"Clooney Chaos" may have much of St. Louis starry-pupiled, yet not everyone is giddy about the local filming of the Jason Reitman feature Up in the Air.

Jerry Jones, director of the Missouri Film Commission, says the Paramount Pictures film could boost the local economy by about $50 million and that it has already employed 40 area residents on the production side. But some in the local talent industry have expressed displeasure with the casting of extras and minor speaking roles — the best gigs available to local talent.

"I'm sick and tired of one talent agency dominating the business through connections like the film office," says Camille Adams, owner of Menagerie Models.

That "one talent agency" is TalentPlus, owned by Sharon Lee Tucci, whose husband, Pasta House Company president J. Kim Tucci, is also St. Louis film commissioner. Adams and others say TalentPlus enjoyed an unfair advantage in local casting for Up in the Air, owing to Tucci family ties and to the agency's relationship with Joni Tackette, the local casting director Paramount hired.

The Tuccis say it's just good business. Tackette declined to be interviewed for this story.

Adams is not alone in her frustration. Reinette Saleeby, a Clayton attorney, says she was approached by a group of disgruntled local casting directors, talent agencies, independent actors and actors who belong to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

On their behalf, she wrote a letter to Paramount alleging Tackette hadn't cast in an appropriate way. Paramount promised to investigate the matter. Saleeby says it was unfair for Tackette to have cast minor speaking roles by holding auditions at TalentPlus rather than in an independent space.

Sharon Tucci says she frequently does business with Tackette and that the casting director indeed held the first local auditions at the agency January 5 through 7. Tucci points out that her agency represents more union talent than any other local agency (about 145 adult SAG actors in the area).

"I'm the only SAG-franchised agency, so I should be the first to be called. That's protocol," Tucci asserts, adding that all twelve TalentPlus actors who won minor speaking roles are union represented; she stands to earn a daily commission of about $76 from each.

Zino Macaluso, SAG's national director of agency relations, confirms that under collective bargaining agreements, a production company could potentially be fined for failing to fill roles with SAG and SAG-eligible actors if they're available. He adds that if a town has only one SAG-franchised agency, it's "not unusual" for a casting director to start there and to use the agency's space.

Up in the Air will cast 15 to 25 Missouri actors in minor speaking roles, says the film's executive producer, Michael Beugg.

Representatives of NOW Talent Management, Azalea Agency, and West Model and Talent Management say Tackette solicited submissions for minor speaking roles in December, prior to the auditions at TalentPlus. All three of these agencies report having at least some union actors, and between them landed three minor speaking roles. They also say Tackette permitted their clients to bypass the January 24 and 25 public casting call for extras at Crestwood Court Mall and submit headshots and résumés instead.

Sharon Pfitzinger, vice president of marketing at Images Agency, says her agency and other non-union shops (including Menagerie Models) weren't contacted at all about submissions — for extras or otherwise.

Pfitzinger says she's been working for four months with Associated Industries of Missouri, a Jefferson City lobbying firm, in an effort to bring more films to the state. She says she was "disappointed, to say the least" not to hear from Tackette. "We look like fools," she adds. "Here's a big movie in town and we're an agency and we don't know anything about it. We heard everything [via the news media]."

Back in December, Sharon Tucci appeared on a KSDK-TV (Channel 5) newscast offering advice to would-be extras. Tucci says her agency collected applications from would-be extras and passed them along to Tackette. She also says that a TalentPlus employee helped Tackette with crowd control in Crestwood.

"If they're just facilitating the job for the producer, that's fine," Macaluso says. "If they're actively involved in casting decisions, that would be a problem."

Tucci says she didn't charge Paramount a penny, and that big production companies "are used to cities taking care of them." For two years, Tucci adds, she has served on the board of the Missouri Motion Media Association, which she describes as the lobbying arm of the state film commission. "I've been someone connected to the industry for years," she says.

In a separate letter addressed to the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC), attorney Saleeby wrote that Kim Tucci's position as a film commissioner with close ties to a talent agency constitutes a conflict of interest.

Tucci, former chairman of the state film commission, says he played no role in Tackette's hiring and that his current duties as St. Louis film commissioner include lobbying legislators to keep tax credits intact and presenting St. Louis as film-friendly.

He says the film office consists of him and one other individual and that it receives no funding from the CVC, its parent organization.

Tucci adds that he, his wife and a few other individuals led the push to convince Paramount to shoot here. "What we do is on our own dime," Tucci emphasizes. "We're working our fanny off to make things happen in these hard times."

Responds Saleeby: "I commend Kim for his efforts, but it's not fair in the eyes of people in the industry when they don't even have a chance to submit. If this was in LA, this never would've happened."

Menagerie Models owner Adams says, "For me this isn't about the money or jealousy. This kind of small-town B.S. must stop in order for the city to thrive, because other movies might come in."

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4 comments
Johnny_handsome90
Johnny_handsome90

That model agency sounds like a typical scam agency. No real agency in any big city charges 250.00 for talent to sign up. I have profesional headshots from a well known photographer in Miami who is well known and is industry known. Actors and models should not have to choose their photographers. No wonder they are not SAG. Sharron Tucci understands the business and works with Sag's regulations. You never pay an agent. They take a percentage when they book you work. There is a company based out of Toronto,Canada who works with real people and they do not charge a fee. Central Casting based in Hollywood California recently got finded for charging fees which is illegal in the state of California and it should be in any market.

DS
DS

Is this complaint for real? What this article makes clear to anyone in the business is that Camille Adams does not belong in this business. If she is sick and tired of one talent agency dominating the business she should stay in business for thirty years and make the same connections to local and out of state agencies Sharon Tucci has acquired. How many SAG actors does Menagerie Models represent? Are they even SAG or AFTRA franchised? Of course a casting director would select agencies that represent union talent. Joni Tackette is without a doubt the best casting director working in St Louis. She understands that the director casts the film and that it is her job to assist the director in finding the talent he/she desires. As with so many casting directors who work in smaller markets her ego is not a part of the process. To question her integrity or her ethics is preposterous. And while we're at it how could Kim Tucci's position as film commissioner with close ties to a talent agency constitute a conflict of interest???? Kim has no control over who the director will cast. Kim Tucci has worked hard for years to bring film production to St Louis. And that's a crime because?????Camille Adams should quit whining and invite Jerry Jones to lunch.

Jason Clooney
Jason Clooney

Someone should investigate the sweetheart relationship between the Missour film commissioner Jerry Jones, the Tucci family, and IATSE 493 -- the union for film crew workers. It's not just a "closed system" for actors, but for crew members, as well. What the article doesn't say is that Ms. Tackette is not an independent casting director, but was recently -- and may still be on the Tucci's payroll. That's probably why she refused to be interviewed for the article. The film industry in St. Louis and the state will never flourish until stranglehold that the Tuccis, IATSE, and the film commission have on the local industry is broken. There is clearly some restraint of trade going on. The woman from Menagerie Models hit the nail on the head -- there's too much small town bs here. Thanks to the RFT for having the guts to print a story that the Post and none of the TV stations would dare pursue, because of the advertising clout of the Pasta House.

Adam Winkerly
Adam Winkerly

Nepotism is wrong.

Crying over spilled milk is understandable -for children.

A little maturity would go a long way in this town's film industry - from Mr. & Mrs. Tucci not "bogarting" casting calls, nor using legacy and elite connections to maintain business-as-usual in St. Louis' film community, to little guys who wanna be big but refuse to work for it.

For any reader who doesn't know, our status quo for "film friendliness" in this town results to about one artistically-insignificant big-budget P.O.S. movie every few years, with the large lot of creative performers & technicians waiting tables or working at Blockbuster (where you can't even rent Escape from New York on DVD!)...

Is this Mr. & Mrs. Tucci's fault? Surely not. So, perhaps all of those so sour about the possibility that these two life-long industry professionals, like 'em or not, committed any wrongdoing. You've got to trust their track record & longevity in our community St. Louis, from the mexican dishwashers at the Pasta House to the industry stranglehold Talent Plus has over SAG. It's so easy to blame the wealthy when we are all so poor, but also quite immature.

We have to come together and produce something HERE, not something that we have to beg and plea and possibly cheat to be apart of! How ridiculous? So, from downtown to Clayton to the CVC and MOMMA, MO FIlm and the badly-in-need-of-resuscitation St. Louis Film Office, I say:

BURY YOUR HATCHETS - WE MUST COME TOGETHER IN PEACE TO MAKE IT THROUGH THESE TUMULTUOUS TIMES.

Also, for those flinging mud and those being struck by it, please discontinue any further escalation of this pathetically absurd and immature conflict, make a public truce, lllow the Tuccis to clear their name, and everyone move forward as a team of St. Louisans rather than a bunch of fraternal cabals bent on one-another's destruction.

 
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