You won’t see Amani Martin on the Esquire Network’s ‘The Agent,’ which kicks off at 10E/9C tomorrow night, but his shadow will loom over most everything you see. Not only did he do most of the filming, but he was one of the driving forces behind bringing the show to air.
He comes by his interest in the show naturally. Amani is a big sports fan, having been born just down the street from Yankee Stadium (“I’m not too happy about Toronto’s recent roster additions,” he said). He’s a dedicated Yanks and Giants enthusiast, but also an athlete himself: he played competitive tennis in college at a small school in Connecticut. Of course, there’s also the five Emmys won for his work on HBO’s ‘Real Sports’ and a documentary about the Brooklyn Dodgers, ‘The Ghosts of Flatbush,’ that aired on the network in ’08.
On the eve of Amani’s latest project, we spoke about what’s ahead for the Show. Here are his thoughts.
On how the show was born: “A lot of the shows I was interested in came from working at HBO at ‘Real Sports.’ We would go to an athlete’s home and I would always be aware of how important money was in that athlete’s life, and in a way that was often negative. . . I would see how they would interact with their entourage and their family, and how money was a positive and a negative, so I developed a concept called ‘The Contract.’ The show would follow players for a year to see how money affected their lives. In talking about it, a friend recommended I talk to Ed (Wasielewski). . . . The more I talked to him, the more I got interested in his life. . . He’s struggling, but he’s a full-time agent and he’s very good, but it’s a struggle. . . That’s how the conversation with Ed started, and soon, we said, ‘let’s figure out how to make this into a series with a different focus,’ and let’s center around Ed.'”
On finding a network: “I followed Ed for six months, either me and a camera or me with a small crew, and I’d shoot him in his office or on the road, going to games and meeting athletes, and we used that and put together a sizzle reel. It’s a pretty essential piece of selling a show, because networks want to know, what are the characters like? Are they telegenic enough? Are they charismatic enough? If they don’t hold someone’s attention for five minutes, they won’t hold it for a whole show. We took it to about a dozen networks, and it covered the trials and tribulations of a real agent. Many networks wanted to see the reel, and we got really good feedback from it, but it had to fit their format and their demographic. There were certain networks I wasn’t interested in, because it didn’t need to be augmented by gimmicks. Long story short, Esquire got involved, and they felt it fit their demographic.”
On what he learned about being an agent: “A lot of people think you put on a nice suit and you’re a slick talker and you’re an agent. They have no idea how up and down the business is. You could do really well one year and then struggle the next two years. It’s a 24-7 customer service job. You’re always on the phone, always dealing with crises.”
On the difference between a show like ‘The Agent,’ which is a docu-series, and reality television: “A docu-series finds a fascinating story about a character, and it follows the character around and crafts a story. A reality show, really, what they’re doing is deciding what’s gonna happen beforehand, and then watch the characters interact somewhat authentically there. For example, the Kardashians are going to the beach, and then (the show) augments the drama and conflict. In our series, the agents overlap and know each other but they’re not in direct conflict, and even if they were in direct conflict, you wouldn’t be seeing them at the lunch table yelling at each other.”