Industry Pro: Hollywood Journal’s Jill Cutler
When I first discovered Hollywood Journal, I couldn’t believe it. An online publication about the human story beyond the experience of working in entertainment? About how we feel, how who we are informs what we do, how we find a way to give back, whether in our own city or at an orphanage in Africa? Who could possibly be behind such a heart-centric endeavor? Today’s profile subject has a seemingly unlikely background for this: She was a talent agent at a top agency for many years. Talent agents, especially the ones at the top agencies, are often known for being tough-as nails, steely negotiators who fight to get the best deals for their A-list clients. But as you learn from reading Hollywood Journal, the person behind the job can often surprise you. Read on to find more about the career path of that former agent, Hollywood Journal Founder and Executive Editor, Jill Cutler.
Current position or recently completed projects or project: I’m the Founder and Editorial Director of Hollywood Journal, “soul of the biz”.
Can you talk a little bit about what Hollywood Journal is? Hollywood Journal is a website about the power of entertainment to inspire us, to change our lives, to shape our world. It is a place where the people who create these stories — writers, directors, actors, musicians, artists, producers, deal makers, managers, executives (storytellers of all sorts) – reveal the insights, experiences, inner resources and outer struggles that shape their works and their lives.
Backing up a bit, what is your home town? Los Angeles, California.
College and degree? I graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Arts.
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Did you have an internship while you were in school? Yes! I had five internships.
Impressive. What were the highlights? I worked as a contestant coordinator for a game show called Card Sharks. I also worked for Rhino Records & Video, specifically on the Monkees’ Reunion tour, as well as for Ohlmeyer Communications, Levine/Schneider Public Relations, and the Honey Sanders Talent Agency.
And what made you want to be in entertainment? I fell in love with movies at age five, and since that time I always wanted to be part of a world that told fabulous stories. This love for wonderful storytelling inspired Hollywood Journal.
First job in the entertainment industry? I worked as an assistant for a talent agency called Abrams Artists.
Can you talk a little bit about how you got that position? I was watching one of the beauty pageants on television and one of the judges said he was an agent with Abrams Artists. So I called the next day and they were hiring. I met them later that afternoon and started the following Monday.
Where did you go from there and how did it come about? I worked there for about a year. I was very interested in working for a bigger agency and, specifically, on the literary side, so I applied to work at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). [Editor’s note: CAA is one of a few top agencies in the entertainment industry.]
So how did you get the position at CAA? I had bought a book about getting a job in Hollywood and it said that even if a company is not hiring, you should just call them every single week until they agree to sit down and meet with you, even if it is just an informational meeting. I submitted my resume to a woman at CAA by the name of Arlene Newman and called literally every Wednesday for three months until she agreed to meet with me.
It was basically an informational interview? Yes. She probably met with me just so I would stop calling, but within a couple of days, she called me back in to meet with an agent who ended up hiring me as his assistant.
I love that story. So what happened with the CAA job? I actually feel that my big break, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, was being hired by Ken Stovitz (a motion picture literary agent at CAA). It sort of put me on a path that ultimately would lead to almost 16 years with the company.
You were the agent’s executive assistant and then you got promoted? I was Ken’s assistant for a few years. I believe I was actually the first non?agent trainee promoted to an executive position at CAA. [Editor’s note: An agent trainee is someone in a formal program the top agencies have which is run, in most cases, out of the mailroom.] I was promoted to a project coordinator position, which was a position that I created. I worked closely with our client-based production companies, helping them find material, match it with writers, filmmakers, actors – doing whatever I could to put together their projects. I was in essence an internal development person for CAA. I was a bit of a matchmaker and we had this incredible pool of talent, many of whom wanted to work together. It was my responsibility to find opportunities, whether they were scripts, books, articles or original ideas, and align our writers, directors, producers and actors on these various film and television vehicles.
Is that what packaging is? To a certain extent. Many times packaging involves a finished script. What I did was much earlier in the process. I functioned as our clients’ eyes and ears in the marketplace. With the insight and knowledge that I was accumulating, I would, for example, pair a director with an actor or writer who shared a similar passion, or find a piece of material that would serve as the springboard for the story they wanted to tell.
So you were a junior level executive within the company and then eventually you became an agent. Correct? Yes. I was eventually promoted to motion picture literary agent, but I worked with actors as well.
And how long did you stay there as an agent? I was an agent for a dozen or so years. While I was at CAA, I developed a close working relationship with Irwin Winkler, the Academy Award winning producer of Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff, among many others. In 2007, I joined his company as President of Production. I spearheaded all aspects of film production from development to release, and launched a television production company too. During my first year, we had 2 films released. Over the next few years, we produced The Mechanic starring Jason Statham and Ben Foster, as well as Trespass starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman. In 2012, I began creating my digital dream: Hollywood Journal, which made its live debut in early 2013.
What is the best advice I’ve ever gotten? Believe in yourself. When I was a child, my Mom gave me the book, The Little Engine That Could. The train engine has to pull the heavy toy train up the mountain and she says, as she does it, “I think I can. I think it can. I think I can.” I believe that book and its message is the best gift that she has ever given me. During the course of my life, whenever I’ve found myself in challenging situations, she always reminds me of those words: “I think I can, I think I can.” And I can … and I do!
Describe a typical workday in your current position. I’m an early riser. First thing, I review various sites looking for interesting stories for our “Around the Web” section on Hollywood Journal, and getting the most up to date information on what’s happening in Hollywood and the world. After I post our first piece of original content for the day, I focus on our other original pieces that we’re planning to post that week. We’re always on the lookout for enlightening Hollywood tales, so please be in touch if you have an inspiring one to share. I also manage our social media.
Where does your content come from? At Hollywood Journal, we focus on Hollywood stories from a deeper, more meaningful perspective. I spend a good portion of my day talking with people in the industry who graciously share their experiences with me. Since our contributors come from all areas of the business and are not folks that regularly write or speak openly, my agency skills come in handy!
Sounds like it. So what has been your best job or best day in the entertainment industry? I have been blessed with many great days and I believe my best day is yet to come.
So what’s the best thing about your current job? I get to work on stories that inspire me and I’m able to share them with people who are equally inspired by them.
Worst thing about your current job? The Internet never sleeps!
I’m looking for a brush with greatness. It can be a celebrity encounter or just being exposed to someone being brilliant at what they do. I have been incredibly fortunate over the course of my career to meet with and work with incredible colleagues, brilliant filmmakers and great talent. Every day is a new adventure, a new opportunity to meet somebody who can teach you something that you don’t know or share something that will shed light on your life … so every day is a chance to be touched and moved by greatness.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known when you started your entertainment career? How to “let it go.” Will it really matter a year from now? Probably not, so just let it go.
What do you think makes you good at what you do? I am naturally curious and resilient.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out either in entertainment in general or on the path in agent thing or on the producer path, what would your advice be? Believe in yourself, regardless of what anybody does or says. Just like “The Little Engine that Could.”
Next move or next five moves? The mission of Hollywood Journal is to continue to share inspiring and enlightening stories. The comment I most often get is, “Hollywood and soul? Really?!” My response is a confident,“Yes!” I know that Hollywood has a deep and creative soul, and our intention is to tap into it and let it reveal itself. There are incredible stories out there – Hollywood Journal is doing its best to bring many of them to the forefront.
Our hope is to be one of the top “go to” entertainment industry sites: as a place for industry folks to share their Hollywood tales, insights and wisdom; and as a destination for people who are looking to be inspired, to connect, and to be a part of a thriving creative community.
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