How This 'Stage Mum' Went From Newcastle All The Way To LA

It’s all about talent.

06/06/2016 7:40 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Gina Stoj Management/Warner Bros
Stojanovski's client William Kircher, left, played Bifur in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Just because she's never screamed "show me the money!" down the phone line doesn't mean that Australia's answer to Jerry Maguire lacks any of his passion.

In fact, talent agent Gina Stojanovski is so passionate about nurturing new actors that she often takes a chance on an unknown, giving them their big break in the entertainment world.

And for her, making their dreams come true never gets old.

"Every time I see one of my actors in a film or on television I still get excited, and proud," she said.

Stojanovski launched Gina Stoj Management 15 years ago, expanding her Newcastle-based agency to the U.S. in 2012, opening offices in Los Angeles and New York.

Gina Stoj Management
Gina Stojanovski expanded her Newcastle-based talent agency to Los Angeles and New York.

While most talent agents get their start by interning at an agency, Stojanovski got hers by jumping in at the deep end. Unable to find adequate representation for her budding actor son Jason, she decided to become an agent herself.

"I started out as a 'stage mum' in Australia and saw a need for a middle tier agency," she said.

"The only options that were available were either top of-the-line agencies or ones that only took extras. So I decided to start an agency that filled the gap.

"From there I began with one actor, who happened to be my son! Within weeks, word had spread in the industry and I started filling my books with actors looking for representation.

"I was a 'person that actors could trust' was the word on the street."

In her 15 years as an agent, she's placed Aussie actors in shows including Janet King, Home & Away, Underbelly, Puberty Blues, Rake and Neighbours, and films The Great Gatsby, The Hobbit, Unbroken and Mad Max; Fury Road.

John Barbolla
John Barbolla on the set of TV show Revenge.

Since expanding into the U.S, her actors have appeared in New Girl, Scandal, Agents of Shield, Madam Secretary, American Horror Story, Revenge, Supergirl, Grey's Anatomy and Stiller and Meara -- just to name a few.

With no experience running a business of her own before launching the agency, Stojanovski said she faced a steep learning curve.

"I (had) always been an employee of someone else," she said.

"I was a secretary to four psychiatrists before I became an agent, (so) everything was trial and error. (But) whenever I had questions, peers in the industry were always on hand to give advice."

She said some of the most difficult challenges she faced when expanding her business into the U.S. were logistical.

"There were many hurdles, sometimes the most simplest things were a challenge," she said.

"Getting a phone number that is portable to both countries that doesn't get discontinued when you are out of the country for a certain time is one example. And time zones!"

Gina Stoj Management
Laura Carbonell starred with Jerry Stiller (Zoolander, Seinfeld) in TV series Simpler Times.

She said she relied on her experience, and a bit of a gut feeling, when deciding who to take on as a client.

"You always get a feel for an actor from their initial email or phone enquiry," she said.

"Are their materials all in order, do they know their type, and also do they have acting chops?

"Is there a gap in my agency for a particular skill or quality they may have? I am known for giving new actors a start, nurturing them."

Stojanovski said that while she is still based in Newcastle, she regularly visits the U.S.

"My main base is still Australia but I go back and forth to LA to see my actors and network," she said.

"I love, love, love it. Everywhere you go, everyone you meet is (in the) entertainment industry one way or another; the waiter serving your meal, the sales assistant, the person at the bar, everywhere you turn you can have a conversation with someone who 'gets you'."

Gayla Johnson/Facebook
Gayla Johnson appeared on TV doctor drama Grey's Anatomy.

She said there was no such thing as a "regular" day for a talent agent.

"Every day is different with new auditions coming in, liaising with casting directors and looking after my actors," she said.

"New actors are constantly looking for representation too, so it's a matter of sifting through headshots, looking at resumes and showreels and deciding whether they are a right fit, and following leads.

"I think it is also important to have your ear to the ground and hearing of new projects in development. Networking (also) plays a big part of developing new relationships within the industry."

Stojanovski said she also co-founded a non-profit production company called Theater 48, dedicated to telling stories that need to be told, as a way to give back to the industry.

She launched the company so she could produce comedy-drama, Finding The Burnett Heart, the story of a young gay man who comes out to his old-school grandfather.

Gina Stoj Management/FX
Jo Farkas, one of Stojanovski's clients, landed a role in American Horror Story.

"I'd never produced before and one of my actors, Jeff L. Williams, was very keen on this play," she said.

"It's a beautiful, heart-wrenching story about love, acceptance and the awful cost of bigotry. I read the play and thought it was a story that needed to be told.

"Jeff and I formed Theater 48 and made it happen. It was a crash course on how to produce a play. I learned a lot and loved every minute of it.

"We put the play up on Theater Row in Hollywood. It was extremely well reviewed by industry publications like Backstage. Audiences loved it and we were a Critic's Pick for the entire run of the show."

Off the back of the play's success, she also produced a short film called What If.

"That was also a story about acceptance with a very powerful, positive message," she said.

"It was well received in the film festival circuit. For me, it's all about the story, the message. If the right material comes along, I'd love to produce again."

Gina Stoj Management
William Kircher also scored a role in upcoming sci-fi flick Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, alongside Tracey Birdsall.

And her advice for those wanting to become a talent agent?

"Work hard and don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it," she said. "Give your best to the people who believe in you and trust you with their career."

And budding actors?

"Be loyal to yourself and trust the journey!"

More On This Topic