Reflecting on 2012

Sophiya Haque with Simon Russell Beale in rehearsals for Privates on Parade
Stuart Piper
Stuart Piper is managing director of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management Ltd
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Christmas time is the only time in an agent’s calendar when things momentarily calm – a brief annual interlude just before the big day, and before New Year arrives, and it is my favourite time of the year to reflect on the past 12 months and plan for the next year ahead.

I had planned to talk about some of my own personal highlights of the year – but when I think of any achievement that we as an agency have made, none have been as a result of my sole work – they have been the culmination of much work usually from a combination of the seven members of my team.

And so here is a tribute from me to each of them – which hopefully might lift the curtain a little on how an agency works internally.

The longest serving member of my team is Jo Fell, who had a cracking start to the year when, having vowed to get a client in her favourite TV show Sherlock, managed to help Nathan Harmer win a role. When later in the year Jo was made an ‘associate agent’, meaning she represents her own list of clients while continuing to assist me on my list, she had many successes from History Boy Rudi Dharmalingham being cast in the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing to helping Adam Ellis win a lead role in Spamalot in the West End which also features her client Robin Armstrong continuing his run. Jo has encyclopaedic knowledge, is our resident commercials expert, and quite frankly keeps our office running with the precise efficiency of someone, well, precise and efficient.

Our other associate agent Ashley Vallance also started to build his own list this year, recently signing the wonderful Emma Barton, helping Daniel Boys win a starring role in the new revival of High Society and bringing Javine Hylton back to public attention in several projects, not least making her feature film debut in All Stars with Ashley Walters and Ashley Jensen, due for release in 2013. Ashley keeps us all laughing when we would otherwise cry, and has the enthusiasm for the job that an agent should never lose.

We had two new staff join this year: the first being Alex Segal formerly of ARG Talent. Alex has come in an revolutionized the list with clients working on major film and television projects: placing Jamelia in Death in Paradise on BBC1, Neil Toon the role of Danny in Simon Nye’s feature film Down Dog alongside Nick Moran, seeing Stephen Marcus film not one but five feature films (most recently The Fast and the Furious 6) as well as The Comic Strip Presents: Five Go To Rehab on television. Most impressively his new signing Jay Brown won not one but two TV regulars in first three months of signing: the role of Bangs in Big Talk’s Youngers for E4 and Dean in Objective’s Big Bad World for Comedy Central. Alex is a persuasive salesman, you just can’t say no to him, and has the energy of a Duracell Bunny.

Our senior agent is my partner in crime Oliver Thomson, who teams up with me on a great many clients, and also represents an impressive list of his own. Olly’s achievements in one week could fill a whole column, but sticking out in my mind this year were the moments when his client of many years Marc Baylis won his first major TV regular after some years understudying in theatre on some stellar productions from Prick Up Your Ears to Jerusalem and good work on the London fringe like The Belle’s Strategem. He now plays housewives favourite Rob Donavon in Coronation Street in which our client Michelle Collins also continues. Other successes have seen Sophiya Haque star opposite Simon Russell Beale in Privates on Parade as part of the Michael Grandage season, Charley Palmer Merkell filmed a regular role in forthcoming ITV1 abduction drama MayDay, and achieving nine clients being cast in the Les Miserables feature film, several in featured roles. Olly has impeccable judgement, which is why his suggestions are taken so seriously by casting directors, and he cares about his clients and their careers more than he does his own.

In one of the best displays of serendipity and team work – our other new team member talent manager Lucy Marriott, brought in an old friend James Cutler, who had never worked professionally. We signed him on a hunch, and in a matter of weeks, not even months, Olly had sent him in for a successful casting: as evil henchmen Googles opposite Jim Carrey in Kiss Ass 2 for release next year. Lucy herself works for all companies in the ROAR Group (our parent entertainment group) and her own tenacity and ambition has seen her sign a band who we all believe could be the next big thing: Rixton (google them!).

So you can see – often it is difficult to pin down any one achievement to any individual member of the team, and though I have my own favourite achievements that I am proud of in the last year I prefer to prove, as is often the case, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.