With coronavirus-related layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs running rampant across notable talent agencies from New York to Los Angeles, “many industry players are looking ahead at what the virus has exposed about the business models of these companies, and how the disruption will transform them moving forward,” Variety. com reports.
ChiChi Anyanwu, however, has found the fortitude to open a new talent agency amid COVID-19 to empower her clients and bring her passion for nurturing and developing aspiring talent to fruition. Launched in the spring, CHI Talent Management represents Broadway, film and television artists who’ve appeared in theater productions such as Wicked, a Broadway mainstay since 2003, and Jesus Christ Superstar; and on series such as Madam Secretary, and Dick Wolf’s long-running Law & Order: SVU.
The launch of CHI Talent Management has been 10-plus years in the making. Aside from her impressive roster of clients, Anyanwu was a producer for the NOW AFRICA: Playwrights Festival; and in her spare time, she serves as a diversity audience consultant for Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters. But while Anyanwu prepares to make her new business a success, what lays ahead for Broadway and the clients she serves in that community? According to an April piece in New York Magazine, ‘How Can Broadway Recover From This Pandemic?’ it’s too soon to tell.
“The effect of the economic collapse on Broadway will resonate through the 2020-21 season, and perhaps beyond. In a protracted recession, finding investors who have taken a beating in the stock market to capitalize new shows — especially musicals, which can now routinely cost upward of $15 or $20 million to mount — is going to be far more challenging than it once was,” Mark Harris writes.
I recently caught up with Anyanwu to discuss her work in the talent representation space.
TNJ.com: What led you to launch CHI Talent Management, and what is the company’s mission?
ChiChi Anyanwu: Like many in March 2020, my life changed, and I found myself out of my talent management job of 8+ years due to the economic effect of COVID-19. Then it occurred to me, even after losing my job, that many of my clients wanted to continue working with me.
Also, people in the arts community had been telling me for years that I should have my own company. The fact that so many people believed in me, and supported my choice in starting my own company gave me the confidence and strength I needed. This realization led me to take matters into my own hands and take a leap of faith. Hence, CHI Talent Management, L.L.C. was born.
CHI Talent Management aims to advise, guide, and empower a diverse array of talent in the entertainment industry. My company’s guiding principles of COMMUNICATION, CREATIVITY, & COMPASSION, our 3 C’s, create the foundation we use to amplify our clients’ careers. In an ever-changing, complex, and dynamic industry, CHI Talent Management strives to reestablish skill, integrity, and leadership within personal talent management.
ChiChi Anyanwu: The main challenge right now is COVID-19. Since there are new production guidelines in television and film with the limited number of people on set, there is less work for my actor clients. Casting directors are very selective about who they bring into auditions now as well. For my clients that are more developmental, it may be harder to get them auditions now in TV and film.
Also, with Broadway being shut down and no date set yet for reopening, most of the clients on my roster are unemployed. I’m hoping that the industry will bounce back, and that my artists will be working again consistently.
TNJ.com: Your company represents Broadway, film and television artists. Due to the pandemic, Broadway has gone dark, and many film and television productions are on hold. How has this affected your clients, and the work you do?
ChiChi Anyanwu: Right now, it’s extremely slow and unfortunately there is not that much work available. Also, many of clients have left New York to be closer with their families as well. I myself have been going back and forth between New York and Pennsylvania visiting family. I’ll be working remotely until it’s safe to be working at an office again. The amount of auditions have slowed down too. The auditions that are coming in are all self-tapes or via Zoom. I’ve been taking the time to set up generals with casting directors, agents, producers and artistic directors during this time to get to know folks.
TNJ.com: How do you go about helping your clients hit the reset button after the impact of COVID-19?
ChiChi Anyanwu: I’ve been working on keeping my roster positive and proactive by sending my clients camera workshop info, giving them notes on their websites, new headshots and reading a lot of their scripts. Many of them are writing now, which is amazing. They are realizing that there is power in creating their own content. I will continue to encourage them, and provide resources and support.
TNJ.com: What, if any, are some short- to long-term goals you’re working on for CHI Talent Management?
ChiChi Anyanwu: Some of my short-term goals are booking for work for my clients before the end of 2020, or at least have a handful of new projects lined up in early 2021. I would love to sell a few pilots or theatrical projects, hire more staff in the long run, and possibly partner with another manager. I miss working as a team with someone else, and bouncing ideas off one another.