Equal pay advocate
Times have changed since Fred Toczek added a thriving subspecialty in handling youth talent to his practice at the dawn of the “Harry Potter” age. Negotiating a deal for 11-year-old Daniel Radcliffe to take on the lead role in the franchise’s first film installment, 2001’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Toczek had to overcome what was then a challenging bargaining position for young actors.“A decade ago, kids were on a very substandard pay scale,” explains the USC law school grad, who also repped a 17-year-old Vancouver native, Seth Rogen, when he landed his first break, Judd Apatow’s short-lived NBC series “Freaks and Geeks.” “Now I think the market recognizes their importance. Lately that prejudice, or perception, has eased up, and they’re getting paid more in accordance with their market value.” Toczek, whose other kid clients include Freddie Highmore and Dakota Blue Richards, credits the commercial success in recent years of not only youth-driven feature franchises like “Harry Potter” but also minor-led platforms like Disney Channel and Nickelodeon with changing the perception of the marketplace. “It’s been a push from agents, lawyers and managers to get more equitable pay for young talent, but more than anything it has been the impact of that talent in the marketplace. These successes have helped people recognize the value of youth on all platforms, and this enabled us to have a realistic and reasonable conversation,” Toczek explains. These days, Toczek says the good deals are easier to come by, as he has recently negotiated pacts for Simi Valley High student Shailene Woodley to star in ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” and Jemma McKenzie-Brown to make more “High School Musical” sequels. “With younger actors, the interaction is definitely more with the parents, but as they become teenagers, there is more direct involvement in the business side of their careers, which I embrace,” Toczek says. “My job is to balance that business side and make sure they have as normal a childhood and young-adulthood as possible.” Recent breakthrough: Rebuilt his practice as Felker Toczek Gellman Suddleson, following the February departure of partners Peter Nelson (who reps Peter Jackson, among others) and George Davis. Role model: “My partner Patti Felker. She is tenacious in representing clients but at the same time an absolute mensch.” What’s next: Counts the split-up of the seventh and final “Harry Potter” adaptation “… and the Deathly Hallows” into two movies as a two-picture boon to client Radcliffe.