I’ve met busy people but Bruce Kramer takes the cake. Kramer Creative Group is a group of five talent agencies, each with their own style, staff and creatives. Overseeing five companies is intense but Bruce doesn’t stop there. We caught up with Bruce to learn how it all began, what’s next and how he keeps it all under control.
How did you get into the talent world?
I used to own studios and a production company called 5th and Sunset. We had a fleet of RV’s, Grip Trucks, over $10 million of equipment, location libraries, catering kitchens and a prop house with facilities in New York, LA, London and Miami. 5th and Sunset was the first large company I owned with over 100 employees at its height. Between my inexperience, being young, getting over leveraged, having fun, a few employees who were bad apples and 9/11 we got slammed. Business just stopped for months but the overhead didn’t. My rent was high as I resigned leases during the first internet boom. During that period I opened ArtMix and it has been going for 15 years.
What did you do before owning 5th and Sunset?
I was a not very good photographer before. I worked and lived in Milan, Sydney, New York and Los Angeles. I could make a living off of it but it wasn’t my passion and of course that is what it takes. But I enjoyed the industry and loved the travel and the people I met. I saw a need for more studios and that is how 5th and Sunset was born.
Tell us about having five agencies under one umbrella.
I’m an opportunist! If I meet someone who I think I can work with I give it a shot. I have met a lot of great people over the years to grow my business with.
Are these companies that are already established?
I started all of them. We either train someone to be an agent and we would start taking on talent as we did at Selected. Rebecca Fain had been a photo editor for years. Or when an agent was unhappy at another agency I would start a company with them and the talent would follow as I did with Bridget Flaherty who is my partner in Bridge.
Break down the departments for us.
What was happening at ArtMix was we were put in a box. Our photographers were predominately working with public figures (actors, musicians and athletes). So when we brought in other types of photographers the clients were still calling for celebrity shooters, not still life photographers as an example. When we reached out to companies that hired still life photographers they didn’t know who we were. So instead of bastardizing the brand I decided to open up other agencies that had different styles or flavors to them. I would find agents and build a company around them.
There is a fine thread through them all:Avec: Carrie Ferriter is the director of Avec. She has been an agent for many years and she brought on photographers whose work comes from a more fine art approach. Avec’s clients are extremely varied. Selected: Very hip and young, like the kind of work you find in Nylon and Vice. ArtMix Beauty: This agencies director is Julie Kramer (no relation) and clients are a cross between e-commerce, retail, advertising and public figures. Artmix Creative: Since our NY Agency Director Alix Campbell the former photography director of Marie Claire joined us last year we have grown by taking on fashion photographers who shoot celebrities in a more fashionable way (i.e. not like a traditional portrait photographer). Many celebs are requesting these types of photographers these days since many of them are former models or look like models and are endorsing brands. Giselle Keller the LA Agency Director, who has been working with me for 13 years and has been instrumental in the careers of James White and Anthony Mandler and many others no longer just focuses on projects with actors. She handles advertising projects with models and real people. Our other agent, Bill McClure’s area of expertise is music and he is also a bit of a legal eagle.
What is unique about the group is that we all work together. Five agencies in an office on 14th Street and two in LA. They are all on the same computer system, freely share information and resources not unlike Conde Nast with many different titles in the group or Universal Music with different labels.
Any exciting projects you want to talk about?
I have another agency I just started with Miya Barrager who was working at another prominent agency called Glue Management and that will be a hair/makeup/styling agency. Also soon we will be launching a consulting company working with unsigned talent called Awarded with my partner Roark Dunne. I am also launching a website called DITLO -Day in the Life of. It is going to be an original content photo blog on a massive amount of steroids full of personalities from all walks of life that have a strong social graph. If all goes as planned we will be launching in November!
I’m exhausted trying to wrap my head around all of this. Do you ever rest?
I exercise a lot, eat a lot and I drink a lot of red wine! I have two young boys who keep me busy and my wife, Shotsie, who owns a production company called First Shot Productions with her partner Zach Crawford takes good care of me when she’s not working, which is always.
How vital is social media for you and your team?
We are business to business so I’m not sure it has the effect that it has to companies attracting consumers. We have Facebook pages, we pin and we have blogs and followers but it’s not top of our agenda. Its important to have a presence but not a priority. Saying that, I have this other project (DITLO) to capitalize in that arena.
Where will we find you escaping to this summer?
We have a house in Napa where I will be running, eating and drinking more wine, and of course working. Thanks to all these amazing new gadgets we now have in our lives, I can work everywhere I go.
Do you ever totally power off?
Nope! Not in my blood and I enjoy it. I have a lot of things going on so I need to be on the ball (this time).