Some 18 months after ending a 27-year run as a talent agent and giving up an impressive roster of actor clients, Steve Dontanville has returned — as a manager-producer.
Dontanville has teamed with Frank Frattaroli to form D/F, a management/production company that will have offices in Culver City and New York. Dontanville will spearhead the West Coast office, and has hired his former WMA assistant Daniel Pancotto to run it.
Frattaroli already has Gotham headquarters in Soho that he had used for Widescreen Management, his 6-year-old company whose assets will be melded into D/F.
Dontanville’s decision to exit the business was a shock, because he left behind one of the strongest client lists in town. He made deals for Reese Witherspoon, Holly Hunter, Liev Schreiber, Radha Mitchell, Kiefer Sutherland, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Hayes and Alfred Molina, among others.
Frattaroli’s company brings in a management list that includes Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Michelle Monaghan, Parker Posey, Scott Speedman, Lili Taylor, Sarah Polley and filmmakers Michael Cuesta, Mary Harron and Ben Ross.
Disillusioned with the grind and the eroding quality of studio films he was booking his clients into, Dontanville planned to recharge his batteries with a sabbatical on his ranch in Ojai, then try his hand at writing and producing films.
“I never fell out of love with movies, but I’d soured on the studio system, I had too many clients, and got to the point where I felt like I was running a mini-agency within a larger agency,” Dontanville told Daily Variety. “I was burned out and tired.”
After micromanaging the renovation of his ranch and enduring a painful breakup with his partner, Dontanville refocused on the business, found inspiration in the bumper crop of indie films and discovered he missed dealing with his clients.
Frattaroli, a longtime Gothamite, was considering an expansion of his business in Los Angeles. He’d periodically asked Dontanville to consider partnering, and the bicoastal arrangement seemed like a good fit for both.
“I came around to feeling like I had a gift for guiding talent, and talent always inspired me,” Dontanville said. “Doing that, and having the ability to produce projects with them, seemed the best way to re-enter the business.”
Dontanville said his first order of business will be to build back his list. He expects to reunite with several former clients.