A book review of “Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency” by James Andrew Miller

With the fall of the studio system, when actors labored under long-term employment contracts, came the rise of the talent agents, those mysterious professionals whose job is to procure employment for artists. The mystery extends from what agents actually do to the economics of the agencies where they work, as all the major industry players are private and notoriously secretive. In “Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency,” James Andrew Miller has taken on the formidable task of lifting the veil on the sector.

It is a story worth telling. The agents’ collective fate — they are typically paid 10 percent of clients’ earnings — is a reflection of the broader media ecosystem. Besides, agents — with their intense, complicated relationships with their intense, complicated superstar clients — represent enduring figures of fascination in popular culture. Indeed, it is because of these relationships that agents have often risen to run movie and television studios, whose ultimate success is believed to hinge on access to temperamental artists.

C.A.A. is an inspired choice as the lens through which to track the industry’s transformation from tight-knit private gentlemen’s clubs to the sprawling diversified giants they are today, controlled by some of the world’s largest private equity firms. Established more than 40 years ago by five renegade agents from the once-dominant William Morris agency, C.A.A. eventually eclipsed its predecessor and transformed the structure and the role of agencies.

The good news is almost everyone who survived has talked to Mr. Miller. Given the compelling characters involved, notably C.A.A.’s founding partners, Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer, and their successors, Bryan Lourd and Richard Lovett, after more than 500 interviews, there was more than enough material for a truly compelling narrative. The bad news is that instead of producing such a book, Mr. Miller has simply organized more than 700 pages of raw interviews in more or less chronological order — interspersed with occasional brief asides, written in the overheated prose of a showbiz trade rag. Worse, although the front of the book has 11 pages of names listed as the relevant “dramatis personae,” no index or detailed biographies help readers keep track.

Read the full article here by Jonathan A. Knee of The New York Times

Powerhouse – Description

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller

An astonishing—and astonishingly entertaining—history of Hollywood’s transformation over the past five decades as seen through the agency at the heart of it all, from the #1 bestselling co-author of Live from New York and Those Guys Have All the Fun.

The movies you watch, the TV shows you adore, the concerts and sporting events you attend—behind the curtain of nearly all of these is an immensely powerful and secretive corporation known as Creative Artists Agency. Started in 1975, when five bright and brash employees of a creaky William Morris office left to open their own, strikingly innovative talent agency, CAA would come to revolutionize the entertainment industry, and over the next several decades its tentacles would spread aggressively throughout the worlds of movies, television, music, advertising, and investment banking.

Powerhouse is the fascinating, no-holds-barred saga of that ascent. Drawing on unprecedented and exclusive access to the men and women who built and battled with CAA, as well as financial information never before made public, author James Andrew Miller spins a tale of boundless ambition, ruthless egomania, ceaseless empire building, greed, and personal betrayal. It is also a story of prophetic brilliance, magnificent artistry, singular genius, entrepreneurial courage, strategic daring, foxhole brotherhood, and how one firm utterly transformed the entertainment business.

Here are the real Star Wars—complete with a Death Star—told through the voices of those who were there. Packed with scores of stars from movies, television, music, and sports, as well as a tremendously compelling cast of agents, studio executives, network chiefs, league commissioners, private equity partners, tech CEOs, and media tycoons, Powerhouse is itself a Hollywood blockbuster of the most spectacular sort.

Powerhouse – Review

An Amazon Best Book of August 2016: When Powerhouse first crossed my desk I was mildly intrigued with the idea of getting an inside look at the Creative Arts Agency, which has come to represent some of the biggest names in Hollywood and beyond. Then I read fifty pages and was totally hooked. I’m not even familiar with all the players—though of course names like Tom Cruise and Michael Ovitz jumped right out—but it didn’t matter because their anecdotes about the people and personalities who re-wrote the rule book on how agents work with their celebrity clients are completely addicting. There are stories of overblown egos and overindulgence, brilliant strategy and crushing betrayal—this is a no-holds-barred account of five decades of Hollywood’s movers and shakers told by the people who lived it. Whether you’re an avid movie goer or only watched the Academy Awards when Tina Fey was hosting, Powerhouse is a front row seat to the building of an entertainment industry icon in all its garish glory. And it’s nearly impossible to look away. –Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review

Powerhouse

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller