Fake it till you make it
Who is Michael Ovitz? is the autobiography of one of Hollywood’s most powerful and mysterious figures.
Ovitz was a principal founder of the CAA talent agency who represented famous actors, screen writers and producers.
The book illustrates the numerous struggles associated with starting a company.
Ovitz had many falling outs with his co-founders and CAA nearly ran out of money on a number of occasions.
It also shares some wonderful examples of creative thinking in the absence of resources.
One great example was how he convinced the industry players that his new agency was worth dealing with.
Part of the company’s revenue involved selling screenplays.
Like many other things in Hollywood, it’s a highly competitive game with thousands written every year and only a small percentage of them are ever commissioned.
To give the illusion of popularity, he would copy the scripts in bulk and bind them in bright red covers with the CAA written in bold text on the front.
He then planted hundreds of them around Hollywood cafes, dentist waiting rooms and bars. Each one had hand-written notes and scrawls across them to give them a ‘used’ look.
The canny Ovitz knew that most had no chance of selling (and he made sure he kept the best ones a secret) but it communicated to his audience that CAA was busy and therefore important.
Thanks to inspired thinking like this, the agency survived its early years and made Ovitz a very wealth man with an estimated fortune of $400 million.
The book is well-worth a read as it contains a wealth of other lessons he learnt from his career as one of the most successful Hollywood super agents.