Paul with Sly at The Expendables Premiere (Thanks Randy!)
Paul Wintner is a long-time SZoner and one of the most die-hard Sylvester Stallone fans in the world. We’ve shined a spotlight on Paul’s Stallone Collection several times over the years. It’s always a pleasure interacting with Paul. Until you see his collection, you’d never know the quality of his pieces or the number of props he has. You probably wouldn’t know that he is also the CEO of Wintner Artists where he works with voice-over talent for movies and television.
When I recently visited Paul’s business site, I noticed he had a new logo (Hey, Yo! Eye of the Tiger!) and had posted on his front page the famous quote from Rocky Balboa (“Life is not about how hard you can hit…). I knew that Paul’s agency had worked on several of Sly’s biggest films (Rocky Balboa, Rambo, The Expendables) but I wondered if something else was at play.
So, I asked.
Paul went on to tell me how Rocky saved him again. Let me turn it over to Paul…
Last year my business partner and best friend of over 22 years decided to leave Wintner Artist Management. Looking back, the signs were all there, but at the time it came as a huge surprise. Over the years I had worked extremely hard to help talent of Wintner Artist Management build their careers. My company became much more successful than most thought would be possible with me as the CEO (myself included). And then an unfortunate thing happened. I became complacent. Like Rocky Balboa in Rocky III, I lost the eye of the tiger.
Paul's Rocky Fedora and Glove
Things were going well. The company was established. I had guided some of these guys from their first jobs to being the biggest names in the business. I had taken my huge love for films and memorabilia and turned it into a career I loved. My partner was working closely with the talent. I was steering the ship and we were coasting along. Maybe, looking back it was me who was coasting along. It was like the saying, “Things were going great, until they weren’t.” When my partner decided to quit Wintner Artist Management, every single voice-over artist except one decided to go with him.
Who could blame them? He had been working closely with the talent. He had their booking schedules and spent more time dealing with the daily grind. Lately they felt he was their manager. While I was still there making sure our talent were reading for the projects I wanted them to land since I had always kept a log of all the great movies coming soon. But I had lost some of the old Wintner fire. Going with my partner must have seemed like the smart move to all of them… all of them except one.
Lucky for me, it was my number one guy, Ashton Smith, who decided to stay with me. Ashton had done voice-over work for Rocky Balboa, Rambo and Creed. It meant the world when Ashton told me, “I’m staying with you my man, you always believed in me and I will always believe in you. I sit here in my studio in my beautiful home with my plane all because of you!” It was almost like Burgess Meredith as Mickey, telling Rocky to get up ‘cuz he didn’t hear no bell.
As I sat in the middle of my office I realized I was CEO of a talent agency who after 20 plus years was left with no partner and one voice-over artist. The odds against being able to start over again at 46 were against me. I looked up and found myself staring at some of my most treasured Rocky memorabilia. Stallone and Rocky had always resonated with me. Like them, I was considered a longshot for success. School was hard for me. Sly and Rocky had made it. So had I… once. Could I do it again? Could I regain the Eye of the Tiger?
It was almost like I heard the Rocky theme in my head. I knew what I had to do. First, I was going to give Ashton the attention he deserved for staying. He had been my Mickey to inspire me, but now I would be his Mickey and promote him like the champ he was. I immediately started looking for new voice talents – I wanted a big voice for blockbusters, a nice midrange guy and a few more to round out the roster. I also knew that I would re-design my logo incorporating the Eye of the Tiger. I went home and told my wife, my Adrian the news. And like Rocky’s Adrian, she believed and encouraged me every step of the way.
My talent search led me to Matthew Rhode. In just ten months I made Matthew a top-notch competitor. Matthew landed Logan, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, Kingsmen 2, American Made, 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Jumanji, The Mountain Between Us and is now heard on Star Wars: Last Jedi Verizon commercials. Matthew even landed Star Trek: Discovery for the CBS network. Ashton Smith (my Mickey) had his best year ever with film campaigns. Jamie Anderson came on board just two months ago and out of the gate landed Roman J. Israel, Esq.; The Star, and The Greatest Showman. 2017 was one of the best years ever for Wintner Artists. Talk about a comeback!
When I think back to me sitting alone in my office, at the lowest point of my business life, I can truthfully say, that it was my Rocky props and what they represent that gave me the strength and courage to get back up and go the distance!
I also want to thank my family for their love and support.
I asked Paul if he ever speaks to his former partner/best friend. Paul’s response was perfect: “Absolutely. Things happen for a reason. Rocky and Apollo stayed friends,” he laughed.
As my conversation with Paul came to a close, I asked, “So your Rocky props really saved you?” Without hesitation, Paul responded, “My props, Ashton Smith and every Rocky film ever made and my family. Because it ain’t over till it’s over.”
Paul’s story is truly inspiring and I’m grateful he was happy to share it. Paul wishes some how Sly, who is probably sick of hearing it, knew how much that character has inspired people like him. Like many Stallone fans, Paul was inspired to make fitness a part of his daily life since he was a teenager. It was Rocky who got Paul through his rough teenage years, gave him the inspiration that he could succeed in business when he was just starting out and it was Rocky again who inspired Paul to make a comeback in business when others thought it would be impossible.
Thanks Paul for sharing your story (and Rocky props)! – Craig
“Life is not about how hard you hit. It is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” – Rocky Balboa