Though born in Cedars of Lebanon, the same Los Angeles hospital his parents were, Paul Alan Smith was actually brought up in the San Francisco Bay Area, just over the hill from Berkeley and Oakland. Significantly, this was during the 60’s and 70’s, when one couldn’t help but be politicized. Bowled over from seeing the musical HAIR as a child, coupled with a passion for classic comedy albums, he went on to formally study theatre at both UCLA and NYU. Subsequent to his “formal” education, Smith headed to Europe and then Israel/Palestine.
With the dream of creating a repertory company that would develop, produce, and distribute independent TV series that reflected the true fabric of the United States, including the ramifications of its influence abroad, Smith headed to “Hollywood” to first learn how to make them.
In 1984, Paul Alan Smith was temporarily employed to help move in boxes for a new talent agency that resulted from the merger of three agencies to create Triad Artists. After three days, Paul was offered a job in the “mailroom.” Tellingly, his response was, “How much mail do you have to keep me busy eight hours a day?” Shocked by being the lowest of the low, he credits his dad for giving him the following advice to adroitly get through how demeaning it was: “Eat whatever shit they give you; chew it up; smile, and tell them it is mmmmm-mmmmm good!” After six months, Smith was promoted to being an assistant to one of the partners, allowing him not only to begin seeing a side of Hollywood’s power, but developing working relationships with his boss’ clients, notably Harry Belafonte, John Ritter, Ed Harris, and Bruce Willis. After a year, Paul Alan was offered to be a literary TV agent, whereby he again showed his true colors and responded, “I’m very flattered, and would like to do it, but you should probably know: I don’t own a television.”
Circa 1990, on account of his success as a young agent, Smith was offered a job as Vice President of Current Programming at Lorimar TV. Wanting to follow his goal and learn about the manufacturing process, Smith accepted it. After roughly 20 minutes on the job, it was apparent the choice was the wrong one. Nonetheless, Smith tried to navigate his first experience within a large corporate structure, which quickly became even more challenging after Lorimar merged with Warner Bros. To say that Smith was “The Worst” executive in the history of Hollywood may be a fact; however, in his defense, he simply never could come to terms with a gig that paid him five figures to regulate producers who made seven! Moreover, after he publicly expressed criticism about the lack of diversity amongst not just the shows themselves, but those developing them, he was formally introduced to a particularly perplexing reaction that would continue re-appearing throughout his career.
By 1993, given Hollywood’s appetite for what would become the 1996 Telecommunications Act, as well as the lack of concern for the cultural impact their product was having on so many Americans, Smith accepted the fact that his dream of producing radically different product was unobtainable. His experience at Warner Bros. also began paving the way for his sociopolitical observations to become more and more sophisticated, culminating in the desire to learn more and more about human behavior. This led to immersing himself in history, media criticism, and sociobiology, which in turn led him to give away most of his belongings and head to Africa at age 33. After many a month roaming amongst the animals, he headed to India, where he was introduced to Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist cultures.
Toward the end of 1994, Paul Alan Smith was contacted by a very prominent literary agent at Broder Kurland Webb Uffner, asking him to sit down with his partners and consider building their directors list. Planning to move to Canada, yet devoted to finding balance (which required an income), Smith trepidatiously flew to Beverly Hills and so admired their intelligence, individuality and expertise, he agreed to give it a go, assuming they agreed to his three requisites: 1) represent whomever he chooses; 2) sell to whomever he chooses; and 3) wear whatever he chooses. As Pauls’ career flourished, he used what leverage he gained to begin working whilst traveling around the world, often landing him in precarious situations, including a revolution and a tsunami (not at the same time). Concurrently, Paul Alan began throwing Speaker Soirées, which were basically safe environments for Hollywood folk to come eat, drink and listen to orators ranging from Gore Vidal to Budd Schulberg to Connie Rice to Harry Belafonte to Congresswoman Barbara Lee; additionally, leaders of varied, on-the-ground organizations would also come and speak of a wide range of topics, including corporations, Palestinian rights, incarceration, Syria, immigration/labor, homelessness and many, many more.
In 2006, the agency merged with ICM, once again propelling Smith back into a very corporate environment. The high point (for Smith, anyway) came in 2011, when the company granted him permission to test out an idea called The Weekly Revolution. Smith offered anyone at the agency money in exchange for either riding their bike, car-pooling, walking or taking transportation on a Friday. The goal was to prove that monies, when invested creatively, could help address a key factor in combating climate disruption: behavioral modification. The program was also designed to prove how “activism” can help rectify the feeling of helplessness, something he discovered many experienced. While the experiment proved to be a major success, part of the indisputable fact was that the wealthier folks were, the fewer sacrifices they were willing to physically make to help remedy the ills in their society. It was this discovery that prompted Smith to briefly return to India and come to terms with his (limited) wealth and influence and to conclude that he needed to substantially up the proverbial ante by sacrificing on a far greater scale.
Beginning in 2013, Paul Alan Smith, along with his brilliant close friend Lee Rosenbaum, opened the doors to a radically new type of artist representation, calling it Equitable Stewardship for Artists (ESA). The objective was to formally apply his moral convictions to a for-profit, capitalist entity in virtually every manner possible, with the primary hope of drawing attention to the systemic reasons behind the dire trajectory the world was facing. He felt that, by creating a microcosm that allowed folks in Hollywood to clearly see the correlation between their everyday actions and the many causes they purported to care about, it would lead to more and more individuals empowering themselves to do an end-run around legislators and begin healing their community by similarly redistributing their own wealth and power. On a day-to-day level, the radical concept of ESA was to provide first-class representation to clients in the form that each client needed: as an agent to some, as a manager to others, sometimes working in synergy with larger agencies to advance the client’s career in ways that small agencies can rarely do acting alone.
After six years of modest profitability, Paul Alan Smith came to terms with the fact that Hollywood, and most others with substantial power and wealth, were not at all interested in learning about this. In other words, Smith realized his grand objective was, ultimately, nothing more than a failed experiment. As such, in 2019 Smith pivoted and began handing over the reins to a set of young colleagues from varied cultural backgrounds, with the hope it could evolve into the first management company run by a majority of women. They chose the name Equitable Mgmt. The new name reflected a swing to serving more clients as managers, as the role of agents in Hollywood had become much more focused on packaging and producing and much les focused on individual clients’ needs. Nevertheless, Equitable Mgmt. maintained the flexibility to continue to act as agent for those clients who wanted agency representation. To that extent, Equitable Mgmt. obtained a talent agency license from the State of California, as ESA had done previously.
During the summer of 2019, whilst transitioning from ESA to Equitable Mgmt., the Writers Guild of America (WGA) was instructing its members to fire all their agents unless the agency signed its Code of Conduct (a document that the WGA drafted without negotiation or even consultation with any agency and presented as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, not really the most effective way to deal with people who negotiate for a living). Nevertheless, in sympathy with the WGA’s objection to the large agencies’ focus on their own interests in packaging and producing, Equitable Mgmt. did not protest when writers whom the company represented as agents followed their guild’s orders and fired the company. Nevertheless, Equitable Mgmt. continued to represent several writer clients as their managers. But the WGA refused to accept the agency-and/or- management nature of Equitable Mgmt. and threatened to demand that its members fire Equitable Mgmt. Consequently, Equitable Mgmt. relinquished its agency license, even though this was not easily explained to producer and director clients of the company who still wanted agency representation. Even then, the WGA refused to view Equitable Mgmt. as anything but a talent agency and would not back down from encouraging its members to fire the company. Bewildered, hurt, and perplexed, Smith felt it best to resign from his own company after only six months, concluding that it was not in the best interest of Equitable Mgmt. or its clients to be saddled with his contentious relationship with the WGA – ironic after his many years of labor-movement-supporting activism. The remaining partners of Equitable Mgmt. then chose to go their separate ways.
Thanks to a talented and loyal group of stellar directors, Paul Alan Smith (and his righteous colleague Lee) has created a new agency/management company called New Deal Mfg. Co. (newdealmfg.com), which opened its doors January 1st, 2020. This firm is dedicated 100% to developing and advancing the careers of directors in television and film.