My Soap Job
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Michael Bruno is often used as an expert in Digest features. But what exactly does he do?
Digest: What is the role of the talent manager?
Michael Bruno: Basically, what I do is I look for talent and sell talent specifically to daytime. I go to modeling agencies, find models, put them in acting class and groom them to be young stars on these shows. But lately, it's not easy to get a soap even if you were a soap star. I have so many former soap stars coming to me saying, "I need help. Can you get me back on?" So, I have two lists: Young people who I'm grooming, and stars who I'm trying to put back on.
Digest: What was your career path?
Bruno: I was an actor in New York and had gotten under-fives and day player roles, and then I ended up coming to Los Angeles. I always knew that I wanted to do something in daytime. When I got out here, I realized very quickly that actors have absolutely no power or control. And since I'm very control-oriented, I went on the other side of the business, went to a talent agency and worked at the front desk. I didn't want to be a manager at that point because managers weren't like they are now - like Mike Ovitz - they were the lowest rung in Hollywood. They were portrayed as sleazy, cigar smokers with girls on their arms. As soon as they found out that I knew daytime, they moved me up and within nine months, I was running their daytime division. After that, I quit and was called by Wendy Riche [GH former executive producer], who asked if I wanted to come and write some scripts for the show. I wrote during the B.J. heart storyline.
Digest: How did you wind up as a manager?
Bruno: I found Ellen Wheeler [executive producer, GL; ex-Cindy/ Karen, AMC; ex-Vicky/ Marley, AW; ex-Marley, ATWT] on someone's list; they didn't even know who the hell she was in the sense of daytime. I took Ellen, and Kin Shiner [ex-Scott, GH/PC] came my way because he knew me as an agent, and I put Kin and Ellen on BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL [as Brian and Sara]. I was working a bouncer job at the same time to make money. And then it just steamrolled. I have 13 people on shows and have a lot of great exdaytime people in the wings, ready to go back. Recently, I put Colleen Dion [Felicia, B&B] back to contract and put an idol of mine, Robin Mattson, back on GENERAL HOSPITAL as Heather 20 years after she left. I mean, I could just quit my job right now and be happy. That is one of my biggest - and proudest - achievements.
Digest: What's the difference between an agent and a manager?
Bruno: Becoming a manager is being everything, from a parent to a psychiatrist to a friend. It's much more on a psychological base. It's different than an agent in the sense that agents seem to be more cerebral, and managers tend to be more emotional. An agent is more like a lawyer. They want the best deal, they want the best money. Managers are really looking more for the longterm, like, "Should we go back to ONE LIFE TO LIVE right now? Is it gonna make us look bad? Should we wait another pilot season?" Also, relationships are very important to a manager.
Digest: What relationships are the most important?
Bruno: The most important relationships are with the executive producers an networks executives. I am able to pick up the phone and call Brian Frons [president, ABC Daytime] and Brian calls right back. And I don't have to hear from the assistant. "What is it regarding?" Same with Brad-Bell [B&B head writer/executive producer] or Jill Phelps [GH executive producer] or whoever. In that sense, there are people in daytime who don't like me and that's fine. But they will never say: a) I don't have taste in my client list and b) that I'm not aggressive in fighting for my clients.
Digest: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Bruno: I got a great tip from Harry Abrams, who was the agent that I worked under. He said, "When you go to New York to make your meetings, don't just go to the casting director. Take out the lawyers at the network. Get to know them." And it's worked a hundred times: getting $50 more, getting extra airplane tickets. Also, Francesca James [ex-Kitty/Kelly, AMC: former AMC executive producer] said this to me. and this is something I've tried to live by: "Having power is being able to give power away."
By Stephanie Sloane