Familiarity is breeding solid support, a nurturing environment, and full-time efforts here. Paris Endicott-Chase, age 12, is embarking on a professional performing career, with an emphasis on singing, particularly jazz and standards. And although she and her mother looked far and wide for management, they found what they liked best quite close to home.
Endicott-Chase said she sang before she could talk, and by age 3 knew she was a singer. Last year she and her mother, Cynthia Jacob, decided she had the maturity and drive to go pro. But Jacob knew she didn't want to be a parental manager. "The conflict is great," said Jacob. "And I knew Paris, but I didn't know the industry." So they looked at a series of managers, through networking, through research on the Internet, through mass mailings. Jacob conducted the initial interviews; if she liked the manager she would include her daughter in the next contact. Endicott-Chase didn't feel comfortable with anyone they met.
Enter Linda Chapman, a family friend who's known Endicott-Chase since birth. "We knew her best; she was confident about us," said Chapman. So Chapman and Jacob formed Fifi Management. "In the beginning we thought there would be [parental] conflicts," said Chapman. "But she was 11 and needs to be protected by people who know her and care."
Endicott-Chase found her style—Melrose chic—which contrasts nicely with the standards she sings. And her managers began finding a team: vocal coach Seth Riggs; acting coaches Ron Michaelson and Kevin McDermitt; Joy, Wade, and Chantal Robson and Kevin Tantaroon for dance training; the PR firm Solters & Digney, and of course an agent.
"We went round and round for an agent," said Chapman. "We started with a mass mailing and numerous interviews. A lot commented on her look and individuality. Some were top agencies. We were very uncomfortable with them. They seemed like a warehouse for children." Asking around, they felt the best advice was: Find someone who likes your child, who is excited about your child.
And they found that person in Marion Berzon. " She was very motherly, very excited about the potential she saw," Chapman recalled.
Berzon saw the photo and resumé Endicott-Chase had mailed in and called to meet her. Said Berzon, "She's an adorable little kid. She had a very positive attitude, she was not afraid to talk to people. That's what I look for in kids. If the child is intimidated by people, it's not healthy for them." In addition to Endicott-Chase's singing ability, Berzon said, they got along wonderfully together. And while the market is "terrible for everybody" right now, Berzon said she sees her client doing film, TV, commercials, theatre, and is trying to get her out enough to earn a SAG card.
Of the team, said Jacob, "They're all very excited about Paris and her potential and her future, not just a little excited." And they're making sure that she's protected while she finds success. So while a recording contract would be fine by them, their goal is more live experience and exposure. "We're interested in building experience and knowledge—an apprenticeship," said Chapman.
Said Endicott-Chase, she's also working on acting and dancing, which she admitted are essential elements of any performance. Chapman balked at first but bought into the advice to get her client out there for as many avenues of exposure as possible. "I get nervous she'll be trapped in a part where she'll be known as someone who wants to sing," she said. So Endicott-Chase booked a short film through Chapman, which premiered last week at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre, and another to start shooting soon.
Questions Chapman suggested for parents looking into managers for their children include: "Have you ever worked with children? Who have you worked for in the past who's like her? This is what we see for our child, how can you help us with that vision?" Then share this information with any others you may already have on your team. "And remember," said Chapman, "there are a lot of other parents out there with really talented kids."
Travis Michael Holder & Bonnie Black Talent
When shopping for an agent, Travis Michael Holder has a plan. "When I go into an agent's office," he said, "I try to go in the afternoon. I like to sit and wait and see what they're doing and how often the phones ring, and how they answer them and how they talk to people." Frank and Bonnie Black's phones, he said, were ringing like crazy.
Holder was a vet of soaps and Broadway starting at age 3. He has since appeared in five Broadway shows, as well as numerous national and international tours, playing a variety of roles that include Hugo in Bye Bye Birdie and Amos Hart in Chicago. Locally he has appeared in 23 plays since 1995, winning an LADCC award for his performance as Kenneth Halliwell in Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and a Drama-Logue Award for his performance as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena. On film he has appeared in Sam Raimi's Darkman and a variety of indies, including the upcoming Senator Plato.
Still, he said, the process of finding the right agent has been no easier for him than for any newcomer. He relies on referrals, and he found his current agent through a fellow actor and co-artistic director of The Victory Theatre, Tom Ormeny. Said Holder, "I know a lot of people get the book and send everything to everybody. I want to make sure it's somebody who will understand how unusual it is to work with me." Holder, an extraordinarily young-looking 56, refers to himself as "the only 6-foot-2 middle-aged juvenile shaped like a pear," and always admits to his prospective agents that he knows he's a hard sell, "so they won't think all my phone calls will be, 'Why aren't you getting me out?'"
But the Blacks respected Ormeny's recommendation and called Holder in. As is their practice, they asked him to cold read a scene, choosing something from The Practice. What they liked about his reading, said Bonnie Black, was that he didn't overact and made the character believable. "So many times people tend to act," she said. "An actor doesn't act, and Travis knows that." Added Frank Black, "And his dedication and experience were incredible."
In the 1980s, on hiatus from acting, Holder managed children for many years, so he knows both sides of the process. "Agents have time to look through Breakdowns and decide which of their clients are right for which of the breakdowns," he said. "If it says 'prison guard,' they think of Joe Blow. If it says 'fat prison guard,' they think of Travis. So somebody who's a manager or has more time would say, 'This is a part Travis could play even if he is fat.' I think the Blacks understand this more than others in a long time and are willing to take the chance with me."
His prior agent had also come through a referral, and while Holder found her "lovely" and "hard-working," she "had other things in life that diluted her office time." In addition, her receptionist was curt and rude, and Holder began feeling too intimidated to call the office. When he met the Blacks, they told him, "We work for you, we are your employees." But they had one simple request: Don't call in the mornings, when Breakdowns are going out. Otherwise, said Holder, "They're always accessible, always ready to answer questions, always ready to advise me."
Bonnie Black Talent is a small office, said Holder, but it's well organized and well run. And when he asked if he could continue doing the stage work he thrives on, they answered, "Absolutely. We'll be right there to see you." And while they submit him "for everything," he said, he continues to self-submit, and they appreciate it. He signed with them in February, and they're still giving him personal attention. The challenge, as his agents see it, is his age, although they noted that the industry is looking more at older actors. They see Holder playing doctors, lawyers, fathers. "I'd like to see him get a series," said Bonnie. "He's good enough."