By: Sharoll Jackson
Woodland Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/3/2016 – The former Corporate America staffing agency exec, indie film producer, and company script reader Cheryl Martin, a thriving example of balanced youthfulness and wisdom, has had the opportunity to be a positive influence in the entertainment industry in her life. For instance, how she segued from reading scripts and looking for projects to leading a bicoastal talent management company as the CEO. To look even further, Martin, mother of five children embraces her extended family of talented artists with the same nurturing demeanor and is an industry commodity. “Start from the top and work your way down… Don’t be afraid to think big”, she says. Here, this intuitive woman talks about purpose.
1 How did you get started in managing talent?
Personal management for over 17 years, and now with my own business, it’s 20 years. I started in Dallas, Texas, then went to NY City and landed a few nice projects and continued to build relationships there. I realized that this was a career. Then, I came to California for pilot season and never left, working on set with DMX and the movie Cradle to the Grave. I took a stronger interest and started reading scripts and running the production company looking for projects. I was Co-producer on Never Die Alone, then segued into Indie productions. I had transferrable skills from working in Corporate America for a staffing agency and found and liked the similarities – developing industry relationships and nurturing, building and supporting careers.
2 How many clients are you good at working with?
I like to stay boutique size; it allows me to be hands on. My clients are an extension of my family and they need a certain amount of attention. Last year, east coast operations opened up and it’s exciting to direct both. Our growth is based on quality, much more than quantity. Our focus is on real quality talent – not about having every category. That really allows us to guide careers.
3 Why do you think your roster of actors are working?
In addition to to believing in my clients and their talents, we have been successful in shaping and molding their careers. Our company’s success is an outcome of our clients’ successes. That success is largely attributed to the teamwork of CMA and our valued agent partners, who all work hard to create opportunities for our clients to showcase their talents.
That said, we strategically build a solid team around our talent and provide them with a wealth of resources. We provide guidance to grow their skills and provide them with lots of support and direction. Coupled with their commitment to their craft – our clients are committed to their training and to growing as actors – and they are manageable. You have to be willing to trust someone with your career who has been doing this, someone who knows what casting directors are looking for. They have to trust our guidance, putting their careers in our hands – knowing that I (as their manager) will be strategic, work hard on their behalf, and be honest. It is about us as a team making it happen.
2016 was a great year for many of our clients working on new pilots such as “Snowfall” and “Rebel”; and other shows like “Modern Family”, “This is Us”, “Gotham” , “American Girl Mary Ellen”, “Dr. Ken”, “Criminal Minds”, and “The Thundermans”, to name a few. We are excited for 2017 as we continue to break out both youth and adult talent.
4 When do you take a chance during your selection process?
I take a chance when all of the stars line up. I follow my gut. I have learned that there is something to be said when you follow your gut. Sometimes I’m analytical and sometimes it’s just not that deep, but you have to follow your gut. I am always thinking about my client and if there’s something there, a spark or a light, when you see it you’ve got to go with it. Maybe someone is not trained, not credited, not beautiful – but at the end of the day, I represent pure, genuine, authentic talent.
5 What can you tell me about the talent agencies you choose to work with?
I work with a myriad of agencies from boutique, mid-level to top tier. Most of my agency relationships have formed through like-minded discussions or I like the type of results they are producing. I have developed a pretty extensive database of agency contacts and I choose the agency based on my clientele and finding a proper fit. I have great agency relationships and getting my clients represented based on their skills and current needs is paramount. My goal is to match them with the proper agency style. The prerequisite for me partnering with a particular agent or agency is passion and vision. If I feel we share the vision and can agree on the road-map for my client, then I consider them a good team member.
6 Most challenging thing about working in Hollywood?
The ever changing trends of Hollywood – from TV to film, remembering all the hundreds of producers, directors and now endless platforms of outlets. So, I decided to let Hollywood do what they do best and I just keep my focus on my clients – building relationships and creating opportunities! I will learn the rest as I go along.
Finding a work/life balance in Hollywood is also challenging as Managers often work around the clock.
7 What are the most important partnerships to you in your business?
My internal team of managers along with the individual team for each of my clients which generally consists of Agents, Publicists, and Attorneys. I also view the Casting offices as my partners, as they too depend on great talent to get their job done. So, Casting Directors, Associates, and Assistants are important partnerships as well. I like to say, “I value my partnerships with the agents and casting offices as equally as I do my clients”. It’s important that the client understands this too, as we as a company understand we are only as great as the talent we represent.
8 What do you want from this business ?
I want to leave a legacy. I want to create household named talent. I would like to have a success story of being a legendary talent seeker and building the careers of amazing talent. I am really confident that we are establishing that reputation and I want to continue to be known for doing just that. I want CMA Entertainment to be recognized as a leading game changer in management; I want everyone to know who we are and the talent we represent.
I am so proud of the talent we represent. I am so proud that we, in such a short time, have been able to create major breakout talent. One of my first clients, Danielle Mone’ Truitt, is set as the lead in “Rebel”… amazing. She had no major industry credits prior to joining our roster, but we put our hearts and soul behind her. This was a defining moment in a three-year period of managing her career. This is only the beginning of my journey as there are so many more to follow.
9 What is the one thing you would like people to know about you?
I’m not just a fast talking New Yorker, not just a ball-buster, not intimidating. I first and foremost love God with all of my heart, and I try to live my life accordingly. I am a mom with five kids and one with special needs and I’m extremely sensitive and a very loving and passionate person. My passion is sometimes misunderstood, people have misread that to be aggressive and it’s just been a way of life. Sometimes, what people don’t get is what’s really behind the face. This engine doesn’t often allow bucking against it, until you have a name for yourself. Outside of that, you’re working for that recognition – everyone has to work for that, it’s not just given. My passion is what has given me the tenacity and the drive to start and run a business. I didn’t go go college, I don’t have a degree, nor do I have years with working with a big agency. This has given me the strength.