Our Friend in Hollywood: Jonathan Shalit

Our Friend in Hollywood: Jonathan Shalit

By Jonathan Shalit,
Wednesday, 10th May 2023
Headshot of Jonathan Shalit with Grey Background
Jonathan Shalit. Credit: InterTalent Rights Group
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Television’s own mover and shaker, Jonathan Shalit, recalls how a trip to Tinseltown made his dream come true.

Hollywood has provided me with truly memorable moments: drinking tea with Prince and Mariah Carey after the 2007 Grammy Awards; having breakfast with Danny DeVito and Charlotte Church in 1999, the year she had two double platinum CDs in the US; and lunching with Dame Joan Collins at the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge.

Then there was being guided round a Hollywood studio by Mel Brooks; seeking bootleg CDs with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell in Venice Market stalls; and celebrating my good friend Simon Cowell being honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I write from my suite high up at The Four Seasons, with stunning views towards the Hollywood sign and surrounding hills. This week, I am in LA to showcase our latest young talent, Caity Baser, the 20-year-old Brighton-based singer-songwriter named by Rolling Stone as “one to watch” for 2023. 

Hollywood truly remains a city where dreams can be achieved. It is still the greatest platform in the world for people to showcase their talents and skills. As the global hub of the film, TV and music industries, it is where many of the world’s most celebrated actors, directors and producers make their names. It is equally renowned for its fashion and art scenes, and is a city of innovation and technology.

Travelling back and forth from InterTalent HQ in London’s Soho to Los Angeles has enabled me to understand the differences between the two entertainment capitals.

I find Americans more outwardly positive, excited to back ideas and less cynical than Brits. They think bigger and more ambitiously. However, they are quicker to drop someone if things are not going well.

Brits are more cautious, often over-analyse and can take longer to make decisions. But, maybe, the UK is sometimes better at giving people a second chance or even a longer run at the first one.

The importance of writers is self-evident – 11,500 are now on strike in the US. The breakdown in negotiations was primarily over pay for streaming shows. The streamers will now potentially struggle with a lack of ready-to-air drama to feed to their subscribers.

The first to feel the impact of scriptwriters downing pens will be late-night talk shows, such as NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, both heavily dependent on sharp, edgy current-events-based comedy writing.

The impact of the strike on scripted series will take far longer to be felt. Even daily soap operas tend to have scripts completed many months in advance. Production on finished screenplays can proceed as planned, without the benefit of last-minute rewrites.

Yesterday, I visited the Four Seasons gym, where 5ft 7in me was working out next to the 6ft 6in-plus Phoenix Suns NBA team before their game against the LA Lakers.

I always find this gym a little surreal. I have previously worked out next to a super-fit Sir Paul McCartney, then 80 years old. We talked about Paul’s former producer Sir George “Beatles” Martin, with whom I recorded Elton John, Sting and Cher. Also in those gym sessions was Jon Bon Jovi, with whom I shared an elevator months later, when he coolly took a puff on my then girlfriend’s cigarette.

I shall never forget how Hollywood inspired me to make my own dream come true, for it was here that I made the greatest decision of my life. I was driving down Sunset Boulevard with Myleene Klass, my client at the time. We were on our way to see Disney after she had hosted I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! on NBC. This was when I had an epiphany: I decided to marry Katrina, who is now my wife.

Professor Jonathan Shalit OBE is a British talent manager and Chair of the InterTalent Rights Group.

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