HRTS Member Profile: Adam Berkowitz

Adam Berkowitz

Adam Berkowitz

Adam Berkowitz is Co-Head of Television at CAA and an HRTS Board member. I recently had a chance to sit down with Adam to discuss economics, scripts and Brandon Tartikoff.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment? How did you get involved with the HRTS?
-my Great Uncle, Nat Lefkowitz, was the President of The William Morris Agency, and was based in the agency’s NY office. When I was 16, Uncle Nat and Aunt Sally encouraged me to apply for a summer job in the mailroom. Not coming from a family of significant means, I needed a summer job, so I quickly put together a resume and an interview was scheduled. I took the train into Manhattan and when I arrived at the William Morris office, they had me wait 45 minutes. When I finally got into the interview, the head of personnel told me that there was almost no chance that I would get the job as it was too competitive. As I was leaving, he glanced at my resume and said, “I see that you were recommended by Mr. Lefkowitz, how do you know him?” I informed him that he was my uncle, and without missing a beat he asked me to tell him the day that I could start working!

I am extremely lucky because I fell into a career that I absolutely love. Sure, everyone needs a break, but what matters is what you do with that break once you get it.

As for the HRTS, I was originally involved with the IRTS in New York, then the HRTS when I moved out to Los Angeles. I was so excited to go to the luncheons and annual gala dinner. It was incredible exposure for a young assistant, and then a young agent, to hear people like Brandon Tartikoff, and other legends, talk about the television business.

Q: What is your decision-making process when considering a potential new client?
-talent is the main ingredient. I look for people with original and unusual voices. Someone who has innovative and unique material and can write great characters and dialogue is a real find.

Q: When do you know that you’ve got the elements of a successful package?
-you can have the greatest package on paper with a high-end writer, actor, and director, but if the script isn’t good, it simply won’t matter how many high-end elements are attached. Sometimes a pilot will get made if you have other high-end elements, but a great script is most likely the basis for attaching high-end people, whether they are actors or the director.

Q: What are some of the factors in the long-term success of a star or show?
-it comes down to the quality of the show, how many people are watching it, and how you can keep them watching it. If it is a comedy, it should be real and relatable. The more people can relate to it, the more they are going to watch. Two good examples are Modern Family and Everybody Loves Raymond.

Q: How has the agency business changed in the past few years?
-when I started, there were three networks, and therefore, only three places to sell shows…now there are hundreds. The economics today however, are far more challenging. In the old days, if a show ran for three seasons or 66 episodes, the creators were guaranteed large amounts of money, enough so that they wouldn’t have to work anymore. Today, putting a show on the air for many seasons does not guarantee that same amount of income unless it is a huge hit. Note that the huge hit still exists, be it the CSI franchise or NCIS or others.

Q: Where do you want to be five years from now?
-five years from now, I want to be exactly where I am right now…here in my office at CAA! I am privileged to be doing what I do. I love my job and I love coming to work every day. I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by such great and smart people, who work hard to create incredible opportunities for our clients.

Q:  Anything you would like to add?
-I encourage people to get involved. Start with the JHRTS and work your way up to the HRTS. This is a great organization that brings together everyone from many disciplines of television, from the creators and hit-makers to the high-level executives making important decisions. There’s no other organization like it in television. You will get great exposure to the business, meet interesting and talented people, and get their insights into television today, as well as where the business is heading. Start on the ground floor and work your way up.