UCLA Extension

Instructor Interview – Harry Abrams

Please welcome new Entertainment Studies instructor Harry Abrams! Harry will be teaching Talent Representation: Working as an Agent or Personal Manager in the Entertainment Industry this spring. He is the founder and former Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Abrams Artists Agency, which was founded in 1977 and is now one of the top ten talent agencies in the United States. Mr. Abrams launched and helped guide the careers of Jaclyn Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Kerry Washington, Katie Holmes, David Strathairn, Connie Britton, and many more.

We sat down with Harry and asked him 5 questions to get to know more about him and his course.

What about teaching for Entertainment Studies are you most looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to meeting the students, finding out about their backgrounds, what led them to enroll in a class about artists representation, and learning about what talent agents do for a living. What intrigues them about being a talent agent? I am interested in finding out what is it about being behind the camera, the business side of entertainment, rather than the artistic or creative side, that causes them to enroll in this course.

What do you hope students get out of your course?
I want them to walk away from the course all excited about the possibilities of becoming an artist’s representative, in one specific area of agenting or another that excites them, turns them on. The average person on the street assumes a talent agent simply gets jobs for an actor in films, television or the theatre. However, there are many specific types of agents that have nothing to do with performing actors. There are specialties such as literary agents, personal appearance/music/stand up comedy/concert agents, broadcast journalism agents, digital/social media and influencer agents, modeling agents, reality and unscripted television agents, commercial agents, youth or children’s agents, packaging agents, etc. I want them to come away from the course thinking that they never knew how exciting and challenging it is to be a talent agent. I want them to learn how to develop an eye and a taste for talent, an artist. What it takes to discover a talent, and then once you discover them, how you go about building their worth, their value, becoming more and more in demand, perhaps making them into a star!

What is one thing you want students to know before they begin your class?
I’d like them to be motivated about perhaps becoming an agent, or know that they are contemplating a career change, what it entails. I’d like them to have read a book or two about artist’s representation. Books like “The Mailroom” by David Rensin, or “Hidden Talent” by Tom Kemper. Or perhaps had become familiar with major agent’s names such as Mike Ovitz, Lew Wasserman, Jules Stein, Mike Levee, Sam Cohn, Charles Feldman, etc.

What are you watching or listening to these days that you are enjoying?
“Succession” is one of my favorite television programs, “Grace and Frankie” is another, “The Kominsky Method” is another very clever show! I feel that the feature film, “The Marriage Story” was a masterpiece of filmmaking, written and directed by Noah Baumbach. I thought Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is “”Joker” was mesmerizing. “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Come From Away” are two wonderfully entertaining theatre pieces. “Industry Standard” is a podcast I listen to every now and then. Interviews with major or well-known individuals in the entertainment industry who have set certain standards in their respective field of endeavor.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give to someone aspiring to break into your field?
If you are shy, not that outgoing, wanting to keep to yourself, don’t enjoy meeting and getting to know new persons, can’t handle rejection, becoming an artist’s representative is not for you! Becoming a successful agent is built on relationships. One must be gregarious, outgoing, interested in sales, marketing, negotiating, closing deals, competition, working in the evening and on weekends, going to screenings, plays, industry events, gatherings, award ceremonies, entertaining, etc.