Don't mess with a soprano  

Behind the scenes

Talent agents, like Brenda Connell, secure the best roles for the best fees. It can be a fiercely competitive business with a 24/7 work schedule, but it’s a gritty job that is essential for their talent. It is her job to guide her talent's path for career development, branding, public relations, and networking.

So what brings Brenda Connell into such a demanding industry?

Trying to put the Okanagan talent on the map. That’s what.

She didn’t grow up thinking she would become a talent/booking agent. She grew up in Alberta and moved a lot between Calgary and Edmonton, graduating from St. Mary’s High School, Calgary in ’79.

She was a professional print and commercial model for 16 years.

She also dabbled in the professional wrestling world during the Hart brothers' reign, playing a “bad guy character" named Mercedes, the first female manager in Canada. Furthermore, she also was in a TV pilot cast as Vadim the Video VJ – a character aimed at becoming the Canadian version of Elvira. After acting, she moved on to being a personal trainer and started The Coach Club in Calgary with her sister, Karen.

What drew her to forming her first talent agency, Image Work, in Edmonton in the ’80s? Like so many of life’s lessons, she learned the hard way. She was financially ripped off by one agency and abandoned when another agency disappeared. She saw a need for fair and honest representation and found out she enjoyed the work and was very good at it. But the long hours and constant pressure began to dull the excitement.

A desire for a slower pace of work-life and an innate entrepreneurial spirit brought her to Kelowna. She became a board-certified health coach and incorporated Vitality Health Coaching Inc. and later opened her boutique tanning company, Beauty and the Bronze Inc. with her daughter.

“I can’t believe I’m doing it again.” BookIT Talent Agency was born out of her yearning to help talent find their way in a very difficult business. She is passionate about showcasing our Okanagan talent in big city markets like Vancouver and Toronto.

When I asked her, what makes a good talent agent, she stressed

  • communication and coaching skills
  • the desire for servicing her talent,
  • providing tools to prepare her talent for on set
  • above all, to run her agency with good morals and ethics

“I like my talent to be a team and family.” She carries the badge of Momager proudly – something her talent often refers to her as.

She’s had over 4,000 applications to date. She loves providing opportunities to the many hopefuls in Kelowna.

Although it isn’t her job to be a trainer, she has no problem guiding her talent in the right direction to help evolve their careers. Nothing is spared for her roster and their developing professionalism.

“I like my talent to do their homework.” She works hard for them, she expects the same from them.

She looks for the following when picking talent.

  • Proper up-to-date headshots
  • A good resume including relevant workshops
  • Great attitude – no room for egos on set
  • To always be humble

A look at BookIT's Facebook page will give you an idea of how successful, in a very short time, this vivacious lady is in booking her talent. "We have some great talent – diamonds in the rough to polished gems."

She uses some very sophisticated software to organize what talent is available when and to help her get back to her clients on the same day. In such an exhausting job, this is admirable.

This type of success is done by being ready for last-minute changes. Life happens but in her world, it happens fast and at all hours.

She must be ready for actors getting stranded or having to be replaced at a moment’s notice. She must use patience and world-class communicating skills to keep casting and film directors happy, and diplomacy while informing her talent of dialogue, location, or time changes. Her work never stops.

Her passion also doesn’t stop when she leaves work. She told me she is known as the turtle lady of Wilden. She is often seen carrying turtles safely across the road to an area for laying their eggs. They haven’t learned the concept of 4 o’clock traffic, their favourite time to cross.

She cares deeply for animals, her husband, her successful actress daughter, her former show Pekingese dogs, Meelo and Stormy, and of course, her local talent.

She refers to herself as being an old bird. I saw a gorgeous ageless woman full of energy. Someone not afraid to speak her mind, yet warm, open, and easy to talk to. Someone who exudes trust. A person you want in the corner with you.

How lucky the Okanagan talent is to have her fighting for their careers.

You will find her at: [email protected], Facebook and Instagram @bookittalent or online at bookittalent.ca.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Sue Skinner is a singer of opera and musical theatre, a choral conductor and a teacher/coach of voice. 

She has travelled the world, learned many languages, seen every little town in Alberta and supported herself with music all her life.

She has sung at weddings, funerals, musicals, operettas, opera, with symphonies, guitars, jazz groups, rock bands and at play schools. 

Skinner has taken two choirs to Carnegie Hall, sung around the world, and teaches for Wentworth Music on Zoom.

[email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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