VI Power-Sixer: CAA’s Margo Plotkin Powers Hollywood and Digital Crossover
Sometimes the most powerful forces are disguised by seemingly petite packages. At first glance, one might underestimate Creative Artist Agency’s Margo Plotkin but, behind the scenes, her big visions for the future of digital entertainment have brought some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including ‘The Walking Dead’ creator Robert Kirkman, James Franco, and Kelly Ripa, into the digital territory — and vice versa, with native digital talent like Meredith Foster and Boyce Avenue crossing over into more traditional arenas.
Effervescent and collaborative in approach, Plotkin has shaped the digital strategy for many of CAA’s traditional entertainment clients and helped digital talent cross over into television, film, and large-scale digital projects. She has strategically guided both traditional and digital companies on the evolution of this business around how to innovate their business models and fit into this rapidly shifting landscape for the long haul. And perhaps what adds to her intrigue is the humility and heads-down approach she brings to driving deal flow for CAA’s clients.
While speaking to Plotkin, her enthusiasm and energy in driving this industry forward is palpable. The light she shines on the nature of the deal economy as it currently stands, as well as her eye-towards-the-future commentary crystalizes why her clients, peers, and ultimately our team at VideoInk, selected her as a Power-Sixer.
“Margo is very humble when it comes to her role in getting these deals done but her contribution goes well beyond just the deal-making and interest in landing the deal,,” says CAA’s David Freeman.“She’s really shaping the clients’ strategies and the deals are a byproduct of that collaborative approach.”
With a background in music and entertainment marketing, those who have worked with Plotkin have noted her shining ability to strike at a company’s core business goals and content needs, then match those objectives to market trends with an acute eye toward the future.
“I did my very first deal [with Vimeo] with Margo. She was instrumental in bringing Joss Whedon’s ‘In Your Eyes,’ which is a traditional piece of IP into Vimeo,” says Sam Toles, Vimeo’s VP of content acquisitions and business development.
Following its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, Joss Whedon debuted his indie feature film ‘In Your Eyes’ on Vimeo, which is still available for purchase at $9.99 or rent at $4.99. Given Whedon is known as an innovator, a distribution deal of this type might not come as a surprise from a talent like him; however, considering the deal was done over a year ago, when transactional VOD was still in its infancy and Vimeo was still early on in its evolving direct-to-consumer model, the distribution approach was somewhat unproven, to say the lest. And yet since then, the move has proven to be a budding trend in the industry.
Over the course of her time at CAA, where she currently holds post in the Digital Talent and Packaging group, the deal with Vimeo is but a freckle on the treasure trove of deals in this vein that Margo has shepherded forward.
Perhaps most remarkable has been the recent deal packaged between Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment and Samsung’s Milk VR product for a first-of-its-kind virtual reality format. “Technology is driving this industry forward, and when a new platform launches that offers new ways to monetize, distribute content, and aggregate audience, we win. There are a lot of alternative financing avenues that we’re really excited about right now.”
Plotkin tells me that when structuring these deals it can often be difficult to conceive what the right structures might be due to the fact that monetization benchmarks haven’t been set for emerging formats. It’s important to consider the clients ultimate goals. “Where it gets really exciting is being a part of the creative deal-making that allows the client to create original IP and have their stories told, whether it’s a film, or a book or a game,” she says. For the deal with Skybound, Plotkin notes that the deal ultimately came down to being a first mover, and realizing the budget needs essential to push boundaries on creative on an emerging platform rather than focusing on hard revenue returns since those models are uncharted in the present.
“That’s what’s really cool about digital — there’s so much that hasn’t been done and it’s really difficult but it’s so exciting,” she says of the process. “I love being in the trenches with our partners internal business affairs and our clients’ attorneys creating the roadmap of the future.”
She was instrumental in bringing both James Franco’s Rabbit Bandini Productions and Kelly Ripa’s television production entity Milojo Productions into the digital space, including Franco’s first digital series, a hybrid scripted format called “Making a Scene with James Franco,” which was sponsored by Verizon and distributed by AOL. According to the teams behind the project, the format marks one of AOL’s most successful to date and has been reupped for a second season.
Similarly, Plotkin also brought Milojo its first digital series with AwesomenessTV — a 30-episode order for unscripted cheerleading series “Cheer Off” — as well as the production company’s first foray into branded entertainment with Johnson & Johnson on a docu-series for Children’s Motrin. Her work with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer also resulted in the formation of digital studio, New Form Digital, a new kind of production company that is working with digital influencers to develop and produce scripted short-form series.
As CAA has expanded its focus toward representing digital talent from YouTube, Vine, and other social media platforms, Plotkin has supported stars such as Pentatonix, Meredith Foster, Troy Sivan, and Boyce Avenue across digital and traditional.
These are standard crossover deals, you might be thinking; but the nature and scale of the relationships Plotkin has forged on behalf of her clients and the distributors, talent, and/or platforms working with them have set foundational deal structures in place that have helped accelerate and advance the imminent collision of traditional and digital Hollywood.
She has an innate ability to collaborate with and understand talent, has demonstrated a unique foresight for what is next in the digital space, and has consistently worked to break barriers that enable the creation of groundbreaking formats.
“[Margo’s] key strength is that she’s trailblazing in a brand new industry and primarily understands the goal of the platform,” says Toles. “I really think that she first and foremost understands exactly how the IP should flow, what makes most sense [for the buying side and the client] equally. She’s advocating for deals that are win-wins, which is not always the case in Hollywood, and that’s a really rare [quality].”