David Whitmey has made his career in the film and TV industry by seizing opportunities, and his Vancouver-based talent agency Moving Pictures Talent & Entertainment Group is a prime example of that.
He wasn’t about to let tough times in B.C.’s film and TV industry deter him from pursuing his passion. “Some people thought I was crazy, but my attitude was ‘it can only get better from here,’” says David. “While other agencies where closing their doors I was looking for doors to open.”
From Actor to Agent
Now in business for over three years, David hadn’t always aspired to open a talent agency. He began in the industry as an actor, but decided to start a second career in production. On his first day as a production assistant he found himself on the set of a music video for 54-40, and he quickly realized that production was a great fit for him.
From there he continued to make connections and take advantage of opportunities wherever he could, including one day on set when he jumped in to help an overwhelmed assistant director, and shortly thereafter found himself climbing the ladder of the assistant directing department himself.
“I enjoy learning how things are done and finding a way to do them on my own,” says David.
After several years in the film and TV industry, he realized his diverse skill set of acting, assistant directing, teaching and production management had primed him for talent representation, and decided to take the leap and open his own agency.
Against the Odds
David knew that building a successful talent agency would be a challenge, but he didn’t let that stop him. In fact, he thrives in situations where leadership and problem-solving are essential, and his self-motivated, goal-setting nature has made entrepreneurship a great fit for him.
For David, “A person who owns their own business is a person who deals with goals and obstacles everyday – all day.”
But he also knew that he couldn’t rely solely on himself to bootstrap his new agency. As he has grown his business he’s reached out to his own former agents, casting directors, producers, actors, and his friends and family – and he’s also no stranger to the Small Business BC office.
“Small Business BC has been a great resource, including support by the staff answering my phone calls and emails, the front-of-house staff that have guided me to the business books I have purchased, and the ‘Ask the Expert’ series personnel who have all been incredibly supportive,” says David.
And his initial legwork and continued hard work have paid off. While he concedes that there were many challenges to overcome during his first year in business, he has now booked clients on virtually every network TV show that shoots in Vancouver and on several commercials.
What’s more, he’s also watched some of his clients develop from day-players to series regulars. David has booked clients on shows and feature films such as The Killing, Arrow, Big Eyes and Almost Human and for products such as Lexus, Taco Bell, TELUS and Hilton Hotels.
It’s All About Connections
While many business owners dread networking, David embraces it. In fact, he believes that his knack for engaging people in a professional context with a personal touch is one of his greatest strengths as an entrepreneur.
David also recognizes it’s all about who you know in his industry, and he understands that a big part of his business is not only working directly with clients, but also actively extending his own reach on their behalf.
“I have established great relationships with every single casting director in Vancouver, and beyond that, I have established relationships with casting directors in Toronto, New York and L.A,” says David – and it’s those relationships that help his clients get a foot in the door in Hollywood.
The Road Ahead
As he continues to grow his business he doesn’t want to lose sight of the principles on which he founded his agency. “I am very selective with whom I represent,” says David. “It’s important to me that I have built something to be proud of and to maintain it will require a balance of drive and patience.”
And ultimately it’s his thoughtfully-selected client roster that inspires him to continue to grow his business – when his actors work hard, it makes him want to work even harder.
While David continues to plan for the future, he also recognizes the importance of taking time to step back and take a look what you’ve created. He offers this final piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Being an entrepreneur is incredibly time-consuming and it comes with challenges at every turn, but be sure to take time to reflect on your accomplishments along the way.”