Being naturally talented and filled with passion for one’s craft is often not enough to make it as a successful working artist in the ever-changing and incredibly competitive world of entertainment. Often times the difference between those who achieve a successful and sustained career and those who don’t comes down to having the support and guidance of an experienced agent or manager.
With offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, and a roster that includes celebrated actors, dancers, musicians and specialty acts, Francesca Nicassio’s boutique agency Stars Academy Talent (SAT), has been a driving force behind the growth and success of her clientele.
Representing a range of talent that spans the gamut, Francesca’s acting clients currently appear as series leads, principal actors and guest stars on major networks including ABC, NBC, A&E, FOX, Universal, Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix, Amazon, PBS, YTV, Family Channel, BBC, CTV and others. The list of specialty artists she represents through SAT is equally impressive and includes Broadway stars, principal dancers, emerging musicians, Youtube sensations and social media influencers.
“My goal is always the same, to help my clients realize their dreams and further their careers,” explains Francesca. “I am passionate about each and every client no matter the stage in their career. I am intrigued and inspired by talent and superhuman work-ethic. When those two qualities come together, and we have a clear plan, then success is eminent.”
Over the years Stars Academy Talent has become a strong force in the entertainment industry, due in no small part to Francesca’s seasoned eye for recognizing talent and her passion for the process. It was that fiery passion and dedication to helping talents achieve their dreams that first led Francesca to open Stars Academy (SA) in Toronto area back in 2000. SA began as a private performing arts school offering classes in music, dance and the dramatic arts, and Francesca brought in a world-class faculty to ensure her students received the training they needed to both excel and be competitive in the industry.
While she continued to direct the academy for 15 years, Francesca moved into her role as a talent manager rather organically as more and more of the talents she trained began booking professional work and requesting she represent them personally. With an entirely devoted approach, she’s made it a point to let the needs of her clients dictate the direction of her company and services, and it was from there that SA evolved into the boutique talent agency SAT.
“I took pride in being their backbone and part of their unwavering support system because that is vital in such a challenging industry. I felt as though I was part of their journey experiencing the highs and lows with students who I knew so well and had become like family members,” explains Francesca. “As more and more asked for representation, I knew it was my calling to focus on the agency and artist management.”
With a strong and fruitful relationship already in place, as her young clients grew into adults Francesca expanded her roster to include talents of all ages, with her youngest client today being 3-year-old Canadian Instagram star Luigi Columbo and her most mature being 80-year-old award-winning director and actress Gaylynn Baker who’s based in LA.
Though SAT has grown exponentially, Francesca continues to run the agency with the same founding philosophy of SAT existing as more of a tight-knit family where every client, regardless of where they’re at in their career, receives the attention and support they need in order to progress.
“I now maintain a client list of around 100 artists including star names, emerging and developmental talents of all ages,” explains Francesca. “I am very hands-on and work closely with my talents to make sure they get the guidance and feedback they need to be their very best. They can always count on me to support them through thick and thin. Our roster is a family and it takes a village to become and sustain a career as a working artist. I strive to foster an environment of teamwork, collaborations and encouragement.”
In response to the growing needs of her emerging music clients, she founded the indie record label and music management company FAN ENTERTAINMENT INC., in 2016. She says, “I have been managing distribution, PR and bookings for my musician clients for years now so it was a natural progression to start the label. I have a team of the best writers, producers, video directors, consultants, legal advisors and of course some of the most talented emerging musicians out there, so it was an easy decision.”
The first act she signed was Canadian pop band The Revel Boys, who will be featured on CTV’s highly anticipated music series “The Launch” as one of Canada’s top 30 emerging musical acts. Her music clients have topped world-wide viral and trending charts, charted on iTunes, and have been added to prominent Spotify playlists including New Music Friday, Discover Weekly and many others.
In an article published by Rolling Stone about how Spotify playlists can turn an artist’s song into a hit, Steven Knopper writes, “Big names like Ed Sheeran are almost guaranteed space on prominent playlists. For smaller names, the journey takes longer.” While this is true for the most part, Francesca explains, “As an indie record label, it’s all about knowing the right moment to lobby for my artists, getting booked on a music series, going viral and getting placed on any prominent playlist has become as important as radio play and the moves we make in the wake of that are vital.”
As a strong and fearless woman working in the entertainment industry, and someone who’s successfully managed to build a boutique agency whose talents consistently work at the same level as the biggest international agencies and management firms, Francesca Nicassio is not only helping her artists achieve their dreams, but she’s using her position to support others. She is an Executive Member of Women in Film (WIF) in Los Angeles, an organization that has been working to empower women in the film industry and create an equal playing field for over four decades.
Francesca says, “It’s about women helping women in an industry where we have been statistically underrepresented and treated unfairly. I am strongly committed to equality, diversity, and inclusion in all areas of my life and career, and of course the careers of my clients, so it is an honor to work towards this with like-minded women. “
She’s contributed to multiple other non-profits focused on arts in education, such as Artists In the Classroom, for which she’s placed professional dance and music educators in participating schools for free extra curricular music theatre arts programs for 17 years. She’s also spent the last 20 years working with local private arts educators to provide thousands of dollars in dance music and theatre training scholarships to underprivileged children and teens, and has recently focused on the anti-bullying movement by placing young stars in schools across Canada to speak to students and bring awareness to the issue. Additionally, Francesca has volunteered as an entertainment booker and director of annual events for CIBC Run for the Cure since 2000 and Toys for Tots since 2002.