By Kevin Young, Charleston City Paper.
Michael Myers will be getting stabby again Oct. 15 in Rough House Pictures’ Halloween Kills, and if a few faces in the movie look familiar, you can thank Coastal Talent Agency. For two decades, the small agency has been supplying film and television productions with some of the Southeast’s best and brightest.
Linda Eisen, owner of the agency, relishes her job. “Most basically, a talent agent connects actors with opportunities,” she told the City Paper. “We submit and promote talent for specific roles, advise and guide their career paths, negotiate contracts and work with clients to provide the perfect talent for their projects. Very importantly, we provide our actors with a barrier of protection and safety; personally, professionally and financially.”
At the encouragement of the S.C. Film Commission to fill a need in the area’s growing film and television industry, Coastal Talent Agency was founded in 1995 by Paula McLane. Eisen was fortunate enough to meet and work with McLane shortly after moving to Charleston in 2005.
“I learned that the wide range of jobs that I’d performed over the years, including acting, directing, producing, casting, arts education and administration, gave me a unique skill set well-suited to the work of a talent agent.”
When McLane was looking to retire in 2006, Eisen bought Coastal Talent. Since then, the agency’s popularity has grown, as has its roster of clients. Eisen has worked to adapt to the growing regional industry and technological changes while cultivating and retaining good working relationships with regional casting directors, producers and agencies. She happily credits Coastal Talent’s other agent, Pam Hays, who has worked in many capacities, and heads up the company’s voice over division.
When not poring over headshots, resumes and demo reels, the duo is holding interviews with prospective clients. “We are looking for those who have a strong resume with on-camera credits, good training, professional materials and, most importantly, natural talent and charisma that pops off of the screen,” Eisen said.
As a boutique agency, Eisen and Hays keep their roster relatively small compared to many other agencies and work closely with the talent they take on — aiming for quality over quantity. With talent like Henry Riggs, who plays bassist Tommy Cogbill in the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, and Jennifer Hazelip, who has a recurring Righteous Gemstones role as family friend Pam, the agency stays busy. Turning people down doesn’t make them happy. A smaller client list enables them to keep the lines of communication open and create more of a sense of family compared to other agencies.
As someone who has had her share of experiences in the field, Eisen is happy to impart her advice for hungry talent. “I want actors who are starting out and parents to know that there should never be fees associated with representation and you do not need to spend thousands of dollars attending events to be seen by industry professionals. We get paid when [people in] our talent book work.”
While Eisen is happy that the state has seen more projects come to the area, she feels there is room for improvement. As a board member for the Carolina Film Alliance, she said she’s seen the state lose potential work time and again.
“Unfortunately, the state has been turning work away because our tax incentives are currently not as competitive as those in our neighboring states. The film and television industry provides income and jobs to local businesses, along with cast and crew members. Please let your state representatives know you want more projects like The Righteous Gemstones and Outer Banks to come here and help boost the economy.”
Coastal Talent has been fortunate to be involved with recent projects outside the region such as Nico Tirozzi’s role in the Ryan Reynolds/Will Ferrell film, Spirited, and David Fields’ work in the new Martin Scorsese movie, Killers of the Flower Moon. Still, she is most proud of projects that are shot here and in the Southeast, like Halloween Kills, filmed in Wilmington. For Eisen, her actor’s successes are her company’s successes.
“There is no better feeling than calling someone up to tell them that they ‘booked it.’ ”