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The Accidental Turitz: The Big Four Becomes the Big Three, Except …

October 6, 2021 09:00 | By

caa1Well, this was both a big surprise, and not even remotely surprising. On the one hand, when word came down that CAA had purchased ICM for what I understand is north of a half billion dollars, I was stunned, because it never occurred to me that one of these agencies would buy another so easily.

And yet, I wasn’t at all surprised, because this is how things go now. One big company buys another big company to further consolidate all the big companies until eventually there’s only one big company, and we’re all screwed.

What, Disney buying Fox wasn’t a big enough heads up for you? That wasn’t the first clue that this was the new way of the world? Of course, CAA was going to try to buy one of its competitors, because it could. If you’re CAA and you have the chance to increase the size of your operation, pretty much double your client list, and expand your reach into specific areas where the other agency specializes, why wouldn’t you take that chance? 

“But Neil,” you ask, “What does ICM have that CAA needs? What area of Hollywood is not a CAA specialty?” 

Glad you asked. There are, in fact, several areas where ICM excelled, like TV and TV lit, though CAA is solid there, too. Same with the big name talent. ICM has some great names — not nearly as many as CAA, of course, but still a lot. No, where ICM really helps CAA is in two specific areas. The first is with its below-the-line talent, which is not one of the Death Star’s strengths. Adding such a large roster of top line behind the camera talent beautifully compliments the wealth of above-the-line names that are already in the stable. When you talk about packaging, you’re normally talking just the above-the-line people, but if you can also fill out the crew with your own DPs, editors, production and costume designers, and so on, an entire production can be put together in house. Brilliant. 

ICMPartnersAnd then there’s the other wild card, ICM’s publishing division, which is something of a powerhouse, and far better than the one currently under CAA’s roof. It’s similar to what Endeavor got when it ate up William Morris some years back, becoming WME in the process. This new mega agency will give WME a run for its money in that area, for sure.

Which means it’s a no-brainer. That seems fairly obvious. As mentioned above, when you have the opportunity to take a big step like this, especially one with such an enormous upside, you grab it. No question.

As far as ICM goes, it had been included as one of the Big Four agencies for years (along with CAA, WME, and UTA), but … well, has it really been that big lately? My understanding is that it has become a cozier entity in recent years. In fact, a friend of mine is a Big Hollywood Star who went to ICM within the last year or so precisely because they thought they would get more attention and stand out more among their fellow actors. Each of the other majors had been interested in repping them, but they specifically chose ICM because of its size. It’s bigger than mid-majors like Paradigm, Gersh, and APA, but only just. Now they’re wondering where they fit in all this, and if they’re going to get lost in the shuffle. 

Again, this is a pretty major Star, with a capital S, and they’re wondering what’s going to happen with the merger. Imagine what lesser known talent is thinking. Do they suddenly wonder if perhaps their standing in the agency is jeopardized by the cascade of new talent joining the ranks? Or do their agents now work that much harder for them because the competition is so much fiercer at the executive level? 

It’s a conundrum, and I would imagine the phone lines to and from the large office building on the Avenue of the Stars were burning up as talent of all kinds was trying to get some answers. But are there any easy ones? I tend to doubt it. Other than hoping that they can get themselves a job, and fast, to prove their worth. Yes, I know that’s an everyday concern for people, but with this new level of stress and pressure added into the situation, I suspect a lot of lesser-known talent just got a lot more freaked out about their careers.

Having said all this, I suppose one could point to the WME merger, and how that seemed to work out reasonably well for most people involved — though of course there was almost certainly a fair amount of talent that ended up on the proverbial street in the process — and thus the same is probably going to be true here, but there’s still plenty here to give us all just a wee bit of pause.

It’s really all about the ongoing trend of consolidation. If you think this is the end of it, I have some land to sell you in Zimbabwe. I’m not suggesting that UTA or WME is next in line, but if you’re going to tell me that one of them might be sniffing around one of the mid-majors, or perhaps interested in gobbling up a couple smaller shingles, I would not be the least bit surprised about it.

There’s a simple math involved here: the fewer the companies, the fewer the opportunities. Yes, we’re living in an unrivaled age of streaming services and desperate need for content, but that doesn’t change the fact that the industry is evolving and this continued consolidation is alarming. This merger might end up being a good thing for everyone involved, industry included, but I’ll believe it when I see it.


Ellen Pompeo

Ellen Pompeo on Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)

One other thing, and this is sort of off-topic, but it’s a current news story, it concerns a CAA client, and it’s important, so I’m going to go with it: regarding the fallout against Ellen Pompeo for her Denzel Washington story. As I understand it, a guy hired to direct a single episode of a long-running, enormously successful TV show yelled at the star of the show for giving some in-scene direction to a co-star, because the director mistakenly believed that he was the boss. The TV star told him exactly whose show it was, that he was essentially a day player and in TV, the director does not have the same power as a film director does, that the star — also one of the show’s producers — was the one with the power, and that the director should back off.

Now you tell me: if that director was named Joe Schmoe and not Denzel Washington, would anyone care? If the TV star in question had been, say, Mark Harmon and the show had been NCIS, instead of Ellen Pompeo and Grey’s Anatomy, would people chastise him for his behavior? 

If your answer is anything but “no” to either question, you’re kidding yourself. Additionally, the racial aspect that has been injected into it feels forced to me. There are times and places for that kind of discussion, and I just don’t happen to believe this is one of them. 

Beyond that, the uproar from the peanut gallery is specious at best, idiotic and hypocritical at worst, from people who don’t understand how the industry works. Think of it this way: some guy comes in to consult at a company where you’re something of a star and have been for a long time. They try to big time you and tell you how to do your job, a job at which you have been, by any definition, phenomenally successful. How do you respond? 

I think people in the “Twitterverse” tend to react to things they see and hear without thinking them through, and then get into high dudgeon yelling how they feel about it to anyone who is listening, whether that feeling is relevant or not. You might have noticed in my bio below that I am not on Twitter. This is the main reason why.


Neil TuritzNeil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.

You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here