This book is not for everyone and the reviews haven’t been stellar (my experience was good), but if you work in the entertainment business, you should read James Andrew Miller’s Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artist’s Agency.
Knowing many of the cast from my short time with the agency, it was great fun hearing from all the players and it follows their story accurately. You get to feel of what it’s like to be inside. Here are some observations and facts I took away from the book:
1) Information is power. Companies that have this view and make sharing a part of their culture ultimately win.
2) Working with a team of talented, smart and creative people makes you better. You learn, grow, and try harder. Although agency life isn’t for everyone, the experience of working at CAA was a great one for me (even though I was sick much of my time there).
3) In entertainment, perception is reality.
4) Some of us should be working harder. The book will inspire you or deter you from continuing.
5) Everyone loves Ron Meyer. My two brief experiences with him while he’s been with NBC Universal support that statement. A true gentleman! Proves you don’t have to treat people like shit to be successful.
6) Everyone loves Michael (Vino) Levine and Howie Nuchow, the two men that run CAA Sports. I immediately bonded with both of them the minute they arrived at CAA, and miss their positive energy in my life.
7) Our business can be rough. Trying to find a path where everyone wins is the right one. When you start lying and cheating your friends and partners, it never ends well.
8) Tom Ross is an officer and gentlemen, and more credit is due to him.
9) The current managing partners should get more credit for where the agency is today. As an example, according to the book, CAA Sports was the number one earner for the agency in 2015. For years, there’s been a narrative that getting into sports was a mistake, and that’s been proven wrong. 20 years in, they shouldn’t be compared to the Ovitz/Meyer/Haber CAA. For better or worse (depending on where you sit), it is a much different company 20 years later.
10) There are many lessons, both positive and negative, to take from this book. Hopefully you will know which is which.
p.s. There’s one story in the book about little bad behavior by the sports guys at their first CAA retreat, and the real deal is actually better than what’s written. The book says it was a special bottle of wine given as a gift to the hotel owners (true) and stolen and consumed by CAA (also true) after the final dinner. But, the special bottle was actually a huge magnum (the biggest I’ve ever seen) and resembled the Stanley Cup for some reason. The hockey guys grabbed it, hoisted it over their heads, then opened and passed it around. Many from the old guard were pissed as the book describes, but most loved them for it! When the story of CAA Sports first retreat came up, I thought they were going to spill on the senior sports agent (not Vino or Howie) that got caught on camera doing some no-no with a junior executive on the gold course. Maybe that’s the next book.