Generate Plucks Stars From Net

Nov 27, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Now that the Internet has established itself as a proving ground for fresh television talent, Generate, a management firm headed by former Warner Bros. CEO Jordan Levin, has expanded its scope to use the Web as a springboard for its clients to launch TV and film careers.

The effort by Generate follows the rush by broadcast and cable networks over the past several months to find new talent online. Networks including NBC, Comedy Central and E! have discovered talent on popular sites such as YouTube and on smaller sites and via e-mail submissions.

Generate’s move to mentor film and television talent on the Net represents the latest formalization of the Internet video rush into a more solid business with additional infrastructure, supporting such offshoots as management firms and ad networks.

Like an unfolding game of “Sim City,” the necessary road and rail networks are sprouting up to support emerging Internet artists, with firms like video-sharing site Revver monetizing viral video and firms like Generate guiding new talent. These building blocks to turn online video into a bona fide business have become necessary since TV networks now view the Web as a legitimate source for talent. Earlier this month, Amanda Congdon, former host of the Rocketboom video blog, inked a deal to provide news reports and commentary for the digital division of ABC News.

Other talent agencies have recognized the need to scout the Web for new voices. For instance, United Talent Agency recently created an online unit to find new Internet stars. William Morris also has a digital division that helps existing clients find new digital outlets for their craft and works with budding digital talent such as the pair of filmmakers from Wisconsin who created the “Chad Vader” viral video series.

Mr. Levin created Generate, a production company, in February with a deal with MTV Networks to develop content for MTV for any viewing venue, including online, cellphones or television. The company simultaneously launched its management arm, Generate Management, which has assembled a roster of online rising stars.

Generate Management is run by Dave Rath and Kara Welker, formerly of Rath-Welker. Mr. Levin said Generate uses the Net to facilitate the job of the talent manager, which is “make connections and discover new talent.”

In the mid-’90s, the Rath-Welker firm was attracted to the underground comedy scene that gave rise to noted stars such as Jack Black, Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller. Generate is still interested in that brand of “alternative” comedy, but much of that wellspring for those comedians now lies on the Internet, rather than in the comedy clubs where they were found a decade ago.

“That community was developed the old-fashioned way: in person,” Mr. Levin explained. “What they put up at those clubs was what people do today as user-generated content.”

These types of clients continued to pursue that same style of comedy, but began using the new tools of the Internet and digital technology. “There is just so much more content,” Ms. Welker said. “But what does not change for us is what we are attracted to, which is smart, funny voices and idea-makers.”