UTA Co-President Jay Sures on WHCD Weekend and Entertainment in the Trump Era

Sures talks journalism, Roseanne and the Time’s Up movement.

(Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

Washington is about to embark on its second White House Correspondents Dinner weekend of the Trump presidency. After a tepid celebration last year, this year is shaping up for a nice rebound. One of the hottest tickets in town is United Talent Agency’s third annual “Celebration of America’s Journalists” soiree, held tonight at Fiola Mare and co-hosted by Mediaite. UTA client and WHCD host Michelle Wolf is sure to be in attendance, along with big names in media and politics like Chuck Todd, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper and Anthony Scaramucci. UTA co-president Jay Sures filled us in on what to expect from the weekend and what it’s like representing some of the biggest names in news.

Have you seen the environment of the WHCD weekend change in the three years you’ve hosted a party?

Oh my gosh, yes. The first year it was Obama’s last year and my client Larry Wilmore was hosting and that was an incredible experience. Trump didn’t show up last year so that changed the dynamic obviously and not coming this year changes the dynamic. We saw fewer celebrities go last year. I think you’re going to see a bump up of celebrities coming this year. Our party will be more dynamic than it’s ever been. The cross section of people that are coming, from news to politics to entertainment, I’m incredibly excited about.

You said in 2016 that you didn’t think the Trump presidency would negatively affect Hollywood business. Do you still think that’s true?
I think it’s certainly changed the business a little bit but the entertainment business in general is incredibly vibrant. All of these new over-the-top platforms are voraciously buying content and as a result that’s been great for the entertainment business. So I don’t think Trump has made it worse, I just think it’s changed a little bit and obviously the content is changing. We were the agency behind “Roseanne.” With the Trump presidency, we realized that maybe we’re not fully serving the audience as well as we could, and “Roseanne” proved that.

If anything I feel like the the election seemed to elevate television journalists to celebrity status. Do you think so?
For sure. When our client Don Lemon came out to Hollywood for the Academy Awards, more people were interested in talking to him at the parties than just about anybody out there, because they’re obsessed with his perspective and what’s going on on the inside. I think people are constantly dying for the inside information of what’s really going on and I think some of the big-name journalists really offer that today.

You started representing big-time news personalities when you acquired N.S. Bienstock four years ago. Were there any challenges to taking that on that you didn’t anticipate?
Yes, there have been challenges in every which way. It’s a competitive business, it’s a lot of work, it’s travel. Journalists are located all over the country so I find myself on planes more so than I ever have in my life, but I think it’s been a worthwhile challenge. I can’t tell you how proud I am of a number of the journalists we represent who are doing great work day in and day out and are fighting to report the truth.

What has UTA done in response to the Time’s Up movement?
The two guys that I run the company with, Jeremy Zimmer and David Kramer, and I have nine daughters between the three of us between the ages of 7 and 27, and I think that speaks volumes about where we stand on the issue. We’ve been at the forefront of being very vocal about it. I’m very proud about where our agency stands on the issue. We’ve been generous with our time and our resources both financially and with man and woman hours and I think you’re going to continue to see us taking a very strong, inclusive position. We’re proud to have become a leading voice for the kind of transformation that’s taking place in the industry.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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