Mark “Blazing” Schechter may be new to the talent-agency game, but he’s no stranger to high-stakes business.
The owner of Adult Talent Managers (ATMLA) gained invaluable experience on how to manage people and problem solve during a 20-year career in the casino industry before entering porn 15 years ago.
Even though the industry itself is at a pivotal point, very volatile in many aspects, I feel I can still be successful in this particular sector of the industry and make a difference. -Mark Schechter Owner, ATMLA
“I dealt with a side of commerce, if you will, just like porn,” Schechter told XBIZ. “Porn, gambling and alcohol. Those are the three areas of commerce out there that typically have human issues involved.”
Schechter’s background in casinos started in 1979, when at age 21 he went to work for his late mother in a private card room in Orange County, doing server and clean-up work. His mom’s boyfriend at the time taught him how to deal cards and manage the card room. It turned out he was a natural, and just a couple years later Schechter went on to become one of the original managers of Commerce Casino from 1983–86. He later returned to Commerce as a dealer in the high-limit games in the mid- to-late 90s, just prior to his foray into affiliate marketing.
“I’ve always been a person that can come into a company or come into any type of business or industry and manage,” Schechter said. “It’s always been my forte. That’s what I plan to do. I plan to manage this business dealing with the two aspects that we have—the clients and the models.”
Schechter first made a name for himself in adult circles as Mark Blazing, a part owner of the XBIZ Award-winning Blazing Bucks affiliate program. Then last summer he began his transition into performer management, applying the same philosophies and approach to the agency side as he did in building Blazing Bucks into an established industry leader that eventually led to a successful merger with Gamma Entertainment in March 2012.
“Even though the industry itself is at a pivotal point, very volatile in many aspects, I feel I can still be successful in this particular sector of the industry and make a difference,” Schechter said.
He officially took control of ATMLA in July, when he and former owner Shy Love released a joint announcement about the change in ownership. However, the 55-year-old native of Orange County, Calif., actually purchased the agency on Oct. 1, 2012, after initially meeting with Love about acquiring the company in June 2012.
“Shy and I agreed in the very beginning that it was in the best interests for the agency and completely in my best interests as an owner, to go into this venture as a partnership,” Schechter said. “Peter North was a real partner in this. He still is. Peter’s a close friend of mine, still is. I managed his accounting for him when he was down in Orange County. Peter was one of my financial partners. So Shy and I agreed that we would do this, but we would not announce that I’m going to be buying the agency.
“Because there was a lot of volatility that I could expect if I did that, especially with regards to models primarily, because they’d be used to dealing with a particular agency or a particular person in an agency.
“Models get very much attached to a particular person or a particular entity. Trust, performance, reliability. So I agreed. I said to Shy, ‘Yeah, you’re right. That is a very, very smart move because I know that I am confident with myself to establish new relationships,’ but that I needed that time. So we structured the purchase over a year’s period of time. It was a one-year purchase agreement that would enable me to do a few things.”
Schechter knew adult industry sales, marketing and publishing, as well as how to manage model websites — Blazing Bucks still manages well-known sites for performers such as Bree Olson to this day— but at first he admits he did not know about all that was involved in running an agency.
“I had an idea. I knew what I was getting into, but I really needed to learn under somebody that really had the experience and the knowledge that she built a very successful business, so it was to my advantage to keep Shy Love involved as a partner until I was ready to jump out of the nest,” he continued.
Schechter used his time behind the scenes at ATMLA to get to know each model. He also reached out to clients such as producers, directors and production managers.
“I was virtually unknown on this side of the industry with the exception of the level of Internet people that knew me and a small circle of production people,” said Schechter, who became versed in production while running Overboard Video, the studio arm of Blazing Bucks. “Over the years we produced over 3000 scenes so I did know some people on this side of the industry. But my ex-partner handled all the production. I handled the affiliate program. I handled the business.
“When he exited two-and-a-half years ago, I picked up the production responsibilities. The last two-and-a-half years of that process, I was the one that was managing our production. Again, it was a good learning experience for me to do that.
“So then about two months ago, Shy and I met right here in this office. I sat down and said, ‘Shy I’m ready. Push me out of the nest. Let me fly.’ I said, ‘We’ve got another three-and-a-half months left of our [oneyear purchase agreement.] I want to fly solo.’”
It was no coincidence Schechter timed his decision with the third quarter of 2013 underway, the industry’s awards season approaching and producers ramping up after the traditionally slow summer months. Now that Schechter has assumed control of all aspects of ATMLA, he said, “I think I’m about 50 percent to where I can take this thing in terms of volume.”
He compared increasing the number of scene bookings for ATMLA to memberships for a paysite.
“The more joins, the more money,” Schechter reasoned. “So my objective is to bring my number of bookings up and up and up and up. It’s almost the same philosophy with the Internet. I want recurring revenue. It’s the recurring bookings. It’s satisfied clients. When they go to book a model, they call ATM first or they look at ATM’s site first. They give us that first consideration. That’s my goal.”
He also knows exactly what he needs to do to achieve it.
“Developing and maintaining relationships,” Schechter said. “Establishing a trust factor. Establishing an agency-client relationship so that they’re satisfied. They’re happy to do business with us. It’s not because we have the best models. There’s a lot of people that book from certain agencies only because they have the best models. And I’d rather they come to us because we provide a value-added service.
“Because there’s more that we do. I don’t want to just be on the other side of the phone. I want to be proactive in your production.
“I want to be proactive in your projects. I want to know what you’re shooting. On the Internet side, we had projects that were six, 12, 18 months ahead of schedule. I want to know what are you working on—three, six, nine, 12, 18 months ahead of schedule. What can I do in my recruitment that I spend time, money and effort to bring the best models into the industry? What am I looking for that fits your criteria, so I can keep that in mind?”
Schechter said it’s about “matching product to service.”
“Because I need to justify that 50 or 100 dollars for a booking fee,” he said. “We want to go over and above the call of duty to earn that money, other than just to put it in the schedule and make sure she shows up.”
Schechter said that he would never have been in the position that he is today without the assistance of his wife Marjie, whom he met 10 years ago.
“I never went to an event in 10 years without my wife,” Schechter said. “Maybe a dinner meeting or something like that. But never traveled to any show, any convention, any event without Marjie. And she earned her keep. She was a non-paid employee for a number of years, probably seven years or so in the course of that 10-year period of time.”
Schechter said he also is “blessed with a turnkey staff that is incredible.” He lauded lead agent Sandra Cadiz, agent Brent Tarver, Tiffanie Gard, who does sales, PR and recruiting and Gina Schryn, the model facilitator for ATMLA.
“I have a superb staff that can take the ball and run with it,” Schechter said.