Superagent Ari Emanuel, brother of Rahm, has been getting lots of glowing press lately. Remember when the New York Times genuflected at his altar on their front page? Now The Independent is breathlessly touting his plans to single-handedly reinvent Hollywood.
Now that Emanuel has successfully merged Endeavor, the agency he co-founded, with the venerable William Morris Agency, he has the opportunity to "fuck CAA," something that's been rumored to motivate him to get out of bed each morning. How will Emanuel do it? By controlling everything.
Ari Emanuel has made a bold calculation: in order to survive, talent firms are going to have to do more. They must stop being simple deal-makers, become "mega-agencies" – vast, multi-faceted companies with marketing departments, events divisions, and new media offshoots which help clients to leverage income from a wide variety of sources.
Agents will also have to take a more pro-active role in the actual creation of films, making them more likely to be called upon to "package" a production: attaching directors, producers, and actors from their own stable to a particular project, before selling it to the studios.
In such a business, larger firms boast a huge competitive advantage. CAA recently announced it will move into new territory financing new films. Taken to its natural conclusion, this could dramatically alter the sort of films that make it to cinemas.
Optimists, which Hollywood is never short of, believe that this represents the potential to produce a new "golden age" of film-making, where power is returned to creatives, instead of being stifled by studios. "Ari created his new firm because he knew he had to be big to be at the level where he could successfully do that," says a former colleague of Emanuel's. "It's a gamble, frankly, but if anyone can pull it off, he can."
Whether or not "packaging" and the ever-growing power of Hollywood talent management firms is a good or bad thing is open to debate, and frankly we're kind of torn on the matter, but for anyone to suggest, as the anonymous "optimists" cited in the article do, that the industry's progression toward mega-agencies is even remotely rooted in an idealistic desire to revitalize its level of artistic integrity is, well, just plain stupid.
The types of people who become agents are almost universally motivated by one thing—Money. And sex, but mostly money. Even more so than the people who work in studios, agents are driven by greed. Just ask anyone who's ever had an agent in Hollywood and we're pretty sure that they'll confirm that. Not that's there's anything all too necessarily wrong with that, we just felt compelled to address that ridiculous fantasy here and now.
Finally, with all this hype going around about Ari Emanuel, we're kind of eager to see how his inevitable downfall will play out. Will some renegade screenwriter step up to be the Joe Eszterhas to Ari's Mike Ovitz? Regardless, we give Ari's reign of terror somewhere between five and ten years, depending on how long his brother is working in the White House. Hollywood may be a town full of pricks, but it's a town with a history of taking down any one prick that dares to swell too much bigger than any of the others.