Rowland Perkins is a Hollywood classic reborn.
This talent mogul has more than 30 years of experience and a library-sized Rolodex that would make any agent drool. His résumé is the finely scripted story of a Tinseltown luminary.
At 66, Perkins’s polished silver locks, wide smile, and easy, deliberate speech tell of his professional prowess and comfort with success. He spent 16 years at the William Morris Agency before cofounding the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in 1975. As founding president, he helped steer the agency through historic growth to become the largest in the world. Perkins has seen it all, done it all, and has carved out his spot in the annals of American film and television.
His next stint? Rolling out the red carpet — all the way to the Web.
After leaving CAA in late 1994, Perkins could have easily retired poolside in Beverly Hills. Instead, when approached by the founders of MouseJockey through a mutual friend, he decided to remake a legend — to craft a career sequel the likes of which Hollywood has never seen.
Perkins now sits on the board of MouseJockey, a startup based in Santa Monica, California that offers an innovative way to evaluate new media for advertisers and sponsors. He also serves as chairman of ieProducer.com Inc., which houses several sites and netcasting channels, and as president of one of its divisions, Talentclick Inc., an online talent market for casting directors and actors. Perkins is orchestrating a business revolution, and he’s loving every minute of it.
Despite the immediate success of these companies, substantial change in the entertainment industry will only happen when “key players” join the movement, Perkins says. “The old guys still aren’t even using computers,” he says of Hollywood’s power players and their relationship to the new economy. He can relate.
“I was very intimidated by technology,” he confessed. “If I needed something on the Web, I would ask my secretary for it, and it would get done. But over the years I became more and more fascinated with the Internet as a tool to revolutionize business. I finally said to my assistant, ‘That’s it! I’m coming into the office on Saturday and so are you, dammit! We’re going to sit down together, and you are going to teach me this computer stuff!’ “
Perkins is the board-sitting don that all startups lust after. His connections and networking know-how landed ieProducer the exclusive Web-cast rights to “Night of a Hundred Stars,” as well as access to an elite Oscar party at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In addition, his gold-plated calling card has brought tremendous success to Talentclick. However, behind these startup fairy tales lie as much elbow grease and strategic planning as in any other successful business endeavor. Perkins wasn’t recruited for his Midas touch alone. The forward-thinking cofounders of MouseJockey specifically approached Perkins because they hoped to marry the tenets of the old economy with the magic of the new.
After years of experience, Perkins has a keen eye for the fundamentals. He says, “Despite the hype surrounding the Internet, this new business is still business as usual. The Internet alone cannot support a business and will never replace people. It is a tool we use, and a tool we sell. With a good product, and the know-how that only experience can teach, this tool can enhance your opportunities and growth. Knowledge of technology alone, no matter how innovative, will get newbies absolutely nowhere.”
He’s convinced that the ways of the old school still rule, and his advice to seasoned business professionals eyeing new-economy reinvention is this: Technology is only a minor element of the business revolution. Success is a marriage of impenetrable strategy, long-standing business relationships and knowledge, passion for a product, and people, people, people.
Despite his criticism of today’s technology-centric business practices, Perkins lauds the “bright young stars” of the new economy and many of the ways they’re doing business differently. “There is so much positive networking today, which impresses me,” he says. “Today’s entrepreneurs are not afraid or opposed to sharing information, and partnerships take precedence over the cutthroat competition of yesterday. There was too much protectionism in the old days. Entrepreneurs realize now that if they invest in each other’s success, they will all prosper in the long run. It is vastly healthier than pure competition, or spending too much energy destroying competitors.”
And for potential reinventors like himself, Perkins adds, “You can never stop learning about what you’re doing. Some of the best producers I know started ages ago by working in every single department before they opened the doors of their own studio. It’s that kind of passion and dedication to building your product with your entire self that brings success.”
Contact Rowland Perkins via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).