By FRANK SWERTLOW
Richard Weston is on the phone with a producer a nervous producer. It's Weston's job to calm him down.
At issue is a TV movie that would star an actor with a troubled past. Weston's client will direct the movie if the producer gives the green light. But the producer is worried that the actor attached to the project might cause problems.
Weston assures the caller that the actor has changed, dramatically. "He's a pussycat," Weston says. "He's been transformed by ageism. He understands that it's not about pride; it's about working."
The producer listens and does not say no. Weston will get back to him with more information to bolster his argument. But, sounding more like a psychologist than a talent agent, he adds that if negotiations progress, the producer must confront the actor about his feelings.
"You'll have to be blunt, get it on the table," Weston says. "Hit it square and be honest."
Weston and his partners Stephen Rose and Jeffrey Benson run Major Clients Agency in Beverly Hills, a boutique for writers, producers and directors in television and feature films. They don't handle actors and actresses, preferring not to compete with giant agencies.
Major Clients has a dozen agents. A major agency like William Morris might have 150. "It's a niche and it works for us," Weston says. "We offer an alternative to getting lost at a big agency."
This morning, when he is not on the telephone, he is sending e-mails or responding to them. He e-mails his secretary to save time. He e-mails clients in London and Canada. He uses the Internet to comb the British papers to find reviews of plays in which he might be interested. Scripts and treatments fly through cyberspace to and from clients across the globe.
"A script can be on my desk in minutes," he says. "I wish more people in Hollywood could e-mail."
The telephone rings again. Weston talks to a New York agent about a literary agent in Los Angeles he's thinking about hiring. He wants the juice about the West Coast agent first.
"What do you hear?" Weston asks, and then listens intently. Then he asks the agent if he has any projects or clients on the table.
In Hollywood, information is gold, and advance information is platinum covered with diamonds. Conversations about people and projects fuel the Hollywood machine.
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