Talking Crafts with The Mirisch Agency

The Mirisch Agency, founded in 1992 by agent Larry Mirisch as a below the line boutique, is dedicated to “the client, the work and people realizing their stated goals.” It therefore tailors representation to each person. Therefore, when a job query comes in, Mirisch and his colleagues examine the list of available clients to see who matches the specified requirements and is interested in “stretching into that” to avoid any pigeonholing.  Mirisch reps editors, cinematographers, production designers, line producers, VFX Supervisors, VFX producers, producers and costume designers.

Bill Desowitz: What makes the Mirisch Agency different from the other agencies?

Larry Mirisch: We specialize in production and post-production in the below the line areas. One of the great compliments I’ve received was from an executive who said that “I may not get a lot of suggestions for a project from you, but you will make intelligent suggestions.” I think that buys me credibility. That’s important with the buyers. They have to trust you and if they do, you can get a lot further working for all your clients.

I always tell potential clients when they come in that if they’re interested in ICM or UTA or William Morris, that’s not who we are, it’s not the way we operate. We function as a boutique almost in a management style.

BD: What are some of the keys?

LM: We get to know our clients. Know what the clients want to do. Know their goals. We talk to everyone involved in a project, studio exec, the producer, the director. In so many cases, the director is going to have a choice. It’s about the right recommendation to the right person at the right moment. In most cases, directors are like the chairman of the board of a corporation, and for 20 weeks, they’re will get whatever they want.

BD: What do you think about film making a comeback?

LM: It is unlikely, but we go with the changes. Personally, I think people look better on film. I Think film has a better look. I hope some filmmakers will continue to use film. Perhaps film will have resurgence like records have.

BD: What advice do you give young cinematographers?

LM: Shoot. You don’t always have the luxury of choosing your medium. You have to be working at your craft. You’ve have to be accruing credits, building relationships and letting people see your work. Shoot different kinds of movies. Try and photograph a comedy, an action picture and a drama. Work with effects. People who do one type movies all the time would give their eye teeth to do another type of movie. The luckiest people can go back and forth. That’s hard.

BD: What do you think about virtual production?

LM: It’s all software and we have to be prepared for whatever will be made, Remember the material will have to be photographed, they will need sets that will a need a production designer if there are actors they have to be costumed and the material will have to be edited. Whatever they throw it at us; we have to be able to handle. Are you going to eat your meal with chop sticks or with a knife and fork? For editors if you are asked to edit on an Avid or on Final Cut? For cinematographers, you have to know how to shoot the Red Camera or shoot with the Ari Alexa. You have to be prepared to use whatever tools you might be asked to use.

BD: It’s also a turf war about access and influence with the director.

LM: There is turf between a cinematographer, the production designer and visual effects.Their jobs are so intertwined it is no longer as clearly drawn. A man once said to me that one day you’ll see the cinematographer and the colorist nominated for the Academy Award for cinematography.

BD: So much of it has gone virtual in cinematography and they’re getting Academy Awards.

LM: All those areas are not so clear cut anymore. Now in animated features they’ll hire a cinematographer to consult on lighting because they want a look.

BD: TV is experiencing a new renaissance.

LM: We’re representing more clients who are working in television than we used to. A number of our clients who work in features work in television. The stigma doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t think anyone can argue with the quality of television today. Walter Murch edited Hemingway & Gellhorn for HBO and then he edited Tomorrowland for Disney. That is just one example.

BD: What are The Mirisch Agency’s criteria for new clients?

LM: We represent people we think we can help attain their goals. For instance, if a client has credits in a certain genre, and they want to be working in another genre, and their expectations of us are realistic, we’ll give it a try. We are not going to take on something if we don’t think we can deliver for a client. It depends if everyone is realistic. Someone in the office always sees clients’ work. We’ve have to stay current on what each client is doing. It’s the only way you can sell your client as an individual.

A studio sent out an agency-wide email: We’re looking for somebody to do this job for these dates. Please email me your suggestions. Well, an agent hit reply all. They listed 10 clients, by last names didn’t attach credits and didn’t give any explanation about why these clients were appropriate. Is that the way you represent people? I would think that person has no credibility. If one of their client’s saw that email, I would think they’d be furious.

BD: What about social media?

LM: We have a Facebook page where we announce client’s projects. We had a website but we shut it down because we wanted to drive traffic to the office. Now we have a web card so there is a presence on the internet. We felt if we were not to talking to people about our clients it was not in their best interest. In addition, we didn’t want to give availability dates without talking to employers. You never know what can be worked out. When you’re talking about the client a wide range of possibilities can open up. One of the important things about our office is every client is represented by every agent. We divide the projects. A client could be talking to any one of the agents in the office about one or more projects at the same time. In case of The Mirisch Agency, there are number agents, so you have a multiple set of eyes and ears working for you, as opposed to one person watching out for your best interest. There are too many opportunities for one person to cover.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Crafts, Movies, Tech, TV, VFX, Virtual Production

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