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Straight Talk

Near the end of an intense, three-hour interview at Creative Artists’ Century City headquarters, Michael Ovitz announced that he had something more to say. What followed was a simple but impassioned statement about his agency, its people and some of the harsher things that have been said and printed about CAA in the last couple of years.

In his words:

“We have been accused of being everything under the sun. I read the other day that people say there are ‘Moonies’ here. The reality is that people here are as individual as any human being you’ll ever meet, and they are more interesting than most people you might meet in our business.

“They are really well-rounded people. They are good people. They are people you could have a meal with and whose company you would enjoy. They are people you can trust. They are people if, God forbid, your child was sick, you could call in the middle of the night and they would be there.

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“Now, if you were a studio executive, and you had a relationship with somebody like that, I can give you 10 people who will tell you that is a bad thing, for a studio executive to call one of the agents in this company because his kid is sick. But you can’t not have relationships with people. That is what this business is about. And you cannot have relationships with people (only) when everything is fair weather and great.

“It is like a marriage. And that is what we encourage here. We encourage long-term thinking.

“All of the conversations that take place externally about us, in my opinion, are predicated on the fact that we do not give out information. Yes, we do keep information very quiet. We have such delicate information, and it is not anyone’s business. We do not share our clients’ business. We just do not. Even between clients we do not share it, unless the client says we want you to tell so and so.

“We function very similarly to a law firm. We have very strong fiduciary obligations. And that makes us very unpopular with the press community. Because they feel we are withholding information. It is not about withholding information, it is about doing what is right.

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“One of the pillars of this company is that we like to do what we feel is right and proper. That does not mean that everyone is going to agree with it. The reality is that most people are will not, because it is going to get in their way. That is not our intention. Our intention is to service our clients. The clients really are in the limelight of what we do. Therefore, just by deductive reasoning, we should not be.

“All the credit we get for all the other things that we don’t do, and all the criticism we get for all the things we do, is a byproduct of the nonsense that permeates this community, which is a gossip-oriented community. We run a company that is antithetically opposed to gossip-mongering, so we have a built-in conflict going in the door. We are opposed to that whole nature of chatting up peoples’ lives, whispering in peoples’ ears about somebody’s problems or gloating over someone’s failures.

“We feel strongly that if people in the entertainment business worked toward each other’s success rather than each other’s demise, it would be a much better environment for all of us.

“From the day we started in the business, we have never understood this negative philosophy. We have never been able to figure it out, except that I guess it goes to the basic insecurity of everybody. If everyone rooted for each other, and collaborated more with each other, we would make better projects, there would be a wider marketplace.”

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