Valentijn Sloot is no stranger to the entertainment industry. Working as a Talent Agent over at The Gersh Agency, Valentijn is familiar with the in’s and out’s of the A-list as he continues to build a career in maintaining relationships and managing the logistics that make any show or performance a huge success. I called Valentijn back over the Summer to learn more about his early adventures in entertainment and how he came to call Los Angeles his home.
“I moved to Los Angeles with a duffel bag and three months left on my international student visa,” he starts. “Part of my visa requirement was to be employed fulltime by a certain date to stay in the country. That meant I had to find a company willing to take a chance on me. It also meant I had to get over any fear of rejection quickly.”
Valentijn stressed the importance of relationships early in his career, mentioning how difficult his early job search was with cold calls to production companies and agencies until finally some of his contacts came through from his previous internship at Comedy Central. “Ultimately it was my relationships from Comedy Central that helped get me an interview at a small agency called Super Artists. Once I was able to make myself irreplaceable at the company they were eager to keep me around.”
We talked about the importance of being sincere and the value it brings to networking. There are so many opportunities to make connections be it in the classroom, at an internship, or at any of the events we put on throughout the year but while these moments are great for brief interactions, it’s your personality that shapes a true relationship. Conversations run two ways and folx in any industry are looking to connect with people who go beyond their questions and show something unique about themselves.
On the topic of relationships, Valentijn noted, “Emerson instilled the importance of relationships. As a relatively small school, I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of talented individuals and build a foundation for how I approach everyone I work with today. I learned early on that this industry is small as well and you need to treat every person as if you will work with them again because you almost certainly will in some capacity. After nurturing relationships early on it’s the greatest feeling to walk into a network pitch with a client and see familiar faces staring back at you.”
Perhaps the greatest illustration of Emerson’s relationships is its very own unofficial community for alums and current students. Our school, more than most, supports a vibrant network of artists and innovators ready to support one another in their future endeavors.
What drew you to the entertainment industry specifically?
“I worked on the inaugural international film festival in Aruba that gave me my first taste of working with A-list publicists, agents, managers, and talent themselves. Like many Emersonians, I knew that I wanted to work in Entertainment but an agency was only supposed to be a way of getting my foot in the door. I soon learned just how involved agents are in all aspects of their artist’s careers and lives whether that be film, TV, touring, digital and beyond. Being responsible for the details while not losing sight of the big picture really appealed to me and I was lucky enough to be thrust head first into a situation where I could take risks and develop an eye for talent and business opportunities. It may not have been what initially attracted me to the job but it is the unique blending of creative and analytical strengths that I fell in love with.”
Talent agencies are unique in this way – they are this interesting amalgamation of creativity mixed with logistics. They manage, as Valentijn notes, the big picture for much of the entertainment industry and are really tapped into every level of the process. Speaking about his work at Gersh, Valentijn mentioned to me some of the projects he’s helped coordinate between comedy specials and, recently, Trae Crowder’s new comedy picked up by ABC!
What do you enjoy the most about working at Gersh?
“Any agency is the sum of its parts. The people at Gersh produce careers instead of products and that is only possible when you work as a team. Because Gersh is not striving to simply be the biggest, it allows a focuses on the client first. Specifically, this means I can focus on both well-known established clients like Dave Chappelle, John Oliver and Jamie Foxx but also spend significant time developing clients like Trae Crowder and Zainab Johnson. I have direct access to people who are experts in their respective fields and I’m able to draw from their unique experiences to strengthen my own. There is an incredible wealth of information constantly being shared and collaboration comes organically.”
Learning more about his work kind of floored me… like, this is really cool. Valentijn handles an amazing client-base and comes across as this personable professional who seems tailor-made for the entertainment industry. Knowing just how much he loves his work and how much he’s learned from his experience, I asked the age-old question…
Do you have any advice for current Emerson students?
“Whenever I think about distilling advice I can’t help but to think of the Baz Luhrmann’s quote, “Advice is a form of Nostalgia.” Everyone’s road is so unique in this crazy journey and I’m decades away from giving any meaningful insight. All I can say is that no one is going to remember the times you fell flat on your face but if you keep getting back up and doing smart work they will remember your successes. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or just show up because you never know where you break will come from.“