With Obvious Management, former publishing executive Tom Symes has launched a new production partnership and a new model for working with foreign directors in Canada. After publishing a magazine that covered agencies and production companies, Symes decided that he wanted to get into the production industry himself. "The only drawback was that I didn't have any executive producer experience-I had a sales and marketing background," he says. But after approaching Christina Ford, owner and president of Toronto-based Imported Artists Film Co., which represents international directorial talent for Canada, the two brainstormed an unusual business model for the Canadian market. The result of the partnership is Obvious Management, a company that represents American and international talent for work with Canadian agencies, providing production services through affiliated production services company, Treehouse North. Typically, a foreign director would be represented through a full-service Canadian production company, which reps individuals or rosters of foreign directors, as well as its own domestic talent, and handles all facets of the production. Karen Silver, owner Treehouse North, signed on Symes' idea to promote foreign directors in Canada, because Canadian production companies signing American directors typically require that production services also stay with that company.
"I want to represent companies from around the world and sell them to the Canadian market and its agencies," Symes explains. "It's pretty similar to the traditional system, except that the company of record is the one that we're repping." Other clients signed since the company's launch in November include American companies Independent Media and A Band Apart; London-based Pagan Productions; Prague's Stillking Films; Spain's The Lift; Shoot N.Y.; and Dutch music company Massive Music. Symes also promotes Treehouse North internationally.
At first, Symes met with some opposition from Canadian agencies and production companies, as the market had never embraced the repping system. "It was a little controversial, but people realized that there are other ways to do things," Symes says. "It's just an option for the way that people want to be represented in the Canadian market.."
As Symes continues to sign new companies and build a diverse roster, he's helping to keep directors busy. Tool of North America's Erich Joiner and Sean Berringer have shot for Diet Pepsi and Kellogg's, respectively. "My goal is to be able to sell all of the directors on my roster, and get everyone a job this year," says Symes, noting that once the market warmed up around January, the board flow has been steady.