Agency evolves as tech transforms biz

Youth Impact Report 2012: Coast to Coast 25th Anniversary

For 25 years, Coast to Coast Talent’s Youth Division has put a major emphasis on Hollywood minors, and director Meredith Fine has been there since day one — or as she puts it, “I’ve been doing this so long that my clients are now having babies.” As someone who’s helped discover and nurture the careers of dozens of young clients, from Haley Joel Osment to Hailee Steinfeld, Fine says she has witnessed “a huge evolution” in the youth talent business over that time.

“When I began, we did everything by typewriter,” she recalls. “How we ever got anything done is beyond me. You’d phone your clients and their parents to give them their appointments, then they’d write everything down. It was incredibly time-consuming.”

The only way for young actors to get their sides was to show up at the studio in advance, which could mean driving all the way from San Diego to Hollywood the day before an audition.

The arrival of fax machines and pagers made things much more manageable — “as long as your fax machine didn’t jam,” Fine adds. “That was the era of, ‘I didn’t get page five, please re-send,’ and it was so frustrating. You couldn’t strategize and game-plan and build a career like you can today.”

Now, cell phones and the Internet have completely changed the way Fine and her team do business, although her first encounters with a computer were “not happy,” she admits. “I was a paper person, I kept endless notes and that was my system. I was a creature of habit.” But Fine soon realized that by using a computer, she could get “four times as much work done every day.”

Better still, new technology has enabled Fine to rep aspiring kid thesps “anywhere in the country — and outside the country,” she says. “In the old days, the kids and parents often sacrificed so much, from school and friends to their daily routines, by moving here to pursue their careers. Now, they can put themselves on tape and I can give notes.”

Fine doesn’t use Skype, “because I’m not an acting coach,” she says, although she acknowledges that many are embracing the video service to audition remotely. “I’ve always felt it was very important to know my clients personally, even if today they don’t have to come in to the office every week — or even live in L.A.”

Such advances aside, “It still ultimately comes down to raw talent,” insists Fine. “For me, developing the talent is all about the individual and what makes them different from all the others out there.”

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