HRTS Member Profile: Ray Jimenez
Ray Jimenez is the founder of Embolden Entertainment. I recently had a chance to interview Ray to discuss passion, CAA and President Obama.
Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted work in this business. It was just something that felt innate to my being - it was just woven into my DNA. There was never a time that I sat down and thought about what field I wanted to work in. There was never a debate or a question… it just always was.
I’m 26, but I’ve been paying taxes from working in this industry for the last eighteen years. I spent my younger years as a singer in a famous boy's choir. We contributed to motion picture soundtracks such as Good Will Hunting, toured abroad, appeared on television programs like The Tonight Show, and performed with everyone from Little Richard to 98 Degrees. It was a pretty wild ride. I still distinctly remember about fifty Polish girls chasing our bus, throwing flowers, and blowing kisses after one concert.
I started working on the other side of the desk when I was 17 at The Firm. A few years later, while enrolled at Loyola Marymount, I helped produce and promote a string of successful Hollywood nightlife events with my friend Sebastien Le Tellier, who is currently my music manager. In 2008, we put together one such event/fundraiser for Barack Obama’s first presidential bid, which was directly sponsored by his national campaign.
In my junior year, I had the good fortune of connecting with a great mentor and life-long friend – the legendary talent manager, John Hartmann, who had helped guide the careers of such acts as The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. There was an instant chemistry. I was fascinated by his amazing stories of working with such characters as Colonel Parker. He blessed me with the opportunity to work for him, consult with his company, and oversee a group of college level interns while I was still in college myself. It all started after a quick five-minute general meeting in which I gave him an impulsive off-the-cuff business suggestion while I was walking out of the door to leave. My suggestion turned into a lunch the following weekend in which I brought him ten more, and that turned into that job.
Before I even finished school, I applied to Creative Artists Agency. I begged for them to let me start the Monday after graduation. They made me wait three weeks. I started in the mailroom (per my own request), and I was very fortunate enough to spend the majority of my time in the business development group. It spoke to both my creativity and affinity for business, and allowed me to connect with great minds like Adam Devejian. Adam is actually the one who helped inform my views on how the consumption of entertainment will evolve.
CAA was great, but I felt ready to move into management. I wanted to work in multiple areas, serve different kinds of clients, create properties and businesses where I could build equity, and also produce projects. Currently, I’m doing all of these things. I work with two other managers, a few interns, and I’m just across the courtyard from all of my friends at 2000 Avenue of the Stars. I launched Embolden Entertainment in the summer of 2013 as a full service management company for the 21st century.
Embolden is about cutting edge creativity. It’s about creating synergy between old and new media. It’s an entertainment company, which aims to have an eye on the future, like a venture capital firm, with the non-traditional thinking of a tech startup.
Q: How did you first get involved with the JHRTS? What has the transition from JHRTS to HRTS been like?
-I noticed that a lot of the younger people at CAA who were really dedicated to reaching the next level were members of JHRTS. Being a member of JHRTS, or HRTS for that matter, shows that you understand the significance of learning from your peers, and from those whose careers you would like emulate. And the networking opportunities are amazing.
You don’t always get the privilege of having a one-on-one mentorship with every person you respect in entertainment, so sometimes you need to get it indirectly – through a speech, panel, book, etc. For years, some of my closest mentors were people that I’d never personally met. I just did everything I could to absorb their wisdom and decipher what made them successful. A good panel or a speech can be life-changing.
I recently transitioned from JHRTS to HRTS. I love that the HRTS organization is one that remains relevant as you grow in your career. What’s also great is that, as an HRTS member, you can still attend JHRTS events. It’s the best of both worlds!
Q: What’s a favorite memory from your career thus far?
-I’d say making my first hire. It was a very grown-up moment. It’s a little astounding and flattering to see people that are so excited about what you’re doing that they want to dedicate their time to it as well. It makes you believe in what you’re doing all the more.
I’d like to think I’m only two percent of the way on my journey, but, even this far, there have been many surreal moments. I started off on the corporate side of this business picking up flowers, riding around on a bike delivering memos, answering phones, and doing manual labor in a suit. I came from a humble place, so it’s not hard to be taken aback a lot. I appreciate everything.
Q: How does your background as a performer inform your business and creative decisions in the present day?
-It allows me to take people’s dreams very seriously. When I was performing in high school, our drama teacher/director, Josh Adell, was SO intense in supporting and inspiring his cast that he literally would get tears in his eyes and start to choke up during his speeches before every major performance. I always loved entertainment and felt that passionate fire within me, but he definitely tossed a canister of gas onto it. He showed me the depth of sincere artistic expression, and he encouraged my respect for all creative people.
I also understand the hard work that goes into being an artist, and I respect it. When I was a child singer, I had to rehearse two hours, five days a week, minimum. Some people are naive, but I know being an entertainer is no easy job.
At my core, I really am an artist. I used to sing and write songs, poems, comics, and screenplays. I was always attracted to artistic expression. But then one day, my eyes opened, and I saw the creative potential in business. Writing a business plan can draw on the same creativity as writing a poem or a song; it’s just another creative outlet – and it’s exciting! As a musician, I tried to “read the tea leaves” and predict the future trends so that I could create fresh and modern sounds, and as a businessman I do the same thing. I look for the microtrends so that I can prepare myself for the macro ones that will emerge after they grow and coverage.
Q: How do you establish and maintain a transmedia presence for your clients?
-Transmedia is about creating unique experiences by combining multiple modes of communication. I am currently working on several transmedia projects, and I am excited by the immersive entertainment that this kind of synergy can create.
Transmedia projects aren’t essential for all clients, but having a presence in multiple forms of media is. I remind clients of the harmony between new and old media. Oftentimes, you’ll have people who will be stuck in traditional media thinking, but on the other hand there are plenty of new media thinkers that don’t understand the power of the traditional mediums. It’s important to respect and understand both, because they work together.
Look at the PSY video…he was popular in Korea, so the video did pretty well online... so well that it got press in traditional media…which drove more online views….which, in turn, got him more press in traditional media…New and old media can be used to leverage each other. Justin Bieber is another perfect example of leverage between old and new media. They are yin and yang to each other.
Q: What do you like best about being a manager? least?
-The best part is that you can work in so many different arenas. Some days, I’m the guy in the tie pitching clients for traditional projects; other days, I’m the guy in jeans dreaming up futuristic business plans for client satellite brands and properties. Also, the job is very social, and I LOVE people. It’s nice not to have to fake it.
As with all other jobs, it’s frustrating when people don’t heed your advice. It’s also hard to deal with talent who claim they want to take the next step, but don’t show it in their actions. If I’m going to work hard for you, you’d better work hard for yourself. I make sure to filter those people out before things become official.
Q: What’s next for Embolden?
-Lots! We’ve got some really exciting client project attachments and bookings, we’ve got some projects we’re producing (including a multi-platform Japanese action project and a reality show), and we’ve got a few business development ventures underway. My client, Robyn Lynne Norris, wrote and stars in UNDATEABLE, arguably the hottest show at Second City in Los Angeles right now. We’re looking to expand that show. Also, keep an eye out for client, Hanna Beth, in the entertainment/fashion space.
While I want to always have a hand in traditional entertainment, I want to also really focus on growing the “lifestyles” wing of my company. Lifestyle clients are perfect for licensing, commercial endorsements, and business development. Also by nature, they’re specialists in a niche area, so there’s less talent saturation.
One lifestyle project I am launching is WING GIRLS. It’s going to be a premiere men’s lifestyle destination. Right now there are fantastic sites like AskMen.com and GQ.com that give men advice, but I thought it would be really great to also offer men advice from the female perspective, and in a visually appealing style. It’s going to start off with about eight women who will help men be their best – for example, there will be a woman who will show you how to make the best drinks if you’re having company over; another one who will show you how to dress for different occasions; another girl who will show you how to make simple “man meals”; another who will teach you about mental wellness and help you center yourself after a long day at the office, etc. Two of my clients that will be a part of this project are Marni Kinrys (celebrity attraction expert, best-selling author, host of Ask Women) and Caitlin O’Connor (Maxim advice girl/model and actress). WING GIRLS is going to start off on YouTube, and then branch off into a site and interactive application, etc.
I also want to focus on emerging forms of entertainment. I think it would be exciting to help popularize alternative, but accessible, formats for new media of experience. Right now, when it comes to creative projects, we tend to think about what works for media that are familiar. There are some cutting edge concepts or intellectual properties that wouldn't work well for TV, film, or long-form digital series, but they would be great within a new or less popularized medium. These days you’re seeing some newer forms of content like Vine videos that are only six seconds. I think there are still many more forms that will surface as people’s minds open and as technology progresses.
In addition, we want to be a part of the continuing convergence of entertainment, social media, and business. Targeted marketing is the future. This is partly why businesses like Facebook and Twitter are so successful, but much more can be done with social intelligence than what the third party businesses are currently doing. To me, when it comes to advertising, it’s about sentiments, and not just snapshots of ‘likes’ or current preferences. There are certain sentiment engines that are able to track the way the general public and fans react to a specific change in a celebrity. Imagine hiring (or pitching) a celebrity spokesperson for a weight loss product because that person had the best positive sentiment curve in reaction to their weight loss. Then imagine finding the exact demographic that represented the highest sentiments in that curve - and then targeting the product and that spokesperson to them. That's really specific targeted marketing, in where social intelligence would be truly utilized.
It’s not just about using the buzzword of the month and sticking it into your business plan, it's about understanding the depth of new tools, and the subsequent implications for business.
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
-I’m always happy to extend my network, collaborate, and meet new people. My email is Ray@EmboldenEnt.com, my number is (424) 333 4028, and my website is www.EmboldenEnt.com