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The Changing Role of Talent Agencies as Global Entertainment Intermediaries

Susan Ward is the next ANZCA 2009 speaker, and focusses on talent agencies - she begins by distinguishing between internationalisation (trans-border flows of goods and services) and globalisation (the creation of global audiences, and global forms of organisation and a global functional integration of processes). This is visible especially in the context of international trade fairs, which are used to conduct business transactions, disseminate market intelligence, facilitate networking, promote an awareness of industry innovations, establish the identities of participants,and promote common assumptions and a common business culture.

Talent agencies have evolved to take a role as global intermediaries in this context - and Susan has focussed especially on a Brisbane-based media agency, Hoodlum entertainment, which is represented by ICM. Hoodlum has specialised especially in online interactive platforms, and has worked for a number of major international productions, including the BBC's Spooks and the drama series Lost and Primeval.

The central role of the talent agency in the facilitation of creative production is surprising - Hoodlum, for example, only flourished once it started to be represented by ICM. This function of the talent agency as an intermediary is increasing, and it can be argued that it traces its origins back to the post-Fordist restructure of the Hollywood system. This restructure shifted power to Hollywood's merchant class (lawyers, managers, talent agencies) - and in the process also substantially increased production costs. Some agents began not only to find work for their clients, but in fact to actively create it by developing package deals - and a few of them have wound up as top Hollywood executives as a result.

By the 1990s, a proliferation of delivery channels and increased competition led to an erosion of this market power, however, and agencies like ICM responded by adding firther incentives (e.g. international deals) to keep attracting clients. The company also extended its client list into publishing, IT, video games, major commodity brands, and advertising. This led to a redrawing of traditional industry paradigms and the creation of new business alliances and structures.

Should Australian cultural policy be more proactive in connecting to these powerful intermediaries, then, in order to support more success stories like Hoodlum?

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