Ryan Reber, Brent Weinstein, Barrett Garese, and Jason U. Nadler
United Talent Agency
At 6:45 a.m., a 27-year-old guy rolls out of bed, flips open his laptop, and burns the first 45 minutes of his morning browsing online videos of amateur drummers and speed painters. But he's not a slacker. Jason U. Nadler is one of Hollywood's emerging crop of online talent scouts. The morning regime is his equivalent of an A&R guy hanging in the back of a smoky bar. "I allow myself to get lost [online]," he says. "It's where you find the gems."
Last fall, Nadler and two other assistants at United Talent Agency were tapped to form a new division dedicated to discovering talent online. UTA had already exported some online stars to traditional entertainment tracks (exhibit A: Andy Samberg of TheLonelyIsland.com fame, who's now a Saturday Night Live regular). But Nadler's team was charged with pioneering an entirely new model: matching up creators of obscure Web videos with the online divisions of traditional media companies, portals, and ad agencies, all of them hungry to try a new sort of storytelling.
"We're not going to sign someone just because they have a lot of hits on
The online scouts are starting to chip away at the ethos—and let's face it, the etiquette—of the Hollywood ecosystem. At most talent houses (including UTA), agents routinely blow off any screenplay or reel that lands unsolicited in the mail room. But Weinstein's team revels in the unusual, uncredentialed suspects. It recently brokered a deal with the peer-to-peer video-sharing site Veoh, which allows aspiring talent to submit videos directly to UTA's agents. "If we see something we're passionate about, we go after it as quickly as possible," Weinstein says. "Because if we're seeing it, chances are other people are as well. And we want to get there first."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.