NAME: Dick Brand
DESCRIPTION: Veteran Hollywood agent.
LAST SEEN: Herding sheep in Yorkshire.
The train lies on its side, wheels still spinning, the first three carriages scattered everywhere. A tree is down across the track and two cows that moments earlier were enjoying a quiet graze are now just so much flattened beef. Veteran Hollywood agent and occasional sheep farmer Dick Brand is watching in awe.
“I took the corner too fast,” he laughs as he dusts off the locomotive and restores order to the massive model train set that occupies a fair portion of his Paris abode. He returns the bovine beauties to their field and sits down.
Brand, now 65, hit Hollywood in 1951 as a greenhorn agent at the Gersh Agency. “I got fired after 12 months for losing a client,” he recalls. Undeterred, he moved on to join agent Bill Schiffren before a brief spell as a junior writer for 20th Century Fox. “The only problem was that I can’t write,” admits Brand as he surveys the rapidly diminishing space in the ashtray.
From Fox, Brand parlayed his way into NBC’s New York offices as one of six inhouse producers. “I lied like a trooper and told them I knew everything about television. I hadn’t even set foot in a studio before.” For the next 12 months, Brand and his colleagues produced all of NBC’s inhouse shows.
Then Hollywood called again, and Brand set up his own Brand Agency, repping the likes of Walter Seltzer, Joel Katz, Stanley Greenberg, Jack Haley Jr. and Saul David. “For nearly 20 years I was involved in a very lucrative business. Walter Seltzer and I packaged six pictures with Charlton Heston that included ‘The Omega Man,’ ‘Skyjacked’ and ‘Soylent Green.’ We could deliver films that cost around $2 million and had a big name attached to them. And we had gross participation.”
When not packaging, Brand was working the third floor at MGM and the 14th floor at Universal. “Let’s say I was a junior power-broker, but please don’t mention any names.”
Then came an offer to run the London-based Legion Group. “This was a 25-year-old kid, rapidly spending a trust fund’s money. I found we had a 48,000-acre cattle ranch in California with 22 employees and eight cows.”
The upside was that Brand met his current wife, Lucilla Butler. Armed with her six children from a previous marriage and his own son, Brand headed to conservative North Yorkshire, primarily so Lucilla could have the space to hunt on her vast land holdings.
The couple took in another three foster children and Brand started sheep farming. “I lasted six years. Then I got bored. It’s not much fun watching sheep doing what sheep do and having to help them do it at four o’clock in the morning on a snowy Yorkshire moor.”
With the children grown up and Lucilla no longer hunting, Brand was on the move yet again. “We chose Paris. Both of us like the city and we’d done London and Hollywood.”
He also returned to the agency business. “I have a fax, a telephone and a computer. I work from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. each evening and I have around 15 clients,” including French writer Paul Loup Sulitzer.
Brand has also tapped into new technology. Using Compuserve, he invites writers to send him their scripts. “I’ve been doing it for 18 months and I get about 20 scripts a month. I have found two superb screenplays and three or four very commercial projects. I don’t work for the money. I work to keep myself young.”