“Our digital group is on fire!” declared Jeremy Zimmer, CEO of United Talent Agency, discussing the impact of new media on Hollywood and his talent agency during a Q&A at The Hollywood Reporter’s Power Business Managers breakfast in Beverly Hills on Wednesday.
“The agencies have been at the forefront of reaching out and trying to create and enhance the relationships between Hollywood and Silicon Valley,” said Zimmer in reply to a question from THR executive editor Matthew Belloni.
“We have made multiple trips up there,” continued Zimmer. “We sit and talk with all kinds of entrepreneurs from the most senior guys to the most senior companies, whether it is Sheryl Sandberg [at Yahoo!] or Mark Zuckerberg [at Facebook] or Dick Costolo [at Twitter]; or brand new start-ups that are being funded by our friends at [venture capital firm] Andreessen Horowitz or other companies.”
“We have a constant flow,” added Zimmer. “We have an early investment fund at the agency. We’re trying to be deeply embedded in that community.”
Zimmer was interviewed before most of the top 25 Power Business Managers selected to be on the annual list published in The Hollywood Reporter magazine on Wednesday. These business managers handle the financial affairs and provide tax and other advice about how to handle money for Hollywood’s biggest stars and creative talent.
Zimmer said the expansion of platforms that exhibit programming opens the door to new players. He cited the show Transparent on Amazon Prime as an example of something that is well done and doing well.
“What’s happening is the thirst for product has created an expansionist view toward working with new artists,” said Zimmer. “The idea, ‘Oh we only let showrunners run television shows’ [is over]. So we now have all these new showrunners coming in and they are creating some really exciting great new products. As long as the product continues to be great, I think you’re going to see continued growth.”
At the same time, Zimmer believes that the biggest studios often suffer from an aversion to change. He cited as an example movie distributors and theater owners refusing to play films day and date with an electronic release, as has happened recently with Weinstein Co.’s sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
“The traditional media business has suffered from the lack of innovation,” said Zimmer, adding most of the great innovation has been done “by total outsiders, technology companies, who are not enslaved to ‘we’ve always done it this way and we’re going to keep doing it this way.'”
That opens the door to new players, adds Zimmer: “There will be an opportunity for smaller studios and distribution platforms to emerge who are more nimble and adept at using social media and web based products to market their movies and to reach a more targeted affinity group on behalf of movies.”
Zimmer touted his own agency’s growth through the acquisition earlier this year of N.S. Bienstock, which specializes in representing broadcast talents including Anderson Cooper, Robin Roberts and Bill O’Reilly.
“They felt there was an opportunity out there they weren’t able to capture,” said Zimmer, “and similarly for us that was an area we were very interested in expanding into. So it was a really great fit.”
The annual event held at Cut in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel began with a welcome from Lynne Segall, group publisher of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. She introduced Ranjan Goswami, staff vp western region sales for Delta Airlines, one of the sponsors of the event.
Steven Shapiro, senior vp entertainment division for City National Bank, another sponsor, introduced Belloni and Zimmer.
Other sponsors for the breakfast were CAPS and Travaasa Experiential Resorts.