Tay Smith ~ Atlanta's New Generation of Theatrical Agents in the Film and Television Industry
What Exactly Is a Talent Agent & What Do They Do?
A talent agent, or booking agent, is a person who finds jobs for actors, authors, film directors, musicians, models, professional athletes, writers, screenwriters,broadcast journalists, and other people in various entertainment or broadcast businesses. In addition, an agent defends, supports and promotes the interest of their clients. Talent agencies specialize, either by creating departments within the agency or developing entire agencies that primarily or wholly represent one specialty. For example, there are modeling agencies, commercial talent agencies, literary agencies, voice-over agencies, broadcast journalist agencies, sports agencies, music agencies and many more.
Having an agent is not required, but does help the artist in getting jobs (concerts, tours, movie scripts, appearances, signings, sport teams, etc.). In many cases, casting directors, or other businesses go to talent agencies to find the artists for whom they are looking. The agent is paid a percentage of the star's earnings (typically 10%). Therefore, agents are sometimes referred to as "10 percenters." Various regulations govern different types of agents. The regulations are established by artist's unions and the legal jurisdiction in which the agent operates. There are also professional associations of talent agencies.
In California, because talent agencies are working with lucrative contracts, the agencies must be licensed under special sections of the California Labor Code, which defines an agent as a "person or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment for artist or artists."
Tay Smith Has Become One of Atlanta's Top Professional Agents
Tay Smith grew up in Baltimore MD and started his career in the music industry. His father was a popular music producer, teaching him the business from the age of 6. From early on, Tay knew he wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity.
As fate would have it, becoming a Theatrical Talent Agent was timely as Tay landed in Atlanta, GA. where he could use his skill sets to serve a bustling and growing industry, making a name for himself as a top professional in the business.
When Louis Gossett, Jr. won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1982 for the movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman", he gave a moving acceptance speech thanking his ancestors for paving the way for him, and to his Agent, calling their relationship a great "marriage."
Gossett's advice to actors young and old was, "Get a good Agent". Even though that was 1982, some 34 years ago, that advice rings as true today as it did then. But now with a new breed of agents who work with their laptops and I-phones at Starbucks, the office, or anywhere they happen to be when a casting call comes, they communicate instructions to the actor via social media about what the casting agent and producers are looking for, with instructions to video tape the audition and email it to "so and so" casting director.
Something Tay Smith is adept at doing, is putting his clients at ease at handling the audition process in this electronic age. And, with the hundreds of TV and Film productions being shot to accommodate a much broader viewing spectrum for today's entertainment market, a good agent helps to navigate an actor through this sea of information and productions for the right fit for one's acting success.
Says an industry source, "Breaking into show business is tough for anybody: Who to talk to? What to do? How much time and money to invest? As Atlanta emerges on the world stage as a production powerhouse, it can be difficult for Georgia-based actors to even know where to begin. But one thing’s for sure—a SAG-franchised agent is a great way to get your foot in the industry door."
Joy Pervis of the J Pervis Talent Agency in Atlanta, is widely recognized in the film/TV industry for discovering, representing, and/or bringing to the forefront, some of today’s top child stars; Dakota Fanning, Raven-Symoné, Elle Fanning, Kyle Massey, and Lucas Till, to name a few.
Joy along with Agency founder, Jayme Pervis, recognized Tay Smith's skill sets and recruited him to be apart of this film and television industry boom in Atlanta.
Since the agencies inception, the J. Pervis Talent Agency has been on the fast track to becoming one of Atlanta's premiere agencies in discovering and placing talent, and for Hollywood to cast actors for their film and television productions.
I spoke with Tay Smith recently about what makes him and his peers at the J Pervis Talent Agency so successful.
Tay with J Pervis and Company
Q&A with Tay Smith
Q) Tay, you are working as a theatrical agent for one of the "hottest" talent agencies in one of the busiest cities for film, television and music productions here in Atlanta. What's that been like for you? What has been some of the high points and low points?
It's been really inspiring and exciting for me, just being around so many creative and iconic people within the entertainment culture here in Atlanta. The music industry's boom had a major impact, and now we are witnessing and feeling the same with the TV & Film industry. It's given me a feeling of being on the ground floor of something groundbreaking and historic. With those kind of moments, it gives the energy of being able to shape and guide it in which ever direction you want. Some great moments so far have been, being able to bring in and secure some of Hollywoods well known faces. The challenging part to that was, in the beginning, trying to gain the respect from Hollywood in order to break into some of the projects at a higher level for our clients.
Q) I read an article where you and your co-worker, Christopher Young, have been described as the hardest working African American agents in the entire southeast area. Were you brought in with a mandate to bring in minority talent?
Ha! No. It was one of those situations where we were able to relate and understand their frustration a little more. I guess it was more or so a cultural thing, and our African American peers gravitated towards us. We came in with a different vision and refused to keep anyone in a box they didn't want to be in. We were actually brought in to gain traction in the L.A. market, and it turned into the United States as a whole. With that being said, we don't shy or run away from that public proclaimed title."
Q) There are so many titles in this business that have the word agent on the back end of it. Casting Agents, Talent Agents, and so on. You are a Theatrical Agent? Tell us typically what you do as a theatrical agent for J Pervis?
Yes. I am a Talent Agent in the Theatrical department, which allows me to cover Tv shows and film. It's our responsibility to be able to recognize/sign great talent and give them a greater platform for more and bigger opportunities. We have to have great relationships with our talent and fight for them everyday. Sometimes I tell people we wear multiple hats over here ~ agent, manager, financial adviser and psychiatrist, LOL. Besides using our agency platform and relationships to get talent opportunities, we make sure that once those opportunities come about, we negotiate the heck out of those contracts for our talent. This is definitely a 24/7 lifestyle. The calls, emails and text messages never seem to stop. :-)
Q) The J Pervis Agency has become arguably the "go-to" agency in Atlanta for film and TV casting people and producers in a relatively short period of time since it started it's operations here in Atlanta. Why do you think that is, and what's the agency's motivation in it's relationship's with those producers and casting people?
That's a great question. It's for a couple of different reasons. 1: We really pride ourselves on having great all around actors. 2: We purposely try to make it apparent that we only find and accept the best actors. It truly isn't easy getting signed to J Pervis Talent. We also keep a very small roster, but it's very impactful. I say all of that to get back to the point of being "the go-to agency" for casting and producers. I believe we have proven to be dependable on a consistent basis. When it's crunch time and casting can't seem to find the perfect person for a role, they pick up the phone and call us and 9 out of 10 times, we get the booking. Word really travels fast in this industry and with the market increasing so rapidly with new agencies, we will continue to be selective with our talent to maintain our top spot."
Q) How did you decide on becoming a Talent Agent, was it by chance, or are you an aspiring actor waiting to transition in the profession?
I get asked that question a lot, but it's not quite the story. I was in the music business first and I did that for a while. I definitely enjoyed it, but it got to a point where I was looking for something more. Some sort of change. Timing couldn't have been more perfect, because at the time one of my music business mentors " Chris Young" gave me a call and expressed the same thing. So, we stepped into actor management first and had some success there for a while, before catching wind that J Pervis was looking to expand. Chris had already had a lasting relationship and good client placement track record with the heads of agency and as they say, we got the opportunity the rest is history."
Q) What are some of your goals professionally with J. Pervis and where do you see your career in 5 years time? Are there any thoughts of starting your own agency one day?
I always set what some may see as unrealistic goals, but I believe there's no such thing as unrealistic goals. It just means it hasn't been done yet. With that being said, I want to be the best. I want to push the limits of the agency and the industry to a level they've never seen before. I love housing and maintaining Hollywood celebs. I love when we were recognized for being the first to officially sign directors and producers in the south east. I want us to always pave the way and be the trailblazers in the market. In the next 5 years, I'm not exactly sure where I will be, because I've learned to keep my vision open. But, I'm claiming where ever I am in my career at that time, I will be in the number 1 spot. Chris and I are asked almost everyday if we are going to start our own agency, but I will tell you what we tell everyone else, that is not in the plans.
Q) Last year, the movie industry was "a buzz" about the fact that Will Smith was not nominated for his movie, "Concussion" and there were no nominations for any African Americans in any category for the last two years. Where do you stand on the whole subject, and what do you think is needed more for equity recognition in the film industry?
Wow! Yes, that was a very touchy subject and situation that was brought to light last year. To be completely honest on the matter, I think it's 50/50 for what needs to change. I know some won't agree with me, but these are my personal opinions and observations. 1: I strongly think that there needs to be more diversity when it comes to the Academy members that get to vote on these projects. We are all from different cultures and walks of life. If you mainly give the power to one culture that may not be able to relate or capture the genius of a project that sheds light on a different culture's perspective, it's going to get over looked the majority of the time. With that being said, 2: I also think that we as African Americans need to expand our vision in the type of projects we write, produce and direct. Most of the time if we have two black leads in a film, it's automatically categorized as a " Black Film " and the writing tends to skew that way in most cases. My question for the past year has been: Since Leonardo DiCaprio won best actor award for The Revenant last time around, what if everything with the movie was the same, except Leo was replaced by a great black actor that was dynamic and able to hold his own. Would he have won? Why can't we have more African Americans write that type of content with black leads in mind from the beginning? I know we are more than capable. 1: We have to take a chance and step outside of the box. And 2: Hollywood needs to be accepting of it. So, in all, I think there needs to be changes on both sides in order to grow.'
Great answers Tay on what has been a fascinating experience for me learning more, and I'm sure for our readers, about what you do.
I definitely see why you, and your partner Chris Young, have become top professionals as Talent Agents in this industry.
We look forward to all of the wonderful talent you guys bring to us in upcoming Television and Film projects.
Tay Smith's Biography
Tay grew up in Baltimore MD, and started his career off in the music industry. His father was a popular music producer, teaching him the business from the age of 6. From early on, Tay knew he wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity.
At the age of 17, Tay founded and was the head of a music production company Yungsta Entertainment based in North Carolina. He ran a staff of producers, artist, and writers. Quickly gaining traction with lead recording artist T-LyriQ, Tay and Yungsta Entertainment became the talk of the city.
Being labeled as the "P. Diddy "of his area, Tay would use relationships previously developed by his dad to expand his brand further south. After taking a trip to the booming music scene of Atlanta GA, everywhere he went, he would hear the name Chris Young. From that point, Tay made it a relentless priority to use his relationships to meet Mr. Young.
After several persistent calls and meetings, a mentor/business advisor relationship was formed between Smith and Young. This relationship catapulted Smith and his company deeper into the music business. This enabled Smith and his company to receive radio airplay, show dates, artist features , and a branding platform.
In 2012, Smith was looking for a change and decided to follow his other passion which was television and film. Already established in that industry, Smith decided to team up with Young and become a talent manager to several up-and-coming actors.
At the latter part of 2013 the two decided to join forces with Joy and Jayme Pervis at the J Pervis Talent Agency. In just under one year of dedication to the brand, Smith and Young have acquired a few new talent signings including Columbus Short, David Otunga and Zane "Lil Zane" Copeland….In this short amount of time, Tay and Chris have placed a numerous amount of actors in big budget films and major networking television shows. This solidified them in the industry and made them the talk of town in the new Hollywood known as Atlanta.
From Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Atlanta deemed top U.S. city for moviemakers"
Joy Pervis of the J Pervis Talent Agency on the misconceptions of what being an agent is
"I would have to say there are three. The first misconception is the agent is the one who actually book the talent on the job. Our job is to market their talent, open the doors for opportunity, and negotiate contracts. However, it is up to them to book the job. The second is that an agent’s job is to guide and manage the talent’s career. Managing a person’s career is a full time job and we leave the managing up to the mangers. The third misconception would have to be this is a glamour job."
Talent agents [Christopher Young and] Tay Smith are noticeably the hardest working, African American TV/film agents in the entire southeast area. A dynamic duo, working under the banner of the J Pervis Talent Agency, Smith and Young have created a vortex of synergy that is fueling theatrical bookings with new flair and fresh faces."— 4 - Traders Publications
Atlanta's Top 5 Agencies
1) Houghton Talent:
If you’re an experienced adult, teen, or kid actor over the age of 5, submit a current headshot and résumé via standard U.S. mail only. Include your contact numbers and email on your résumé, and, when possible, links to a high-quality reel. Absolutely no phone calls or digital submissions are allowed. The agency encourages you to study the industry and the Southeastern market; to enroll in acting schools for thorough training; and to consult with various photographers to get the right style of headshots for the industry.
Submit hard copies of headshot and résumé with reel links included. The company states that if they are interested in an interview, you will be contacted within 30 days. If you do not hear from them, you may re-submit every three to six months. If you would like an immediate response or confirmation receipt, include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your submission.
Agent Tay Smith says, “I think the best ways to secure representation are to be well trained, and to possibly train somewhere that will have a showcase at the end of the course of some sort. That’s a great way for us agents to see talent.”
Applicants should also make sure they know proper self-taping technique, he adds, and attend agent or manager workshops. “And try to get work on your own for a bit. Indie film, shorts, webisodes... and share [those projects] with an agency to gain their attention.
3) People Store:
Applications are only accepted via online submissions through the company website. According to the company, they “normally require at least three years of on-camera experience, or in the case of theater actors, some on-camera training as well in order to be considered.” Headshots must be as professional as possible. When submitting, include prior experience and training as well as your age, height, weight, email, and telephone number. If they are interested, you will hear back within a few weeks.
People Store film and TV agent Victoria Temple added, “There are a lot of mainstream ways to connect with agents and managers via workshops and seminars, but one of the most advantageous ways of having representation find you is through community theater and independent films. By getting yourself into the scene, you will also start networking with industry players who can refer you to offices.”
4) Atlanta Models & Talent, Inc.:
This agency is currently only accepting new talent from African-American and ethnically ambiguous talent (males and females aged 60 and up, non-union females in their 40s, and children aged 8–15), performers of Latino and Asian descent, football player types, and fit model types aged 18–25. Do not call the agency unless you have been specifically asked to do so. Only professional actors with at least five years of experience in theater and/or film and television will be considered. Submit your headshot, résumé, and link to your demo reel to firstname.lastname@example.org. Files should be no larger than 1 megabyte. Do not submit more than one or two headshots.
5) BMG Talent:
Talent may register via an online form here. The Atlanta agency states, “We are accepting experienced talent of all ages. While we review all submissions, we are looking for talented performers with stage, on-camera, or improv experience. We will also consider experienced models with an interest in branching out into commercial work.” Prospective new talent will be contacted to schedule an in-person audition. Auditions will consist of a cold read followed by a brief interview. If submitting hard copies of headshot and résumé, include your email address and do not send original photos, as they will not be returned. Do not submit packages that must be signed for.
*Source: By Veronika Daddona | Posted Feb. 18, 2016, 1 p.m. / *BACKSTAGE
Movies Made in Georgia
- Movies made in Georgia: AJC on Location | www.myajc.com
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On Any Given Day in the Life of Tay Smith Photo Gallery
Other feature article about Tay Smith
- Next Generation Talent Agents Tay Smith and Christopher Young Celebrate Black History Month at J Per
ATLANTA, Ga., Feb. 9, 2015 -- Talent agents Christopher Young and Tay Smith are noticeably the hardest working, African American TV/film agents in the entire southeast area. A dynamic duo, working...
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For any aspiring, or established, actor out there...get yourself a good Agent!"— Louis Gossett, Jr. after his Oscar win for 'An Officer and a Gentleman' in 1983