This Agency Spotlight is from the May 1999 Ross Reports Television & Film in an interview with Tom Ingegno and Bruce Smith. It fully explains the attitude and goals of the company and has been updated by Tom Ingegno to conform to their current role as managers.
Omnipop Talent Group is a full service management company which continues to expand its talent base to include trained, experienced dramatic actors. They continue building upon its established reputation for representing strong comedic actors and stand-up comics crossing over into acting, hosting, writing and producing.
Started in 1983 by Bruce Smith, Omnipop was solely a personal appearance agency for bands and comics with placement in clubs and colleges throughout the country. Smith was shortly joined by owners Tom Ingegno and Ralph Asquino who, by 1989, knew they wanted to work in television and had acquired talent ready to move on to the next level.
Tom Ingegno, who runs the New York office, is also president of the East Coast office's theatrical Division. Tom has a background in theater, has performed in bands and has written and produced three albums.
The Los Angeles office was opened in 1990 and is run by Bruce Smith, president of the West Coast Theatrical Division. He has a background in film, communications and has also performed in bands. Ralph Asquino joined Tom Ingegno in the East Coast office and has a musical performance background.
Ross Reports Television & Film had the opportunity to speak with Bruce Smith and Tom Ingegno about their company and their experiences in the entertainment industry.
What is the philosophy at Omnipop?
Tom: Although we are a talent agency, our basic approach has always been to work with our clients in a managerial type capacity. We prefer to work with clients across the board formulating a long range plan. In other words, our policy is a "hands on" approach with our talent receiving full support and always being placed first. We have a genuine concern for our clients and cater toward each one's personal needs and goals. We pride ourselves on knowing each individual's strong points and work towards emphasizing them.
We offer hard work, dedication and, most importantly, honesty.
Bruce: In order to work in a focused manner, we always limit the number of clients we are willing to work with at any given time. I also feel it's important to grow with the performer and, whenever possible be a step ahead of prefiguring their needs. If we are truly in sync with those needs, the relationship will have longevity and success. While many clients may aspire to fame and fortune, I try to encourage people to keep their heads out of the clouds and do interesting and solid work. The money will always follow strong work.
How do you find unknown performers aside from mail submissions?
Tom: We are constantly in the comedy clubs, attend showcases, festivals and one person shows, participate in open door sessions and follow leads on recommendations. Every envelope is opened and every tape is watched. Since we do have a short select roster of clients who receive our attention, we do not try to find someone to play every part. We really work with people of our choice.
Bruce: Many of our long term clients are close friends who we share a view of show business with. These clients are not only talented and loyal, but have an understanding of our company from the inside and respect us as hard-working professionals. I value the talent recommendations of these clients above all other methods of finding new talent. These clients act as matchmakers, knowing our likes and dislikes, between our needs and those of someone who might benefit from our style of representation.
What other quality besides talent do you look for in order to take on a client?
Tom: Since we look at representation like a relationship, after talent, we look for compatibility, dedication, work habits, discipline, personality and confidence. It is important that the client have a strong sense of who they are and know what contributions they are capable of bringing to the world of entertainment. We look for people who are willing to listen and take direction; objectively learn and observe the process; and not quit when the going gets a little bumpy. Treating clients with respect and showing loyalty are very high priorities for us, and since each individual receives personalized attention, we look for those qualities to be reciprocated. We also enjoy the development process and love to find young, new talent, with the above mentioned qualities. We are not afraid of commitment. If someone new is willing to listen and learn, we can save them a lot of extra steps.
Bruce: I'm not trying to be facetious when I say that sanity is a must.
There are many talented actors and comics whose elevators do not go to the top floor. They may become very successful and I wish their agents well, but it won't be me. Life is too short. I also believe that one of the most important qualities for career survival is resiliency. An artist must stand strong against the injustices and inadequacies of the system until they get their break.
What is your advice to clients to help them succeed in this business?
Tom: First, if you want to succeed, "mind your own business." Don't look for shortcuts and into what is happening with other peoples careers. Focus on you and continuously ask yourself if you are doing everything possible to make yourself better. Never convince yourself that you have done your best when you know you haven't. Never think you know it all. Continue to work and study your craft. Remember, this is a tough business and success will come to those who don't sit around feeling sorry for themselves. Try to remember that whether you are an actor, writer or stand-up comic, your best stuff hasn't been written yet and your best work is yet to come. Try not to compromise your personal standards.
Bruce: Enlist your representation in the achievement of your goals and keep it realistic. The goal of making a million dollars or becoming very famous is a formula for misery. You'll always feel you didn't hit the mark or that your agent somehow failed you. Put your concentration on the work: how to be a better actor, how to write a better screenplay, how to be a funnier comic, etc. Be prolific. Don't rest on your laurels. I can only help people who trust my judgment and follow advice. Once you become adversarial with your manager, you might as well find another manager.
What are some common mistakes you see performers make when they are auditioning?
Tom: Since we are never involved in the actual audition process, my answer can only be based on feedback. Some of the mistakes are as follows: lack of preparation when given the opportunity; inability to interpret; not committing to a choice; being tentative in one's delivery; and making excuses. Obviously by now, everyone knows there are no "do-over's" and it is important to know you have given it your best shot. You can't beat yourself up and start thinking of all the different ways you would have done it. You did what you did, now move on. Although no one is right for every role, it is important that you make a positive impression. Most casting directors have very good memories.
Bruce: I believe the most common audition mistake is to elevate casting directors, producers and directors to a god-like status, assuming that their feedback on that one audition should determine your approach for all future auditions. Do the best audition work your are capable of and then move on and don't look back. Even a brilliant actor won't book everything. Do not try to be who you think they want you to be. Bring yourself to the role, be real and never let anyone catch you visibly acting. Eventually the odds will catch up to you and when it's right, you'll get the part. Also, do not expect or wait for anyone to make you comfortable at an audition. It's not a party thrown on your behalf.
When performers are trying to get representation, what type of approach turns you off?
Tom: I think what turns us off the most are people who blame everyone else for their own lack of success. I will agree that in some instances, people have made the wrong decision in representation. As I mentioned, compatibility is extremely important. However, when someone has had several agents along with several managers, a flag goes up. This is not to say that people can't make changes. How often and how many is the question. We are also turned off by people who feel as if there is nothing left to learn, people lacking in sincerity, people who are too pushy, people who expect everything to happen yesterday, people with a lot of extra baggage, people you can't seem to do enough for, people who are easily distracted, and people who lie about their accomplishments.
Bruce: A big turn-off is someone who has no understanding of their own current level of talent and what should be expected at that level. Chances are pretty good that a stand-up comic who has been at it for less than a year is not ready for an agent. Someone who acted in college plays is not necessarily ready to act on "E.R." Show business is tough and the struggle builds both character and talent chops. Some people think that there is a way to avoid all the unpleasantness and go straight to the head of the class. Not only is it rarely so, it shouldn't be so. People should have to prove their worth in show business as in any career. Another pet peeve is liars. If you lie about who you are to get me on the phone, I will never represent you. If you lie about your experience, your credentials or being best friends with someone I went to high school with, it's over. I am also repelled by plagiarists, copycats, or any kind of hack work. Originality is everything. If you want to succeed, be unique.
Do you have any particular success stories to relate in finding new talent for your agency?
Tom: Christopher Titus is proof that if you take direction, stick to a plan, exhibit patience and hard work, you can make things happen. Through our combined efforts, Christopher Titus went from stand-up comedian to developing a one-man show "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding," to a development deal, to a sitcom pilot titled "Titus" for Fox and 20th Century-Fox Television. He is also the producer, co-creator, and star.
Bruce: Andy Kindler is not your typical stand-up comic with a conventional approach to comedy. He is known for breaking all the rules and speaking freely and openly about the foibles of the entertainment business. Through our support and encouragement, combined with Andy's uncompromising vision, he has become a well-known and respected comedian. He has grown from stand-up to host/producer of Animal Planet's "The Pet Shop with Andy Kindler," to a current, recurring role on CBS' "Everybody Loves Raymond." He is also the host/writer on TNT's "On Location" and series regular voice/writer on FX's "Dick & Paula Celebrity Special."
Bruce Smith is a graduate of Queens College located in Queens, New York where he majored in communications. He was the founding member of the 60's Tribute Band called Kivetsky with whom he performed for ten years. From 1979 to 1983, he worked as a booking agent for a Long Island-based talent agency where he was responsible for band placement in the northeast United States. In 1983, he started Omnipop solely as a personal appearance agency for bands and comics with placement in clubs and colleges throughout the country. He remained in the east coast office until 1990 when he opened the west coast office. He is the president of Omnipop and is head of the west coast office. Bruce Smith is responsible for the placement of Omnipop clients in film, television and commercials.
Tom Ingegno is a graduate of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania where he majored in English Education and minored in Theatre. He has been a booking agent since 1972 where he started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with Aquarian Associates, Inc. During that time, he worked as an agent with bands until he left Pittsburgh in 1977. From 1977 to 1985, he was the manager of a recording group who had three albums which he co-wrote and co-produced. In 1985, he joined Omnipop and returned to booking bands. He is currently the manager of the east coast office of Omnipop and is head of the east coast theatrical division. Tom is responsible for the placement of Omnipop clients in film, television and commercials.
Ralph Asquino: Upon graduating from Buffalo State College with a degree in Art Education, Ralph landed a teaching position with the Westbury, New York School District where he taught for a year. Realizing that music was his true passion, Ralph resigned his position to follow his heart and pursue a career in the music business. Ralph’s real interest was in writing, recording and performing music. Ralph performed as a lead vocalist/guitarist in many bands, the most successful of which was a Beatles tribute band called The Mystery Tour, which performed extensively throughout the Northeast corridor in the early 80’s. At the same time, Ralph landed a position as an agent with a local talent agency. It is there that he met Bruce Smith, who was working there as an agent. Bruce actually managed The Mystery Tour and was instrumental in the band’s success. Ralph and Bruce both left the employ of that agency, eventually teamed up, and Omnipop was formed. Their partner Tom Ingegno joined them shortly thereafter. The three have been together ever since.
For a complete list of Omnipop client credits, navigate our website.