One word keeps coming up when Sibylle Breitbach talks about her agency WASTED MANGEMENT. A word that’s simple yet laden with meaning: instinct. This quiet but insistent feeling that is simply there, defying further analysis.
In 1995 Sibylle Breitbach founded WASTED MANAGEMENT in Cologne, and has been living and working in Berlin for the last ten years. Management – for Sibylle Breitbach, this has never meant having a perfect one-size-fits-all strategy. Her work focuses on the individual support given to the agency’s equally individual artists. WASTED MANAGEMENT is responsible for contact with casting agencies, producers, directors, as well as press and public relations activities and marketing acquisitions. Ideas for projects are always developed together with the artists. “I’ve always considered my work with artists as a long-term, collaborative process”, explains Sibylle Breitbach. This is a philosophy that can be traced back to the origins of the agency.
You previously worked for the Ministry of Justice in Bonn and later in the Chelsea Hotel in Cologne. A colourful mix of artists and musicians met in the hotel’s Cafe Central during your time there. What motivated you back then to found your own agency?
The time in the Chelsea Hotel was a great experience. I’ve always been interested in meeting new and interesting people, getting to know other cultures and discovering new places. Working as the manager there gave me great freedom to be creative and try out lots of different things: I worked mainly with record labels representing bands such as Blur, Oasis or The Verve who were guests in our hotel. I also worked with galleries and painters such as Martin Kippenberger, Walter Dahn and Joseph Kosuth who part paid for their stay in the hotel with paintings so we had lots of exhibitions in the Chelsea. I met Heike Makatsch during this time, who was then a presenter for VIVA. She was looking for an agency, but wasn’t interested in working with any of the larger ones around. Heike and I clicked immediately and decided to work together.
Heike was not only your first client, but is also your longest-standing. How decisive was this relationship for the approach of WASTED MANAGEMENT?
The wonderful thing back then was that we simply started working: with great enthusiasm and curiosity. Heike had never acted up to this point. We then received an offer to work in Detlev Buck’s film Jailbirds. This was unfamiliar territory for both of us, and we found our way step-by-step together. This close, trust-based cooperation laid the foundation for WASTED MANAGEMENT.
You are also largely responsible for the career of Sibel Kekilli. How did you start working with her and how did you support her professional development?
After Head-On won the Golden Bear, attracting an incredible amount of media hype, the production team asked if I wanted to represent Sibel, and we started working together immediately after. The work with Sibel was very intensive and presented a number of challenges, including establishing a name in mainstream German productions and getting exposure to the international market. I’m happy to say that, over our 12 years of working together, we successfully rose to meet these challenges, with highlights including lead roles in high-profile German film and television productions, as well as her part in Game of Thrones.
What would you say is the most important aspect of your work?
When all is said and done, my job is mainly about having the right instinct for people and projects, working with passion and conviction, and dealing with people openly and with integrity. It’s also about organisational structure – something I learnt a lot about during my time at the Ministry of Justice. I learnt fairly early on that I work best when I love what I’m doing and follow my instincts.
Sibylle Breitbach has always trusted these instincts when deciding who to work with at WASTED MANAGEMENT. It was clear from the start that the agency should focus on a small, select clientele. She wanted to avoid growing the agency too large or taking herself too seriously, as is reflected in the ironic WASTED in the agency’s name. Instead, she wanted to delve into the apparent and hidden talents of artists, to deal with their aspirations and visions and to work with artists that fascinate her: people who make her eyes light up.
In addition to Heike Makatsch, actors such as Pheline Roggan, Violetta Schurawlow and Lilith Stangenberg now belong to the agency, as does the musician and actress Anna F. and Toni Garrn, who gained international attention as a model and is today represented by WASTED MANAGEMENT in her presenting and acting work. In addition, WASTED MANAGEMENT is responsible for the press and public relations activities of the concert promotor Scumeck Sabottka (MCT) and the coordination of Robbie Williams’ press activities during his tours in Germany.
How do you decide which artists to represent in your agency?
I have to see something in these people and they have to capture my attention completely. These are necessary preconditions for my approach: intensive interaction and development. I would never represent somebody who expected that I simply tell them what to do. They have to be prepared to work together to find the best course of action. As the artists I represent have very different personalities, interests and talents, the direction and approaches taken with them are also very distinct.
How has your work changed over the last 20 years?
I think the nature of the work hasn’t changed significantly; I have: experience has brought clarity to decisions and sharpened my instincts. People do their best work when they enjoy what they’re doing – and this is definitely the case with me.
With a finely-balanced mixture of commitment and instinct, WASTED MANAGEMENT is able to explore new, promising and potentially undiscovered paths with its clients. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success” (Henry Ford).