Behind the curtain

By Maria Nefeli Karipsiadi, S7EL EEB3.

The new decade has officially marked the beginning of a new era. Between the usual ‘new years resolutions’ and the more pessimistic memes on why we should not appreciate this new year just yet, stands the bright realization of how much we have progressed. Not many years before, ignorance on many matters, overshadowed our naive beliefs. Now however, the technological means and our advanced critical thinking has enabled us to observe at things from a different point of view, widen our horizons and discover the functioning of any field. Surprisingly enough, even in Hollywood where the individual’s privacy is sacrificed for others’ entertainment and almost everything and everyone is ‘transparent’, there are still secret corners we’ve yet to discover. Yes, you read correctly, more gossip! Ever wonder who’s behind the shining cinema stars and the ingenious directors and screenwriters? What about this intertemporal line ‘ Luke, I am your father’? It’s fascinating to imagine that once upon a time, someone read that same line, before the producer, before the actor and thought ‘hm. okay yeah that should do’ and believed in that tiny phrase enough to generate the inside jokes of many generations. Spoiler alert: they are called agents.

Despite their significant contribution and their entanglement in every media form possible, from grandma’s evening radio show to the last season of that Netflix series, they receive very little recognition. Recently, I was fortunate enough to be noticed by Matthew Bates, an agent for people who write and direct scripted drama, after bugging him with various emails and took advantage of the opportunity to gain a little more insight on the profession. Our generation has access to more and more career choices and while this can be confusing, it is quite intriguing to learn about every job that assembles our civilization and culture. Hence why, I’d like to share what I have learned from Mr Bates, through our correspondence:

-What do you do for a living?

-I’m an agent for people who write and direct scripted drama. Film and TV mainly, but sometimes theatre and radio drama.

-How did you achieve that?

-I started as someone’s assistant and, gradually over quite a long time, I built a list of my own clients.

-What are the advantages and disadvantages of your profession?

-Advantages: I like talking to storytellers. I like discussing choices and decisions with creative people. I enjoy making deals for my clients. Disadvantages: There is always a lot of reading.

-What advice would you give to someone interested in following a similar career path?

-Start as an assistant and learn the job from the ground up. Be prepared to work hard, and be prepared for progress to feel quite slow.

For those who want to be on the other end of this perspective, you are not to worry, he has some advice for you too:

-According to you, what characteristics should a client have in order to succeed?

-A strong, surprising, unique voice. A need to tell stories. A capacity for hard work. The ability to keep fighting when things get tough. The ability to inspire other people to want to work with you.

In fact, Matthew Bates is the agent of a very talented, upcoming film director Yorgos Lanthimos who has worked with top actors like Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Rachel Weisz and ‘manufactured’ original concepts such as the ‘dogtooth’. Admittedly, despite my hopes to uncover some celebrity gossip as well, Mr Bates secured the director’s credibility and dignity, proving once more an agent’s key role.

-How and when did you start working with Mr Lanthimos? -Yorgos Lanthimos was introduced to me by the UK company distributing his film, DOGTOOTH. He was wondering about relocating to London from Athens, and starting to make films in the English language. I think that was around 2010.

-How would you describe your experience with the director?

-Exhilarating and inspiring.

Through this experience I came to certain conclusions:

i. Agents are simple, practical and modest people.

ii. They are open minded and appreciate one’s creativity in a world where almost everything seems to be working mechanically.

iii. Mr Bates has probably regretted making his email address public.

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