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Total Management's Justinian Kfoury is not just an agent, he is a powerhouse in the talent industry who not only liaises his photographers, stylists and Creative Directors into major projects but has his finger on the pulse with everything on the cusp of cool world wide. You may find him at the Boom Boom Room in New York or The Ritz Bar in Paris (don’t worry he is always working, always!) but we caught up with him in Milan. Read on to hear about being broke in Beirut, packing portfolios in brown paper and his favorite recent campaigns.
When did you start in this industry?
After university I was making these small, non-linear documentary films in wonderful places like Beirut and Laos but I soon realized that I was poor as a church mouse and needed to find something else to do. At the same time I started interning for an agency and found magazines and advertising to be very interesting worlds. It allowed me to work in an environment that was creative but also appealed to my interest in business. So I started Total in 2003.
What drew you to opening your own agency?
I like the independence and the ability to bring in new exciting talents without having to go through a vetting process. I also enjoy the international nature of the work and the possibility to run offices in NY and Paris allows me to be in Europe a lot. Right now I am in Milan doing appointments and next week I’m in Total’s Paris office and then the Alps for a shoot, this is also the part of being an independent agent that I enjoy very much.
What do you think being a great agent entails?
A great agent is someone who can understand a creative mind, be supportive of his artists in both their creative and business minds but also make sure their spirit and talent do not get lost in the commercial needs that our world entails when connecting the two sides. You alternate between being a friend, a business partner and a gatekeeper.
How do you market your brand?
It has changed a lot over the years. In the old days when I was an intern at Art & Commerce I used to wrap huge portfolios in brown paper and send them to Tokyo or Amsterdam. Now we scan the images and send them via amazing new systems, such as LookBooks where you can tell who looked at what and when. I can also organize the images to the right creatives and see if they even looked at them. However I think a lot of our work still entails creating personal relationships and this is also a part I enjoy very much.
You have been working with amazingly talented individuals for years and years. Is there a certain campaign or production that has stood out above the rest?
Kacper's six icy short films he did for Versace for H&M with Joe McKenna for the spring campaign starring Abby Lee.
Max Farago's new story for POP magazine with creative idea by Olivier Saillard (Director of The Musée Galliera in Paris) with Victoire De Castellane as the model is so wonderful.
Mel Ottenberg's ongoing creative collaboration with Rihanna on all her videos.
Zoe Ghertner's incredible work for Hermes on the Vestier Ete campaign 2012.
Theo Wenner's new beauty story for Self Service with Aaron De Mey.
Thomas Lagrange continued ongoing creative still life's at French Vogue.
What is your favorite part of the industry?
I really enjoy being able to straddle between art and business. I think this industry is filled with incredibly talented and smart people and being an agent allows me to connect with these people who I respect and admire and to help bring them together to create amazing work.
(See below for one of Kacper's shorts for Versace and H&M)