Sea of trees

Ken Kao, Gus Van Sant, Matthew Mcconaughey, Alex alton

As the industry descends on Toronto, the evolving nature of agency business in light of WME|IMG’s acquisition of a majority stake in Bloom has become an early focal point.

A number of people who spoke under condition of anonymity have raised concerns over how the transaction will affect prospects for rival sales agents, as well as WME|IMG’s financier and producer clients.

The agency’s packaging division WME Global, led by Graham Taylor, helped its client Ken Kao (pictured at left at the Cannes 2014 launch of Sea Of Trees with Gus Van Sant, Matthew McConaughey and Alex Walton) launch Bloom with Walton in 2014.

WME Global will now leverage the investment capital and its partners’ acumen and reputation to grow Bloom and enable WME Global to hold onto projects rather than siphon them off to third-party sales agents.

Taylor told Screen last week that he holds all sales agents in the highest regard and has every intention of continuing to service them with appropriate top-tier product. An alternative view posed by those in the space, however, is that the investment in Bloom announced last week will create an environment of haves and have-nots.

“If I’m an independent sales agent, even one with money, I won’t expect to get the best packages now,” one source said. “The other sales agencies should start to develop material or lock down first-look deals with talent and producers to ensure they get great product too.”

The development also raises the prospect of other Hollywood agencies following suit and buying sales companies. A financier client at WME|IMG said the agency had now become their agency and their rival.

“It’s a smart move by WME,” one source said. “They’re trying to own the pipeline and others should follow.”

Foxtail Entertainment’s Matthew Malek, who produced Assassination Nation that Bloom sells internationally, took matters a little further.

“This is the natural extension of what WME has already been doing,” Malek said, ”which is using one of the most trusted sales agents they know to verify and ensure the other agents in the market give their clients a true valuation of what the movie is worth.”