Agent for Utopia NYC: Justine Grimaldi

Justine Grimaldi is an agent for Utopia NYC.

Justine started her college education at the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising with the expectation of becoming a buyer. During this education she also studied marketing abroad.
Soon after her studies were over she took an internship offer at Modern Bride Magazine, where she learned acquired the knowledge and skills on how to successfully run photo shoots. Funnily enough, she loved it so much that she ended up staying with Modern Brides.
After some time, a co-worker referred her over to a photo agency, where she immediately was immersed into agent work. At first, she was a little apprehensive – how would she scout extraordinary talent by looking at images? Eleven years later, she handles a full production and Justine has been able to jump-start a career from it.

Although Justine works hard at her job, she too has balance and her recent engagement shows how you can have a career and a successful relationship down her career path. She has even found the time to have a small cheesecake business on the side! What a woman!
Monica Kade

Describe yourself in 3 words:
Always thinking ahead.

What is your life motto?
Expect the worst, aim for the best.

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful?
I actually sort of stumbled into this career. I worked for a magazine and was given the opportunity by another co-worker to go on an interview at a photographic agency. The money wasn’t enough for her, but as a recent college graduate I was more interested in the experience.

I work everyday on the success of my relationships with clients and the success of my artists. The industry changes, people shift positions, things become obsolete, new companies and technologies emerge. You have to research all the time to see what’s changing around you and solidify the connections you have and work really hard to break new ones.

How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?
Being an agent is unintentionally a 24-hour job. Work happens in all parts of the world, artists travel, parties happen, shoots go into overtime and into weekends. You have to be available at all times to make it all come together. Plus, you have to always be researching: reading magazines, networking, meeting clients, etc.

Describe how difficult the business really is?
The business gets more difficult as the economy changes. Artists at all levels are now competing for the same jobs. Magazines are closing, and the competition is getting fierce. You have to be aggressive and creative in thinking of ways to introduce your artists and maintain client relationships.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
Putting all of your eggs into one basket. When you have an artist that is working consistently with a client, you develop a (false) sense of security. That artist is making money and working everyday.  Then that client gets a new creative director or closes its doors and your artist is left without work until you can build up new clients. It is best to keep your artists well rounded. To always show their work to new clients, keep in regular contact with people they have worked with in the past, and keep their portfolios current.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date?
If you don’t call someone else will…This industry is a lot about networking; getting on the telephone and reaching out to people you do not know. It can be intimidating, and you will get people who have no time to speak to you, but you have to make the connections. If you don’t do it, someone else will. So it might as well be you! Be aggressive, but polite. In today’s world, we have become accustomed to sending e-mails. Sometimes it is nice to pick up the phone and hear a voice and make a connection that is sometimes hard to do through e-mail.

What is the piece of advice that you weren’t?
Keep your heart out of it.

You spend a lot of time building an artist’s career. You work very closely on a day-to-day basis to achieve the goals you have both set. They become part of your family in a way, and part of your everyday routine. The nature of the business is to strive for more, so an artist may leave; taking everything you have built with them someplace else. It is important to not take it to heart and instead use the energy you would spend being angry or upset into building a brand new artist.

In your mind, is formal training essential?
Formal training is not important, but patience, organization, and people skills are.

What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career?
Agents sometimes get a bad wrap! But it is our job to get the best for the people we represent. Emerging talent can intern in an agency or become an assistant booker. Being a better agent depends on the connections you maintain, your belief in your artists talent, honesty, and the passion each artist brings out of you.

What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
There are times when being an agent gets frustrating. Many door close before you.
But when your hard work and persistence results in a happy artist, it is worth it. Nothing is better then hearing the excitement in there voice when you tell them they are confirmed on a job for a client you have been trying to get for a long time!

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?
Good question. I believe we make our own luck and you have to pay attention to where you are to know if it is the right place and the right time. Take chances, so you never wonder, “what would have happened if…”
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