We recently had a great conversation with Bill Dispoto, partner with Fay Dattner in the highly respected agency, Dattner Dispoto and Associates. The agency is located in Los Angeles, and represents an elite, international group of innovative and creative producers, cinematographers, production designers, costume designers, VFX artists, editors and other production personnel.
Bill joined Fay’s agency in 1995, and in 2001 the two formed Dattner Dispoto and Associates (DDA). DDA works with some of the most respected talents in the industry – artists like Lance Acord, Eve Stewart, Claudio Miranda, Paul Cameron and Jeff Cronenweth…to name just a few.
Our conversation with Bill helps us understand a little bit about what an agent like Bill does, what’s happening at the agency, and some of the insights he brings to this dynamic industry where we are all at work.
Createasphere: Let’s start out with a simple question – what does an agent do?
BILL: I think most importantly we develop and guide careers. On a day to day basis, this can mean that we match clients to the right projects for them, as well as help directors and producers find the best artistic talent for their specific needs. We smooth out problems between producers and talent. To do all of this, you have to not only pay close attention to details, but also, truly care about the clients’ futures.
Createasphere: How do you see the role of an agent in today’s changing atmosphere – counselor, champion, therapist, negotiator? Has it changed over the years?
BILL: Agents are all of those things! We also engage our clients in an ongoing dialogue about the changing face of the industry. Our role is that of a collaborator and advocate.
Clearly the entire industry has been challenged by the recession over the past few years. Our job is to help clients keep their heads above water and navigate their way through the difficult times. This is probably the biggest challenge in today’s changing atmosphere.
It will always be our responsibility to stay up-to-date, ahead of emerging trends in the entertainment industry. Plus, it’s our job to market and promote our clients to the entertainment industry.
Createasphere: You have helped to build one of the most successful agencies in the industry – one with innovative, award-recognized and groundbreaking clients – is there a formula you use when looking at talent?
BILL: I think a lot of it is instinct. We don’t look at potential clients and say, “who’s doing the biggest and most high-paying work?” What we do is respond to each individual’s body of work – creatively. We want to be inspired by the work we see.
Whether this is someone who has a huge career on high paying jobs, or someone who’s brand new out of art school, we look to connect with their work artistically – it’s the only way we can do our job well.
Createasphere: What motivates you to sign someone for representation (is there a DDA client “type”)?
BILL: We approach it from a very personal standpoint with all people. A lot of it has to do with being drawn to a client’s sensibility as an artist.
I think it’s reasonable to say that not every agent is cut out for every type of client and certain clients are drawn to certain kinds of agents. It’s a matter of art and personality connecting in an inspiring way.
Our roster is a group of superb artists. We’ve all been mutually drawn together because of an intuitively shared aesthetic taste.
Createasphere: There is little doubt we are working in a dynamic time, are there two or three key trends that you have seen impact the industry in the past few years? (Such as, but not limited to technology, economy, distribution- consumption of content?)
BILL: The three most important trends I see are:
- There are a lot more people choosing cinematography as a career.
- There’s less work…
- Technology is changing at an incredible speed.
This makes the marketplace far more competitive…and challenging to survive or grow in.
With the changing economy, production expects more out of the artists they hire – often for less pay. Production wants more flexibility, whether in the way someone approaches prep time, putting a crew together, or the format and medium they select for the project at hand.
There is far less resistance to digital technology than there was five years ago. We all love film and always will, but as the technology improves, our clients are bringing their artful eyes to all the new and varied digital formats.
This means today’s successful DP needs to have his or her feet in both camps to survive in this incredibly competitive field.
Createasphere: What do you suggest to your clients to help them stay highly employable?
BILL: Being flexible is the most important thing a person can do for his or her career.
These days you have to be a much better “politician” when you’re working, because the days of being a “difficult to work with person” are over. I encourage my clients to be strong, but highly collaborative.
The last thing anyone needs to acquire is a bad reputation. Word about your reputation travels quickly!
Createasphere: Is it relationship building, knowledge of technology, seeking projects that draw attention, or just doing good work? (or all of the above – or is it more?)
BILL: It’s all those things plus a good agent that brings career oversight, which helps clients make informed choices.
It’s not just about being as employed as possible – sometimes the hardest thing to do is not take that movie, or that spot.
This is essential to someone’s career path. We are always thinking about where our client’s want to see themselves in five years time.
Createasphere: Do talented people, crafts persons, artists, experts…need an agent?
BILL: When you have a good agent, you have a comrade, with whom you can bounce ideas. It’s not always about, “where’s my job for next week?” It’s about what you want for your long term career. With an agent, you have someone who’s objectively “got your back” for the long haul.
Createasphere: What is the news from DDA — can you name a few projects your clients are working on?
BILL: There are so many cool projects. A few highlights are:
The fabulous production designer Eve Stewart is preparing for the release of LES MISERABLE with director Tom Hooper.
Bojan Bazelli, ASC is finishing up THE LONE RANGER for Gore Verbinski.
Paul Cameron ASC recently finished DEAD MAN DOWN, which he shot for the director of original Swedish GIRL WITH DRAGON TATTOO Niels Arden Oplev
Jeff Cronenweth ASC has HITCHCOCK coming out which he shot for director Sasha Gervasi
Finally, Claudio Miranda, ASC has THE LIFE OF PI coming out which he shot for director Ang Lee.