Pamala Buzick (Theater BFA 01)
The Talent Broker
Pamala Buzick's avatar for her email account is Wonder Woman, and while Buzick doesn't have a Lasso of Truth or an invisible airplane—tools of the superheroine—she's on the job 24/7. Even when she kicks back to watch TV, work is involved, especially during commercials. That's because Buzick represents directors and other creative professionals who produce television commercials, a highly competitive field in which she needs almost superhuman skills and enormous amounts of energy.
During the day, Buzick's on the phone or in meetings with ad agency executives, producers, or directors. At night, she's networking. "I'm typically out four or five nights a week, entertaining clients or going to industry events," says Buzick, who received her BFA in production/management within the School of Theater at CalArts in 2001. "It fits my personality and I get to work with great talent. I love it."
Buzick is co-owner of Maven Label, a firm with offices in New York and Los Angeles—she heads the L.A. outpost—that represents four production companies, an editing company, and a visual effects firm, all in the service of making TV commercials. While businesses usually hire advertising agencies to create brand strategies and dream up ad campaigns, the agencies rely on independent production companies and others for set design and construction, casting, directing, generation of visual effects and film or video editing. Buzick lobbies for her clients, trying to get them through the doors of the agencies so that they can bid on projects.
Last year, a commercial produced by Paranoid, one of the companies that she represents, won the Titanium Grand Prix at the 2013 Cannes Lion International Festival of Creativity, one of the highest awards in advertising. The branded piece was called Dove Real Beauty Sketches, part of a Dove marketing campaign, and Buzick's long-term relationship with ad agency DAVID helped them to partner with a young director who was on Paranoid's talent roster.
Buzick doesn't just pitch names to agencies. She finds out all she can about the ads before determining which one of her clients' directors would be right for the job. And if one of her clients gets the assignment, she follows it from concept to completion, staying in close contact with all the parties involved in the production to make sure it's running smoothly. The Cannes prize validated Buzick's hunch that the director, John X. Carey, whose strength is intimate character studies, was perfect for the Dove piece, which addressed how and why women often undervalue their appearance. Buzick says that her greatest satisfaction comes from advancing the careers of directors and other members of the creative teams whom she represents. After the Dove assignment, Carey landed work on six more commercials for different clients, back-to-back. "That's making a difference in a career," she says.
A Precocious Producer
An only child in a working-class family from Reseda, Buzick says that from an early age, she organized events and brought people together, keeping herself entertained and enjoying social interaction. "I was always party planning, producing events, and matching people," she says. "In high school, I coordinated all the pep rallies and the marching band shows."
Buzick stage-managed many high school theater productions, and, encouraged by her drama teacher and the teacher's husband, graphic designer Rob Foss (Graphic Design BFA 79), she enrolled at CalArts in 1997. While at the Institute, she produced numerous shows, including the elaborate campus-wide Halloween Party three consecutive years and Onionheads, an original play that was later staged at the Kennedy Center with the CalArts cast.
"I wouldn't be successful if not for CalArts and my mentors," she says. "My CalArts training was intensely reality-based. Having been through many productions, working with demanding artists and solving all sorts of problems, nothing rattles me."
Launching a Career
Upon graduation Buzick stage-managed several productions in small theaters around L.A. It was grueling work. "I was working 14 hours a day for basically $1 an hour as a production manager. I had to be there before everyone showed up to open the theater and after everyone left to lock the door. After doing that for a while, I was so tired, I just wanted a regular job."
Buzick walked into the Beverly Hills store of Barneys New York and talked her way into a sales job. Within a few months, she was one of its top salespeople, counting numerous celebrities including Elton John and Seal, among her regular customers. After six months, however, she quit when a CalArts friend, Alan Loayza (Acting BFA 00), helped her get hired in 2002 by a Hollywood production company called Partizan, which, given her skillset and background, recognized Buzick's potential to represent talent. "They said they'd put me in sales, so I asked, 'What do we sell?' That's when I learned that these independent production companies represent directors in search of work."
Before starting Maven Label in 2010, Buzick worked for three other companies, rising from junior rep to head of marketing for a firm in New York, developing a long list of contacts in the advertising industry. "The whole job is based on relationships," Buzick says. "I get to know the agency producers and creatives so I can understand their taste levels and needs."
Benefitting from a Training in Theater
Buzick says that her CalArts background comes in handy when working on commercials. "As a production major, I was required to understand and experience all the different aspects of being an artist," she says. "For example, I had to take entry level courses in acting and stage design. A commercial is like a play. You need a producer, a director, actors, and crew. Managing talent involves production skills. You need to know how people work and what is involved in their art.
"Like live theater, there's a great feeling when you're making a commercial, watching it come together. I love to see something on paper come to life. Just as going from the script table to the stage at CalArts was an amazing transformation, seeing commercial scripts produced is kind of magical, knowing that I influenced the selection of cast and crew."
On one recent weeknight, Buzick was scheduled to take business associates to a movie premier, attend an advance screening of a film by one of her clients' directors, and see a Dodgers game. Buzick says she thrives on such a busy life. "I like my career because it's constantly moving and it's never the same, one project to the next. I work with amazing talent and get to travel to Vegas one week and London the next. For a working-class kid from the Valley, that's pretty good."
To check out the talent that Buzick represents, go to MavenLabel.com.