On this photograph illustration a TikTok emblem seen displayed on a smartphone with inventory market percentages within the background.
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When TikTok creator Boman Martinez-Reid first obtained an e-mail from Artistic Artists Company he ignored it. As an Ontario native, he noticed the acronym CAA and assumed it was CAA Insurance coverage, a significant automobile insurance coverage firm in Canada.
It was solely after a TikTok consultant contacted him that he realized he was being courted by one among Hollywood’s high expertise businesses.
“I get a [direct message] from a man at TikTok and he says let’s discuss on the telephone,” Martinez-Reid recalled. “So, we had a telephone name and he requested me ‘I do know that CAA has been reaching out to you. Are you aware who they’re? They symbolize Beyonce, Meryl Streep, it’s important to get on the telephone with them.'”
Martinez-Reid, recognized on-line as “Bomanizer,” has greater than 1.5 million followers and a budding profession that features a visitor look on “Canada’s Drag Race” and a line of branded merchandise. Whereas he rose to TikTok fame making actuality present spoof movies, the 24-year-old has aspirations past the social media platform. He signed with CAA in July 2020.
Martinez-Reid is a part of a rising record of content material creators which have signed with conventional expertise businesses, together with dancer Charli D’Amelio, actress Addison Rae and the creators of the viral TikTok sequence “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical,” Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear.
These artists have been tapped due to their expertise, but additionally due to their engagement with on-line communities. These entrepreneurs have constructed massive and constant followings on the short-form video app, one thing expertise managers and brokers from conventional Hollywood companies see as a possible gold mine.
Not solely can these businesses assist construct mini-media empires round these creators, additionally they can profit from the methods these digital influencers use, and apply it to bolster the careers of the businesses’ already established purchasers.
Actor Will Smith, who’s repped by CAA, is only one instance of an A-list movie star who has embraced social media, together with TikTok and YouTube, lately as a strategy to promote his content material and to advertise himself.
“Will acknowledged 4 or 5 years in the past that younger audiences are consuming media in a a lot totally different manner,” mentioned David Freeman, co-head of the CAA’s digital media division. “Will understood that he needed to shift and alter the way in which that he was interacting along with his viewers.”
This pivotal viewers, which ranges in age from six to round 25, is called Gen Z and is without doubt one of the most wanted client bases for corporations. Not solely is that this younger era coming of age as shoppers, however they’re additionally driving main tendencies for older generations, mentioned Jason Dorsey, president of the Middle for Generational Kinetics, a analysis and strategic advisory agency.
“This makes this youthful set of trendsetters overly invaluable,” he mentioned.
This era is not only impacting leisure, however attire, meals, know-how and greater social conversations, he mentioned.
“As Gen Z comes up, they are surely the very best predictor of the long run,” Dorsey mentioned. “Sensible manufacturers try to determine the way you join with them in a honest manner. … In case you win Gen Z, you’ll be able to win everybody else.”
Embracing Gen Z
Dorsey famous that many manufacturers missed out on connecting with the millennial era as a result of they dismissed this demographic’s adoption of cell gadgets and social media and believed that this group of younger shoppers would return to the traditions of earlier generations.
“That did not occur,” he mentioned.
Whereas the millennial era adopted the web and a mobile-first mentality, Gen Z has by no means recognized a time that they may not do nearly every little thing they wanted to do on a cell machine, mentioned Connor Blakley, a advertising marketing consultant and Gen Z knowledgeable.
“Everybody at all times says that Gen Z has a six- to eight-second consideration span,” he mentioned. “What that’s is only a actually good ‘BS meter’ for various sorts of data in order that we will choose the factor that we actually need to spend time on.”
Blakley, who’s a member of Gen Z himself, has suggested corporations like Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson and the National Hockey League on social media marketing strategies. He noted that Gen Z is a generation that can easily discern when people and companies are being disingenuous.
“That’s why you are seeing talent agencies, marketing agencies, influencer agencies, all kinds of branding agencies going to TikTok because that is the place where Gen Z already is,” Dorsey added. “If you want to reach them, you have to go to where they are because you have virtually zero chance of getting them to where you are.”
TikTok, in particular, has been a place for talent agencies to cull new talent because of its rapid rise to popularity and the viral nature of its content. In fact, TikTok was the most popular website in 2021, surpassing even Google, in response to knowledge from Cloudflare, an online safety and efficiency firm.
The social media app, which launched internationally in 2017, rose to prominence in 2018, however actually gained traction with shoppers in late 2019 and throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Film theaters have been shuttered, productions of in style TV exhibits have been halted and the speed at which content material was being launched to the general public slowed significantly. With so many individuals caught at dwelling, many turned to alternate options like TikTok for leisure.
“All of the sudden there was a pandemic,” Martinez-Reid mentioned. “Everybody was caught inside. I had nothing to do however to make content material and everybody else had nothing to do however to look at content material.”
Boman Martinez-Reid, recognized on TikTok as “Bomanizer,” is a content material creator who was signed by expertise company CAA in July 2020.
For Martinez-Reid, TikTok was a inventive outlet. He was one semester away from graduating from Ryerson College’s RTA Media Manufacturing program when the social media platform started to realize reputation. So, he determined to strive his hand at content material manufacturing.
“What do I’ve to lose? If I publish one thing and it does effectively, nice. If it does poorly, then nobody will know,” he mentioned.
His first TikTok was posted in December 2019 and centered round Martinez-Reid having a dialog along with his final two mind cells about becoming a member of the social media platform.
“I used to be simply mainly taking pictures for this like overproduced, tremendous scripted, strive arduous form of edge, which on the time was not a factor on TikTok,” he mentioned. “And I feel that is why my content material began to take action effectively, as a result of I began to get this remark that was like ‘I can not imagine that it is a TikTok’ and from then on it kind of simply snowballed into increasingly alternatives.”
Martinez-Reid has develop into recognized for his actuality present spoof movies during which, alongside household and pals, he pokes enjoyable at how forged members typically get into feuds over the small issues. He mentioned that throughout the pandemic, whereas folks have been caught inside, they may relate to tiny little frustrations effervescent over into huge arguments.
Whereas Martinez-Reid has but to interrupt into Hollywood, he is used his relationship with CAA to satisfy with casting administrators and story producers at numerous networks during the last 18 months. His objective is to realize extra data in regards to the trade so he could make extra strategic choices about what tasks he desires to signal on for sooner or later.
However there’s a path for Martinez-Reid, one which was first cast greater than a decade in the past by content material creators on YouTube and the now defunct video platform Vine.
‘Expertise is expertise’
During the last decade, CAA has helped content material creators from nontraditional platforms make the transition to Hollywood. The group reps Tyler Blevins, aka Ninja, who rose to fame streaming himself taking part in video video games. Whereas Blevins continues to play video video games professionally, he has additionally participated in Fox’s “The Masked Singer” and had a cameo look in Disney’s “Free Guy.”
The talent agency also represents Arif Zahir, who gained notoriety for his impressions posted on YouTube, and now voices Cleveland Brown on Fox’s “Family Guy.”
Other notable celebrities that have risen from this space include CAA-signed Justin Bieber, who was discovered by Usher and Scooter Braun and became a Grammy Award-winning artist; Liza Koshy, who also signed with CAA and now voices Zipp Storm on the “My Little Pony: A New Generation” TV show; and Bo Burnham, who is represented by United Talent Agency, went from making comedy YouTube videos, to writing, directing and starring in top Hollywood films.
“Talent is talent,” said Frank Jung, who launched CAA’s digital media division almost a decade ago alongside Freeman. “If they are an amazing talent, that’s just number one.”
TikTok is still a relatively new platform and has yet to produce the same number of Hollywood success stories as YouTube has in the last decade, but experts predict it won’t be long until its making a mark on the film and television industry.
Already we’ve seen the rise of Addison Rae, 21, who secured a multimillion dollar deal with Netflix in September after starring in the streamer’s film “He’s All That,” a sequel to 1999’s “She’s All That.” She is represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and currently has more than 86 million followers on TikTok.
And, of course, Charli D’Amelio, 17, who touts a following more than 133 million strong on the social media platform, has partnered with brands like hummus maker Sabra, Procter & Gamble and Dunkin and now has her own docuseries on Hulu. D’Amelio is repped by UTA.
Then there is Maggie Thurmon, who rose to fame on the social media app dancing and performing circus tricks with her father Dan. The 19-year-old was signed by UTA in February 2020 before she hit 1 million followers on the platform.
Now, she has more than 5 million followers, a popular podcast called “Mags and Dad’s Wholesome Chaos” and just wrapped her first feature film “The Other Zoey,” which features Andie MacDowell and Heather Graham.
“I’m auditioning at the moment,” Thurmon told CNBC just hours after finishing up on set. “I’m so excited for the possibilities of acting in the future. If I can do this for the rest of my life, I would just be the happiest person on the planet.”
Thurmon said she was “greatly surprised” when she announced to her TikTok following earlier this month that she would be pursuing acting alongside her burgeoning social media career.
“I prepared for the backlash,” she said. “But I did not find one negative comment on the TikTok announcement or Instagram post.”
Thurmon’s experience is not unique. “What we see is that Gen Z influencers on TikTok have built meaningful followings and have a built-in audience of fans that feel a personal connection to the creator and want to be more supportive,” Dorsey said. “They feel like that are going along with them on the project.”
That’s one reason these content creators have clout among Hollywood agencies looking to sign fresh talent.
‘Data is the new oil’
“The unique thing is not only being able to identify talent, but this talent already comes with a built-in audience,” CAA’s Freeman said. “Through social media and these platforms, there is a direct conversation that is happening between talent and audience.”
For Jung and Freeman, these audiences provide much needed data about what people want to consume for content and who they want to see make that content.
“Data is the new oil,” Jung said. “What we are trying to do is make sure we are amplifying these voices and eventually creating media businesses for the clients, which will leave lasting legacies.”
“And also everyone can make some money,” he added with a laugh.
Not only can these agencies help build mini-media empires around these creators, they also can benefit from the strategies these digital influencers use, and apply it to bolster the careers of the agencies’ already established clients.
Smith, who has been campaigning for a best actor nomination at this year’s Academy Awards for his role in Warner Bros.’ “King Richard,” is a prime example of a traditional CAA client who has used social media to jumpstart the next phase of his career.
Freeman said that some of the actor’s learnings and best practices came from Koshy, who emphasized that his social media videos didn’t need to be perfect, well-produced videos, they just needed to be authentic and give audiences a peek behind the curtain into his life.
Smith started his own YouTube channel in 2017, posting vlog-style videos about his life alongside curated series. 2018’s “The Jump” focused on Smith’s preparation to bungee jump out of a helicopter over the Grand Canyon for his 50th birthday, while 2021’s “Best Shape of My Life” centered on the actor’s journey to improve his personal fitness.
More recently, he has posted videos of himself training alongside Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, quizzing his young costars from “King Richard” about his career and explaining how he went about recording his audiobook.
Actor Will Smith takes a selfie at the UK Premiere of “King Richard” at The Curzon Mayfair on November 17, 2021 in London, England.
Samir Hussein | WireImage | Getty Images
“His career was colder than it had been,” Dan Weinstein, of Underscore Talent, said. “I wouldn’t say it was nonexistent, but he was not the ‘Independence Day’ blockbuster draw he was. He found new audiences. He reinvented his persona around his celebrity. There’s no denying the fact that he is an insanely creative, talented, charismatic individual and he’s leveraging that to breathe new life into all of his endeavors.”
In the last five years, Smith has starred in major blockbusters like Warner Bros.’ “Suicide Squad” and Disney’s “Aladdin,” reestablishing himself as a force at the box office.
And Smith isn’t the only celebrity following this path. Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and more have embraced social media as a way to connect with fans and promote their work.
Jung and Freeman’s digital media division of CAA has been devised as a place to meld the best practices of the traditional Hollywood model with the strategies of grassroots entrepreneurial content creators. In doing so, their team can take already established talent and reinvigorate their careers. They can also take up-and-coming talent, like Martinez-Reid, and build from an already sturdy foundation.
Martinez-Reid is still forging his path and CAA isn’t rushing him.
“That’s why I love CAA,” Martinez-Reid said. “Because they see me as a talented creator who will have a career. It’s not just about quick jobs. It’s about shaping what my next 10 years are going to look like.”