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Matchmaker, matchmaker

Jun 18, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Lifelong athlete Tracey Murray has always excelled in holding and passing a baton. Now a literary TV agent at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif., Ms. Murray’s ability to draw on that same skill puts her totally in sync with the agency’s team concept.
More than anything, Ms. Murray, 33, is seen inside CAA as a tireless advocate for writers, placing them in high-brow prime-time series ranging from HBO’s “The Sopranos” and ABC’s “The Practice” to NBC’s “Ed” and “Will & Grace.” Following the typical agent’s path, she started as an assistant to Lee Gabler, CAA’s co-chairman and head of television, nearly eight years ago. Ms. Murray has proven over and over that she is an integral player in the packaging of talent and series projects at the networks. She has been working in CAA’s literary department since 1998.
“Ever since Tracey started working with me, I was impressed with her principles and aggressiveness,” Mr. Gabler said. “I think sports is where she gets her extremely competitive nature, but it is done in a very palatable and compatible way with how we stress teamwork throughout this organization.”
A self-admitted “jock” who participated in field hockey, track and lacrosse while growing up in suburban Philadelphia, Ms. Murray prides herself on being part of the “team process” that involves CAA agents across all divisions of the company.
“Absolutely, the approach here is different because we gather information from every division to make sure our clients are advantageously placed in the projects that fit their creative voices and styles,” Ms. Murray said.
“The big difference here, compared to working at a boutique agency, is that we have agents constantly interacting between the features [motion picture], new media, television and the literary departments, where all of these resources are marshaled together to package a [TV] show,” she said. “If it is a feature writer who wants to cross over into television, our team can pair him with the right production company, high-end acting talent and producers, which can ease that path into a new medium for the client.”
One of the more recent film writers Ms. Murray placed in a high-gloss series project is Terry Winter as a supervising producer with “The Sopranos.” Mr. Winter had penned such screenplays as “In a New York Minute” and “The Great One,” the latter of which is a biography of the late comedian Jackie Gleason in development at HBO.
On the broadcast-network front, Ms. Murray has also been actively placing writers on a variety of well-received dramas. NBC’s “Ed,” is a byproduct of Ms. Murray’s handling of CAA client producers David Letterman, Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, whose Worldwide Pants production company is tied together with Viacom and NBC Studios as “Ed’s” co-production partners.
Through another of CAA’s major clients, producer-director John Wells, Ms. Murray has found a gateway to get other writers on the staffs of his hit “ER” and “The West Wing” dramas on NBC.
Professing to be able “recite” every episode of “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” as an avid viewer going back to her youth has similarly put Ms. Murray in good stead with CAA client Aaron Spelling. His prolific production of prime-time series (including The WB’s “Charmed” and “7th Heaven” dramas) has created another haven for CAA-repped writers and producers.
“We really had a very successful year, and that is not just hyperbole, because we undoubtedly have the largest client-base in television compared to the other agencies in town,” Ms. Murray proclaimed.
After she briefly left CAA from 1996-98 to work at a small boutique called Major Clients Agency, it only cinched Ms. Murray’s belief that CAA is her home. “After having a short stint there, I really knew early on that CAA is the only place I wanted to be, and I was fortunate they wanted me to come back,” she added.
Waking up at the crack of dawn in Santa Monica to go running, rollerblading or biking seems to ignite Ms. Murray for the rest of a grueling work day-talking to clients, taking meetings, “doing lunches” and dinner affairs-that doesn’t usually end until after 11 p.m.
“I don’t think I’ve seen someone who is quite as energized and passionate about their job until I met Tracey, who is very sweet but has the eye of the tiger when it comes to closing the deal,” Mr. Gabler said.