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Heller Awards: Talent Managers Salute Jack Gilardi, Chuck Binder

Jack Gilardi Chuck Binder Heller Awards
Binder: Michal Czerwonka

Chuck Binder
Lifetime Achievement for Excellence as a Talent Manager

Binder began his showbiz career in William Morris Agency’s storied mailroom. His first big break came on the tennis courts: He met Jamie Lee Curtis, then a struggling actor, while working as a tennis instructor and helped introduce her to “Halloween” director John Carpenter and co-writer Debra Hill, paving the way for Curtis’ first film role.

From Binder & Associates’ 1978 beginnings, he has gone on to manage stars ranging from Sharon Stone and Brooke Shields to Benjamin Bratt, and to produce films and TV shows involving clients.

“Whatever I was touching, it was turning to gold,” Binder says. “But it was a different business in the ’80s. There weren’t as many managers or actors, it was just a little smaller. Now, everything is much bigger, which makes it harder. I like to be much more hands-on with a client.”

Throughout his career, Binder has purposely chosen to remain out of the spotlight to avoid controversy. He says his main focus has always been the client, “getting my clients from point A to point Z.”

He’s also a big believer in boundaries between work and personal life.

“For me, I like to do the work at work, and go home at night and leave everything behind,” Binder says. “People always ask how I’ve been in the industry for this long and have avoided drugs and the party scene. But it all goes back to my parents. I had a very good solid upbringing.”

Craig Fincannon
Lifetime Achievement for Excellence as a Casting Director

When the film industry headed south to take advantage of financial incentives, Fincannon and his company answered the casting call. Fincannon & Associates opened up offices in Atlanta and New Orleans to add to its North Carolina base, and the company has helped cast and nurture actors throughout the region ever since.

“A lot of actors have started in the southeast doing smaller work and then taken that resume to Los Angeles or New York and been able to expand on it, that’s probably the most satisfying part of the involvement that we’ve had over the years,” Fincannon says.

The company has grown its talent pool of actors to tens of thousands, and has cast for some of the best directors in the business. “We would work with David Lynch in the morning, Peter Bogdanovich at lunch and Michael Mann in the afternoon. When you have that kind of a baptism of working with these amazing artistic people, I think it would be very difficult for some of that not to rub off on you,” Fincannon says.

Fincannon got into casting through acting, which he studied in college. But he realized that if he wanted to break through, he was going to have to move out of his small township in North Carolina — and that was something he wasn’t prepared to do. “I didn’t wanna live my life that far away from my mama,” Fincannon says, so instead he turned to casting, using his connections and relationships from college to develop an eye for the profession and a roster of talent.

In 2013 Fincannon took home a share of the Emmy for casting for a drama series on “Homeland” with his wife, Lisa Mae, a testament that his decision to stay put and make the best of his situation turned out to be one of the smartest non-moves he ever made.

Jack Gilardi
Lifetime Achievement for Excellence as an Agent

Given Gilardi’s remarkable longevity as a talent agent — six decades and counting — you might think he always dreamed of going Hollywood. Not so, the Chicago native confesses. “I wanted to be a ball player then I wanted to be a doctor,” he says. But Gilardi got lucky. He found a way into the business through the army, where he was in charge of bringing entertainment to the soldiers stationed at Fort Knox.

From there he landed at a forerunner to ICM, choosing it over MCA and William Morris because the agency offered him more money and a position above assistant. This was a relief, since he didn’t know how to type or spell at the time.

During his tenure at the agency, he has represented some of the biggest names in the film and music industries, including Charlton Heston, Frankie Avalon, Jerry Lewis, Sylvester Stallone and Shirley MacLaine. He even married a star — former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello, then in her “Beach Blanket Bingo” phase — and had three children with her before they split in 1981.

Ever a traditionalist, Gilardi remains loyal to the film side of the business over small-screen ventures.

“Motion pictures are what put the fannies on the seats. It’s not so much in the hands of the studios as it once was, but it’s now a case of what can we get, who’s gonna pay and how are we gonna share it?” Gilardi says. “It’s changed quite a bit, but it’s definitely still exciting.”

After so many years in the business, Gilardi has never once thought about signing off on his last contract. “I’ve been here so long I don’t know what I would do,” Gilardi says. “I love the people around me and I love what I do.”

Tammy Wallace
TMA Manager of the Year

Wallace, named manager of the year by the Talent Managers Assn., likes to put family first. That’s how she got into showbiz in the first place.

“My oldest daughter got into the business and had a manager that was extremely overwhelmed, and I had time on my hands and helped her out in the office,” says Wallace, who has four children. “I went in and totally organized her office, and eventually began working with her.”

When her daughter’s manager decided to leave the business to focus on theater, Wallace decided to take on a small percentage of her clients and start her own talent management business. Now, Wallace balances her time between her two agencies in Atlanta and Los Angeles, booking clients on shows such as “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries.”

She became involved with TMA four years ago when she first decided to expand her offices.

“My main office was in Atlanta, so I wanted to expand and open a satellite office in L.A.,” recalls Wallace, “Everyone at TMA was so kind and so willing to help. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to have the satellite office in L.A.

“L.A. and Atlanta are two totally different markets — it’s almost like having two totally separate jobs,” says the talent manager. “TMA really embraced me. Anyone I wanted to talk to or work with, TMA made it happen.”

2016 TMA Heller Awards
6:30 p.m. Nov. 10
Beverly Hilton