the first thing I look for, a unique voice," says Berkowitz. "You can really tell, if you're out there enough, who's doing something different. The nature of comedy is very cyclical, and I try to stay ahead of the trends." The newly promoted partner still jams with friends on his favorite Fender Telecaster, but his own gigs are behind him. Instead, he gets gratification from seeing a client like Hart, whose concert film Laugh at My Pain has grossed $7.6 million, blow up. Says Berkowitz, "His next tour, we're going to be jumping into arenas."
Steve Gersh | 28
Talent Agent, Gersh Agency
Agenting runs thick in Gersh's blood -- his grandfather Phil started the Gersh Agency in 1949, and his father, David, and uncle Bob are now in charge. And though Steve initially had his sights set on a journalism career, the siren call of the family business proved too hard to resist. After graduating from Duke, a college he chose to broaden his horizons away from Hollywood, he was an assistant at the agency for several years before becoming an agent. Now he works on Kristen Stewart's team and has a stable of young up-and-comers, mostly in the under-25 range, including Max Thieriot (Disconnect), Nico Tortorella (Odd Thomas), Josh Bowman (ABC's Revenge) and Bridgit Mendler (Disney Channel's Good Luck Charlie). "Every career decision is important when you're that young," says Gersh of steering his charges. "If you send them on a wrong path, they're not going to get to where they or you want them to get to." In his downtime, the newly married Gersh plays softball with his high school buddies. But boxing is one of his true passions. "I try to take a calm approach in the office, so it's a good outlet," he says.
Mark Gordon | 30
TV Agent, ICM
As a middle school student in Pasadena, Gordon kept a binder with the ratings for his favorite TV shows. "I remember graphing out with pencil and ruler the week-to-week ratings of Seinfeld and The Simpsons and trying to figure out what caused the fluctuations," he admits of a passion that began early. The decision to take the agency path came later, when he listened to then-BWCS partner Chris Silbermann address his show-business seminar at Northwestern. Inspired, Gordon reached out and landed a gig with the agency in 2002; four years later, he followed mentors Silbermann and Ted Chervin to ICM. More recently, the newly engaged Gordon has played an instrumental role in bringing James Spader to NBC's The Office, actor-producer Samuel L. Jackson to CBS Paramount and Hell on Wheels showrunner John Shiban to AMC. Hanging on a wall in Gordon's Century City office is a Breaking Bad poster featuring a gun-wielding, pants-less Bryan Cranston standing in front of his character's meth lab, with a note from another Gordon client, Bad creator Vince Gilligan: "To Mark Gordon, soon to be known as THE Mark Gordon. Would this guy be standing here in his underpants if not for you? I THINK NOT."
Doug Lucterhand | 32
For Lucterhand, it was only a few short years after working as a camp counselor in the north woods of Wisconsin that he became a harried assistant to Ari Emanuel in the Beverly Hills offices of Endeavor in 2002. Bookended by gigs on the desks of Tom Strickler and Patrick Whitesell, the Chicago native says his 18 months with Emanuel were "life-changing." "I had the entire business pouring into my left ear every day. It was a pretty remarkable education at 23 years old. I grew up very quickly." As an integral part of WME's comedy group, Lucterhand helps steer the careers of clients Joel McHale, Charlie Day, Ellie Kemper, Rob Corddry and Nick Kroll, as well as those of several Saturday Night Live writers and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter star Ben Walker. "I've sought out clients to work with who are ambitious and curious and want to do things on their own terms," says Lucterhand. "Comedy lends itself to that." In his off-hours, the University of Wisconsin alum likes to travel with old friends and consume sports by the steinful, especially college basketball. "I'm a die-hard Bears fan and a die-hard Bulls fan as well," he says. "At the company, a lot of people see me as 'the Chicago guy.' "
Jenny Maryasis | 29
Motion Picture Literary Agent, UTA
Maryasis has been with UTA since graduating from Pennsylvania's Haverford College in 2004 despite her Russian immigrant parents' disappointment that she was passing up a career in law. ("They thought 'agent' sounded like a fake job," she says.) She had enjoyed a summer internship at Gersh after her junior year, so the Brooklyn-born Maryasis moved to L.A. and worked on the desks of UTA's Jeremy Zimmer and Andrew Cannava. As an agent, she has signed new writing talent such as Lauren Miller & Katie Naylon (the upcoming comedy feature For a Good Time, Call …) and discovered the work of filmmaker Lena Dunham before her no-budget comedy Tiny Furniture brought her major buzz. "It's an example of sometimes you gotta take a chance and trust your gut," she says. Maryasis indulges her love of travel by taking two big trips a year. A recent jaunt to Iceland involved glacier lagoons, black-sand beaches and dining on fermented shark. "I love trying new foods -- the weirder, the better," she says. That eagerness and flexibility also inform Maryasis' approach to clients. "The most important thing is being open to different ways of making films," she says. "I find that the new changes are exciting, and it's made room for a lot of entrepreneurial writers and directors."
Ben Weiss | 30
Agent, Motion Picture Finance Group, Paradigm
Weiss took the circular path to get to his position at Paradigm, where he plays a key role packaging films, repping financiers and selling completed films. He arrived at the company as an intern in 2002 and, after graduating from Hobart College in upstate New York, segued to an assistant position in the feature lit department a year later. He left in 2005 to try his hand as an independent producer but found, after a time, that the job wasn't for him. "I enjoyed a lot of aspects of producing, but when you look at the amount of projects you have to have in development compared to how many actually get made, it was really frustrating," he says. That's why, when he returned to Paradigm three years ago, he found his current job so rewarding. "Within the finance group here at Paradigm, I found that if you really believe in something, you have a leg up. You can pick and choose the right genre, the right budget, the right cast, because you know what it looks like on the other side, in terms of distribution." Last year, the newly married Weiss helped sell Sundance Audience Award winner Circumstance to Participant Media and Roadside Attractions, The Devil's Double to Lionsgate and the Michael Rapaport documentary Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest to Sony Pictures Classics. He also arranged financing for the Channing Tatum movie Ten Year. Not to stop there, Weiss was integral in sales of Andy Garcia's City Island and Toronto festival winner Beautiful Boy.
Tom Young | 35
TV Agent, CAA
As a University of Miami law student, Young had worked on Al Gore's presidential campaign and was contemplating a career in politics when the 2000 Florida recount occurred. "Living through it, being inundated by it and getting frustrated by it soured me a bit," he says. Switching gears, the Sarasota, Fla., native moved to California, landing a gig in the UTA mailroom in spring 2001. "It's a humbling experience to have a law degree and push a mail cart," says Young with a laugh. Five weeks in, he was moved to the agency's TV lit department; four years later, he jumped to CAA. Since then, the married father of two has grown his portfolio of TV clients to include Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, the co-creators of Fox's midseason drama Alcatraz, and Spartacus showrunner Steven S. DeKnight, for whom he recently struck Starz's first overall deal. During the WGA strike in 2007-08, the self-proclaimed neat freak and scuba diving enthusiast began to build his roster of sports broadcasting clients, working on scripted and unscripted projects as well as speaking engagements and broadcasting deals for talent such as former NBA stars Chris Webber and Kenny Smith. "The writers strike happened and we started to brainstorm about what we aren't doing that we could be doing," Young says. "That's where the sports broadcasting department came from. Since then, we've gone from a handful of clients to about 50."