John Thomas of JT Talent is an influential event coordinator who hosts networking events, soirées, and red carpets throughout the NYC.
J.T. introduces budding entertainment professionals to industry veterans, and facilitates relationships between actors, directors, patrons of the arts, and business owners. In addition to presenting VIP events, J.T. is an experienced talent manager, prolific casting director, and a producer, actor, and publicist.
In part one of my interview, J.T. discussed the dozen or so film and television projects he is currently working on. The final article will explore his beginnings, and the one relationship that became paramount in his life and in the creation of JT Talent.
In part two of the exclusive interview, J.T. talks about his talent management business, industry events, and how he connected with Andy Troy.
BROWNIE MARIE: You have cast nearly 100 feature films and dozens of other projects in the television, music video, print, commercial, event, and theater industries since May 2000. How many clients do you have?
JOHN THOMAS: There’s 187 clients but they’re broken up into three different categories:
1. The “high-up” actors. Either they have names or they are extremely amazing actors. There’s 20 [of them].
2. Then you have the actors that are up-and-coming, but they only do supporting and leads, or at least under-five [lines of dialogue].
3. Then you have the third section that are actors that... not background [actors]... but they’re just learning the business. I try to help them out as much I [can] by giving them advice.
So depending on the project, that [determines] what actors I send to the appropriate client.
What training or resources do you provide for your actors?
I’ve sent a lot of clients to [acting coach] John Pallotta and he’s always [taken] care of them. I’m starting, for the first time, my own acting class with Renoly Santiago from “Con Air” and “Dangerous Minds.” We’re going partners in that, and we’re going to help a lot of actors. He has many, many, many years of teaching [experience].
I also have several photographers that I work with, and I also have a friend of mine who owns a printing company, so he gives me great deals on printing. I [also] have a program that will take a majority of the background actors and teach them how to get supporting roles and leads. And I have a 75% success rate. It’s a word-of-mouth program; it’s nothing that’s advertised. Chris Picone (the post-editor [at] HBO) does my reels for the actors if they need them.
And then there [are] seminars. There are certain companies... I don’t see anything wrong with it, but they charge X amount of dollars. I don’t really charge. What I do is, depending on the seminar, I get a director, a producer, whatever... I have him do a seminar for my clients, and they get it done for nothing. At least they get an upper-hand and see what’s going on.
You don’t charge a fee?
No, not for seminars. In order for me, as a manager, to make 15%... what I need to do [is] get my actors ready. Some of these directors that I’ve worked with are incredible, and I’ve done hundreds of seminars. For me doing this over 14 years, I got to learn about the actors, and I got learn about the business. I’ve worked with some amazing people. So I get certain people that come in, and I won’t charge anything. And they won’t charge anything unless it’s a film workshop, and that’s out of my control. Then, I just recommend people.
And you’re a publicist?
I do public relations on the side through JT Talent.
For your actors?
More for films. Once in a while I’ll get an actor that needs PR and I’ll help them out. With the films I charge a reasonable fee, unless we’re good friends. With the actors I don’t charge anything. I just give them advice and help them out.
Tell me about your event coordination activities.
I do a lot of events, as you know... a lot of red carpets, a lot of celebrity events, and I have several people that own nightclubs, and I have a lot of industry events. My partner (Andy Troy) and I, when we do industry events, we do it once a month, and we do it at different places. We go to Durden, we go to 49 Grove... different places depending on what it is and what goes on. We bring about 200-300 actors, and we have some celebrities that come through, and we basically meet and greet. Andy does a lot of meet-up groups, so we just combine everything.
Do you consider yourself a promoter?
Never. [I’m an] event coordinator. When I was about 18-years old I was a promoter. I used to run a lot of clubs in Brooklyn. I’m one of the first guys ever, if we’re going back, that started VIP for everybody. I used to own a company called VIP Entertainment when I started a long time ago. It didn’t matter who you were, everybody was VIP. That was over 14 years ago. Everybody used to have a little card that said “VIP Entertainment,” and they would just get in, no problem... open bar for an hour.
What I’m famous for is treating everyone [equally]. I’ll treat the bus boy the same as a celebrity. I believe that everyone is equal, and that’s how I built my business. It doesn’t matter who somebody is, it’s just matters how they are.
Ok, so we have casting, talent management, PR, and event coordination. You have so many projects... Are you just a workaholic? Why do you feel the need to spread yourself so thin? This is a lot. It would be a lot for anybody.
A workaholic, yeah, pretty much. The thing is, I can handle it. One thing I do is called transferring. It’s kind of like taking one actor and putting another actor in, and then another one. I always know how to schedule it so I can work on all of the projects so well. There are six more [projects] that I’m actually in the process of working on, and there are a lot of projects that I was working on and they just didn’t [progress], or there’s a project that I’m doing and then next thing you know, they’re like, ‘I’m sorry, we got another casting director.’ It happens. But I’m always able to do [multiple projects] because if I’m a casting director, I’m submitting my clients directly to the director. So the project [determines] the clients I submit.
Is the event coordination something that you’re passionate about?
To be honest, I look forward to my events with Andy Troy. Every month, industry event, all actors coming by... we bring Chris [Picone] from HBO, I invite Bill Clark from NBC... I try to bring a lot of good people to meet the right people. And I love that. Industry events are my thing. Hanging out at clubs is not... I hang out at Durden. That’s where I hang out. 49 Grove... I just got reconnected with Caesar [Silva] again—who’s the manager—and I’m loving it. I try to go there when I can.
Events are more just me booking. Except for the industry events. I’ll call up a place and say, ‘I got a party of 200 people.’ That’s really all it is. I don’t really do anything else when it comes to that. The industry events, I have to be there [from] beginning to end.
Does Andy have a position within JT Talent?
Andy is my client. I manage him. Andy and I knew of each other [in the past], but we never really met each other. We probably [saw] each other [in] passing. About a year ago, I had a couple of films I was doing... I did “The Right to Live” with Michele [Frantzeskos] and Nancy [Vazquez], two female directors, first time... and I cast the whole movie. It was over 120 people... everybody loved [the film]. I had a role that I needed filled. I said, ‘Andy, listen, I’ve been coming to your events, I’ve been hanging out... do you want to [be in the film]?’
He said, ‘Sure.’ He did it. Then I had another role for another film, I forgot what it was, and Andy said, ‘Hey, I like this.’
So I said, ‘Andy, listen. I got this program that I’m doing, I got a couple of things, let’s talk.’
I took Andy under my wing. He loved the acting. He had done a little of it before—he had a radio show and everything—and we became very close... we became good friends. He started booking things and I just asked him: ‘How would you like to do a movie?’
He said, ‘Yeah.’
I said, ‘No. You’re a writer. I want you to write me a movie, and I’ll get it done.’ It was just a short... I cast the whole thing... and then it turned into a feature. And now we’re only two scenes away from [finishing] it.
“Scars of a Predator”?
Yeah. Andy worked so hard doing this... we put this whole thing together. I’ve got a couple distribution companies that work for horror movies... when [the film is] done, I’m going to send it to them.