By Andreas Wiseman
EXCLUSIVE: London-based Lark is one of the buzziest new boutique film and TV agencies in Europe.
The company was quietly set up by former Troika Director Harriet Pennington Legh in 2020 but gained momentum this year with the addition of former Casarotto and 42 rep Sophie Dolan and longtime Independent Talent agent Roxana Adle. Exiting bigger agencies usually comes with some bumps and bruises (and temporary no-press gags) but the trio took the plunge and are now reaping the rewards.
Together, the three UK agenting dynamos now lead Lark and join a new wave of vibrant UK rep businesses that launched a decade ago with 42 and most recently spawned B-Side Management, which opened shop last year.
Lark’s list is curated and cerebral but also fresh and increasingly acclaimed. The stable of global writers and filmmakers includes Sebastián Lelio, Joanna Hogg, Ritesh Batra, Karim Aïnouz, Shannon Murphy, Maria Schrader, Oliver Hermanus, Ali Abbasi, Remi Weekes, Alma Har’el, Mahalia Belo, Harry Wootliff, Georgi Banks-Davies, Chris Sweeney, Sam Miller and Anne Sewitsky.
Writers, creators and showrunners include Charlie Covell, Claire Wilson, Alice Seabright, Sian Robins-Grace, D. C. Moore and Mike Bartlett. Recent Academy and Emmy winners include Aneil Karia, Francesca Gardiner, Brett Goldstein and MJ Delaney.
Initially registered as Lark Management, the partners now refer to the company solely as Lark and themselves as agents, rather than managers (the distinction isn’t as demarcated in the UK as it is in the U.S.). The firm comprises eight staff and has passive minority investment from U.S. major UTA.
The company’s emergence comes at a time of consolidation and splintering in the UK rep space. Most recently, UTA fully acquired blue-chip firm Curtis Brown, the UK literary and talent outfit that reps Robert Pattinson, Florence Pugh, Margaret Atwood and Ian Fleming. Meanwhile, on the horizon is a potential U.S. writer’s strike, which will also have significant repercussions for the international industry and US-based international creatives.
Against this backdrop, we spoke to the three Lark partners about how the company came about, what the industry can expect from the trio and how they view the shifting landscape.
DEADLINE: What was the ambition behind setting up Lark and when did it first come together?
HARRIET PENNINGTON LEGH: The three of us formally came together in the spring of this year. Our ambition was to create a company with a clear identity with writers and filmmakers at its heart. What we admired about each other from afar was that we all had distinct taste and had curated our client lists in similar ways – by backing our instincts and talent quite often from a very nascent stage and converting that into meaningful businesses that I like to think stood out in the UK landscape. Lark really represents a cementing of that approach to foster a culture for our colleagues and clients to thrive in.
DEADLINE: What is the company structure?
ROXANA ADLE: We’re three equal partners. Each of us has our own list but many of the decisions we’ve made about how we work day to day have been based on the desire to encourage unfiltered collaboration within the team, supporting each other and advocating for each other’s clients – which is both effortless and enjoyable when your tastes are aligned and you’re a small enough team. Working this way we’ve also learned a huge amount from each other in a short space of time as we have such different approaches, which we can now put to the benefit of all our clients. For me personally, Sophie’s unbounded ambition has really shifted my perspective on catching the big fish, and Harriet’s extreme attention to detail and involvement at every stage of the process has been a masterclass.
DEADLINE: Which projects are popping for your clients at the moment?
PENNINGTON LEGH: There are too many to list here but we’re excited about recent client collaborations. Bringing artists together has never felt more organic and will continue to play a central role for us. For years we’ve had an eye on each other’s businesses from afar and now we have front row seats. A couple of examples are creator Charlie Covell and director Georgi Banks-Davies working together on Kaos (Sister Pictures & Anthem for Netflix), and creator DC Moore and director Oliver Hermanus working together on Mary & George (Hera Pictures for Sky & AMC), which is due to star Julianne Moore.
DEADLINE: What is the company’s USP?
SOPHIE DOLAN: We want to create a truly taste driven agency, where quality trumps quantity every time. We all have a very global approach to the business, and are very ambitious for our clients, but always want to conduct business with integrity.
DEADLINE: Has it been daunting striking out on your own after working at larger companies?
DOLAN: It hasn’t been remotely daunting. On the contrary — it has felt natural and energising. In terms of the timing, each of us felt confident we were at the right stage within our relationships and careers to strike out alone and we were excited about coming together stronger than the sum of our parts. If anything, leaving the confines and structures of larger agencies has been liberating — we can all now fully focus on what we find exciting and the reason that we chose this career in the first place — forming deep relationships with creatives that we believe in, building their slates and helping them navigate the ever changing content landscape.
DEADLINE: How did you know each other?
ADLE: Our relationship grew naturally through a mutual admiration of each other’s businesses and wanting our clients to work together, so we were always flagging our scripts and directors to each other. Over the years it got to the point that, rather than being in competition, whenever Harriet and I found ourselves trying to sign the same person (which was fairly often) we probably spent a little too long in the signing meeting singing each other’s praises.
DEADLINE: Are there any reps, mentors or companies that inspired you to set up the company?
ADLE: There are many but A24, Sister, Pastel, Element and Plan B spring to mind; companies with a strong identity and meaningful business built around bold creative voices. I really admire what Emma Paterson at Aitken Alexander has been doing in publishing; those agents that are playing a part in shaping the cultural landscape rather than reacting to fashionable trends.
DEADLINE: Will you produce?
PENNINGTON LEGH: Our approach to our clients’ work is pretty hands on and producorial but we see ourselves as strategists and representatives not as producers.
DEADLINE: How many more agents would you like to add?
PENNINGTON LEGH: In the short-term we want to focus on consolidation and investing in our incredible team and we will always want to grow from within. Beyond that, we’re open-minded and excited for the next phase, but when we grow it will be very considered and specific.
DEADLINE: You’re based in London. Would you like to add other bases elsewhere — LA, for example?
DOLAN: We don’t feel we need to. We feel very comfortable doing business in the US and we embrace all the opportunities it has to offer and love working closely with producers, financiers and our agency and management partners over there.
DEADLINE: Who are some of your most recent signings?
PENNINGTON LEGH: We’ve been embracing the opportunity to sign people together. One element of the job I get particularly excited by is supporting someone transitioning from one creative discipline to another. Earlier this year Roxana and I signed celebrated author, now screenwriter and director Eimear McBride. We’d both been a huge fan of Eimear’s novel The Lesser Bohemians so when Theo Barrowclough put her screenplay adaptation on our desk, it was a genuine thrill.
ADLE: Harriet and I also recently signed Georgia Oakley whose incredible debut feature Blue Jean won four BIFAs last week. It was nominated in 13 categories.
DOLAN: One of the last writers I signed was a young writer called Emma Moran who had written her first spec TV pilot which Sally Woodward Gentle had sent me. I loved her voice and signed her immediately. The show quickly got greenlit by Disney Plus and is coming out next year. Around the same time, I also started working with actor Katherine Waterston. Of course, I’m not a talent agent (and she already has an excellent team of talent agents in the US) but with the right person, I was excited to embrace a new challenge — Katherine really approaches her work like a filmmaker, so our exchanges immediately felt natural. I hope that I can add value and feel well-positioned to introduce her to filmmakers and material at an early stage. For example, she’s just worked with Roxana’s client Mahalia Belo on The End We Start From, and she is in early development with a very exciting filmmaker on a project based on a documentary that she optioned, that she will star in.
DEADLINE: There has been a fair amount of M&A and splintering in the U.K. agency space in recent years. What is your take on where the U.K. agency business is at the moment?
DOLAN: With all of the consolidation going on in both the UK & US agency space, as well as of course in the larger industry, it feels like a particularly potent time to be doing something different and away from the pack; we are creating something independent in our own way, and our clients and their work is at the epicentre of it.
DEADLINE: Where do you see the main opportunities for talent today?
DOLAN: The opportunities are everywhere and careers are defined by surprising choices. Sometimes the best opportunities don’t come from the most obvious place.
PENNINGTON LEGH: And whilst control and autonomy is important and something we will always try to enshrine for our clients, we don’t undervalue the importance of a truly excellent sparring partner. So pairing our clients with people who will enable them to make their best work.
DEADLINE: To what extent will your new signings come from US, UK or continental Europe?
ADLE: Our client list represents the fact that we’ve never had a local approach to the business nor did we place a particular value on what was considered ‘mainstream’. It has been both encouraging and validating to see the entertainment landscape opening up to a broader spectrum of voices.
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