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The Art of Management: A Conversation with Lisa Filipelli

January 10, 2020 by Andrew Gretchko

Lisa Filipelli Interview

Behind every talented act is a manager willing to speak hard truths and fight for bigger and better opportunities. Behind YouTube stars like Tyler Oakley and Amanda Steele stands Lisa Filipelli. From an internship at Nickelodeon to an empire nestled under Select Management Group, Filipelli is among the biggest names in tomorrow’s entertainment without ever taking the stage. Vivid Seats spoke with the L.A.-based manager about the evolution of social media, talent’s transition from screen to stage and a day in the life of a hard-working showbiz professional. 
 Lisa Filipelli photo Vivid Seats
Vivid Seats: Walk us through your career path. How did you get started in the entertainment industry?  
Lisa Filipelli: I started my career with an internship at Nickelodeon while I was still in college. I don’t think I realized that entertainment was even a career path then. I was in a class, and a classmate of mine had talked about how she had applied to intern at Viacom. This is when TRL was on the air, and my reaction was “You applied for an internship at TRL? Is that even possible? You can do that?” I ended up going to the library to get on the internet and applied to Viacom. I got a call from Nickelodeon’s casting department. I interviewed with them and got the internship. I was commuting two and a half  hours each way from Pennsylvania to New York, twice a week. It’s really what made me realize “Oh my God, here’s an entire industry around making film and TV.” You know when something is so in your face that you don’t even think about how people must make this? That’s kind of where I was when I started working at Nickelodeon and realized this might be my career path. I started to read a lot of books that were in the industry and understand it a little bit better from there. That’s how I got into it.  From there I went to CAA where I started as a receptionist during the writer’s strike in 2007 and stayed for four and a half years. 
VS: Throughout your career, you’ve managed some of the biggest names in YouTube, like Tyler Oakley and Amanda Steele. What has it been like watching your clients grow into such a success? 
LF: It’s been almost nine years at this point, and it’s been great to watch an entire industry be created and evolve. When I first left Viacom to get into this space, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. It’s been amazing to watch an entire industry be created and watch huge companies come out of it, seeing a lot of people get a lot of success while creating something and good, as well. I think when you hear the word “influencer” it can sometimes be perceived as a dirty word.  I’ve had the privilege of working with people who have really done more than just make silly videos on the internet, which I still feel really excited and happy about. Some of my clients have contributed to policy changes in the country and helped campaign for politicians around elections. It’s been cool to be part of that. It’s a very rapidly evolving space and staying ahead of the curve is always the hardest part.  
VS: Today, you sit as a partner at Select Management Group. What does a day-in-the-life look like in your role? 
LF: It literally changes every day, even if I have my calendar set. I average anywhere from 400-600 emails a day, and I do have to get back to almost all of those. As a partner at Select, I am a co-owner so I do have to make executive decisions. We have regular staff meetings around the running and operations of the company - internal decisions, hiring, etc. It’s really just a matter of dealing with all of those things as well as getting on calls with agents, lawyers, brands, studios, networks, and casting directors. It’s a little bit of everything, and it changes all the time. From our manufacturing partners for the clothing lines we work on, or the makeup lines we work on, or many of the other things we are in development on, from the product side to the production side, I really never know. 
VS: Sounds like each day is different. Do you have a routine that helps you keep everything in check? 
I wake up around 6:30-7:00 a.m., answer a couple of emails, walk my dog, get ready for work, watch morning television every morning – which is such a weird, old-school thing to do. I religiously watch Good Morning America just because I feel like I spend a lot of time consuming content on the internet so I like to make sure I’m also watching traditional programs. Looking at my schedule right now, my day is all over - I have a call with a writer, I have a legal call on a clothing line we’re working on, a monthly call with a client, a weekly call on a movie we’re putting together, lunch with a producer, a meeting with a client’s assistant, and a dinner tonight. Somewhere in-between there, I have to handle all of the other things that pop up, such talking to my clients’ teams and other business partners, and getting through my inbox on what is actually happening on a day-to-day basis of working on partnerships and closing Q4.  
VS: With social media and the influencer industry constantly evolving, how does management keep up the shifting landscape? 
I think what’s interesting about Hollywood is that there are still gatekeepers and people who dictate who is the next big thing. It’s still really interesting that it is still controlled by a couple of people and even watching who books relative to who they are is always fascinating to me. When it comes to talent, for me, I try to understand what talent looks like moment to moment because it always changes.  
VS: There’s so much talent out there, and you’ve worked with so many types of creatives. How do you navigate that? 
I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine who works at a streaming company about how talent at the top has never made more revenue and talent at the bottom has never made less. Similar to America, the top-earning talent are crushing it and making so much money and  the bottom has to work so much harder just to make ends meet. That’s why I think so much talent are turning to social media because you can control your own output and can work with partners on your Instagram or Facebook or YouTube. Look at talent like Will Smith who has had a massive resurgence through his social following. Then there are others who have attempted YouTube and have not seen that return. It’s fascinating to watch how everyone approaches it. You have people like Jennifer Anniston and Matthew McConaughey who have just joined Instagram and Jen Garner who has one of the best IG’s right now. I think that’s what is really cool and special, and it’s in our best interest to acknowledge each talent as talent and not bucket them as one thing or the other. 
VS: When it comes to social media, there seems to be a sense of uncertainty around the lifespan of social platforms. With that in mind, what role does management play in making sure that talent is around even if certain socials fade away? 
I think it’s about having a regular and open dialogue with our talent about what their interests and long-term goals are. It really depends on the talent. Some really just want to come get on the platform, do really well, then live a quiet life, which many creators do. At this point, YouTube and Facebook have been around for over a decade now. Of course, there are new platforms like Tik Tok and Snapchat that are a little bit younger, but I don’t see a world where they go away completely. I think new things will pop up, but we’ve entered that hockey-stick phase of growth - where everything was sort of flat and then shoots up, and that’s what we just passed - the shooting up of all social media - and now we are leveling out and realizing this is a real business and people really do make a living from this. Even if YouTube goes away, there will be other places to create and I think that original, user-generated creation from one person is not a fad or a trend.  
VS: Today more than ever, internet personalities are bringing their online presence to audiences with live shows and headlining tours. What makes for a successful transition from screen to stage? 
What makes a successful tour or live event for a lot of these creators is their specific “talent”. A lot of people think it’s really easy to go online and just make videos. And when you’re doing live shows, you need to keep an audience engaged for hours, which is quite a feat. I know that Cody Ko and Noel Miller have a huge live business. That’s a really good example of what’s it’s going to start looking like in the future. I think for a while people thought there was sort of a formula of YouTube channel, book, tour, product, and brand deals all in line. There are a lot more talent now, so it’s definitely harder to break through. Podcasts are starting to have great success with live shows and a lot of YouTube talent who have a more “traditional” skill like music are really leaning into music and thinking about what their live experience is as a musician. There are less people created by labels and more by audiences, which is really special. 
VS: What does that mean for screen-to-stage performers going forward? 
Audiences still feel really excited when they feel like they’ve found someone really early. We work with a lot of creators from an early stage and I was watching a client do a cover last night on her Instagram. I just love seeing comments from her followers that say things like “I can’t wait to see you in a stadium one day.”  When talent are aiming to crossover on a more traditional level, we want to do it the right way. These creators want to be respectful of the audience that has followed them for years not necessarily for the thing they are going to do next and get them excited about it. There has to be a method to it - You can’t rush it. You can’t force it. And the talent has to be so incredibly invested, or it just won’t work.  
VS: What can we expect from you and Select Management Group in 2020 and beyond?  
I think we always want to be on the forefront of what’s happening in entertainment and looking at how we can support our talent and their voices. We try to support people who haven't always been at the forefront of Hollywood. We’re really thinking about how we can support talent in all the ways that they want to exist in entertainment, which means thinking about whether they want to act or sing or create content or be directors or do a little bit of everything. We want to be a place where talent feels like they’re supported by a team. Select has always been a different kind of company and has always taken a different approach. No one at this company has a family legacy in Hollywood or deep ties to the entertainment industry - we all just had a passion for it and to innovate and being a part of that is what makes it really fun.   

Follow Lisa on Twitter and Instagram, and visit Select Management Group.


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