Most paths into the business have an unusual turn here and there, but for Agent/Manager Graham Kaye, his “in” came through sports. He was on the pro tennis circuit when Hollywood legends began to ask him for lessons. Some of tennis friends, like Tatum O’Neal, piqued his interest about the entertainment industry. At the ripe old age of 30, he took it on with the dedication Kaye had applied to his life as a pro athlete.
Recently his credits include “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,” but more important for filmmakers out there, Graham is known for having exceptional insight into the development process. He was at UTA, WME, and has also served as a production executive.
Here’s a snapshot of Graham Kaye’s expert advice and counsel on doing, making, and being involved in the machinery of films.
Q: What projects are you most proud of, and is there a theme to a successful production?
GRAHAM KAYE: I’m most proud of the success of “Save The Last Dance” by my former client Duane Adler. Because it was a movie that wasn’t suppose to do well and opened at $29 million dollars for Sherry Lansing when she ran Paramount. I was thrilled when I chased a job for 1 year for my client Gary Scott Thompson at Universal to write “Racer X,” which became “The Fast and Furious” franchise. I covered Universal when I was at William Morris and chased Kevin Misher and Marc Platt for almost a year to get him that job. And also getting Mark Rydell to direct “James Dean” where Mark discovered James Franco and turned him into a movie star. Mark was up against it since the studios considered him “not hot”. It’s common knowledge except to certain narrow minded people that great director’s no matter the age always have the potential for more greatness.
Q: What’s your Dream Project, how would you go about making it, and who would you cast — and do you have any casting tips?
GRAHAM KAYE: Ah the ones that got away. The one I regret not getting made was a project that I help set up for Scott Steindorff at Castle Rock Films. It was a brilliant book by Richard Hack about Howard Hughes. I attached Jim Carrey and Christopher Nolan to write and direct and Christopher had such a great feel for how this movie should be made and I thought Jim Carrey would be amazing as Howard Hughes. But Miramax ended up making the “Aviator” to beat out Castle Rock. And the feeling I got after seeing the film was that it was done just to cross the finish line first the movie had no soul.
And I’m still trying to get my favorite project made after 14 years titled “The Italian” by the 2 most underrated writers in town Katherine “Boo” Maciaszek and Danny Fischer. This movie has had every actor in Hollywood interested in it and has had more stops and starts than I can even count. It’s an amazing story about how one man’s simple secret causes the demise and ultimately the redemption of his family. And not to mention the HOYT story which I’m producing with Jeffrey Miller about Dick and Rick Hoyt. It’s the true story of two of the most courageous people I’ve ever known. Dick’s son Rick was born a quadriplegic and together they have completed countless Marathon’s and Ironman competitions together as a team.
Q: Of the writer/directors you’ve worked with, are there some stand-out qualities they all share?
GRAHAM KAYE: It’s hard to lump creative sources together because even though they work at the same craft each writer, director, or actor has their own specific needs both on an emotional level and creative level. It’s an art for a manager/agent to traverse the needs of each specific client to help them create their success. However, I’ve found that the clients that waited around for an offer and weren’t proactive in their own careers had less success than their contemporaries.
Q:When you were at UTA, and bigger agencies, what were the typical obstacles incoming projects would encounter?
GRAHAM KAYE: When I was at William Morris (WME) I had much more access to information and the level that I could reach was outstanding. Except when it came to packaging material. When you’re at a larger agency, other agencies are less interested in helping you complete your package with their talent. So usually you would have to complete the package with your existing talent pool. Sounds easy right? Not so because in 9 times out of 10, your client wants a certain piece of talent from another agency that they are fixated on and typically won’t settle on a what they consider a distant 2nd to their original choice.
Q: How can a filmmaker avoid making the “beginner mistakes” – if you can think of a handful of first-timer issues?
GRAHAM KAYE: If your starting out don’t send a query letter or tell an agent or manager that you’ve written 10 scripts. You might as well tell them you’re going to kick their dog. These people are extremely busy, and if they are nice enough to read your material, then they are taking an hour out of being with their wife, lover, kids, or the dog you just kicked by reading your material. So you better be sure that you focus on one great piece of material that represents you as a writer and will get you back on the phone with them to have a serious discussion about what they just read of yours. For filmmakers, study your craft, learn, and listen to those that have succeeded in your field. And watch a lot of movies from non talkies to what was out last week. Good agents and managers know movies, and like to talk about them. If your only there to talk about yourself your going to lose their interest in a nanosecond.
Q: What is the role of a manager versus agent in literary terms?
GRAHAM KAYE: The role of the agent is to procure jobs for the client. Although they perform in a creative capacity with their client. Especially with the final say of whether they feel that the client has reached the potential of being able to market and sell that particular script, or pitch. The manager deals with a much smaller volume of clients and has more time to nurture the clients career and can work with them more on development of the their material, strategy and career guidance.
Q: How can you assist with projects in development, networking, and other aspects of a project?
GRAHAM KAYE: Well now that I’m a manager/producer that’s what I spend the entire day doing. When you become independent and don’t have a consistent salary you really have to hustle. Your day consists of pushing a rock uphill and when you get it to the top you just hope that it doesn’t demolish you on the way down.
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