Former TV agent bows on bigscreen

While it’s not uncommon for Hollywood players to jump between acting, writing, producing and directing, it’s very rare for an agent to become a director.

Fifteen-year CAA vet Tony Krantz is solidifying this unusual leap from suit to creative with his third helming effort, “The Big Bang,” a surreal, modern noir thriller starring Antonio Banderas that hits New York and Los Angeles theaters May 13.

“After college, I was looking for a career that had a kind of structure to it,” he explains. “CAA had a training program, so I became an agent, then a producer and finally, three and a half years ago, I came back around to becoming the director I always wanted to be.”

Krantz’s path is a bit less surprising when you look at the quality of projects he packaged after rising from CAA’s mailroom to run its primetime TV department: They include “Twin Peaks,” “The West Wing” and “ER,” plus such features as “Wild at Heart” and “The Doors.” His genetics, as son of the late producer and comedy writer Steve Krantz and bestselling author Judith Krantz, who belatedly switched from magazine writing to novels, probably didn’t hurt the transition.

Krantz sees a link among his choices in projects that he traces back to his days promoting such shows as a Grateful Dead/Miles Davis Quartet double bill at Berkeley. “It was brilliant music that would inspire and uplift the audience, with a spiritual element to it,” he says. “That feeling is what I’ve wanted to find in everything I’ve done.”

Krantz exec produced “Sports Night,” “Felicity” and “24” (which earned him a PGA award) as a founding partner of Imagine Television, and produced former client David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive.” He went on to found the production outfit Flame Ventures and helm two features for Warner Bros.’ Raw Feed video label: the sci-fi thriller “Sublime” and the black comedy/horror film selected to open the 2008 SXSW Film Festival, “Otis,” both in collaboration with “Bang” writer Erik Jendresen.

Krantz’s next producer-director efforts include “Honey Vicarro,” which he’s helping writer Daniel Knauf (“Carnivale”) transform from a Fox mockumentary TV pilot into a serious 1960s-era conspiracy thriller with a “Boogie Nights”-meets-“Network” feel. He hopes to begin shooting the feature in New Orleans by the end of this year, but that depends on financing and landing the right lead, among other factors.

With the Anchor Bay-distributed “Bang” marking his first theatrical effort, Krantz seems to have completed the journey from project enabler to film director.

“If you’ve been an agent or producer, there’s a preconception that you’re not an artist, or as much of an artist as somebody who may have gone to film school, started as a writer or in theater, because there’re been so few examples where people have made that transition,” he says. “But I take Bill Graham, my first client and one of my early heroes, as an example. He was an artist-businessman, and I think you can be both.”

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