Many people muse that success in entertainment comes down to two things: talent and luck.
Although this may be true, there’s also the factor of the publicist. Just ask Simon Halls, co-founder of Slate PR, one of the entertainment industry’s leading PR agencies in Los Angeles, and a graduate of North Toronto Collegiate Institute.
Halls says he got a knack for PR during his high school days.
“I think when you go to a high school as big as North Toronto it teaches you to get along with all kinds of people and manage in a big environment, so I think that was very helpful,” he says.
Prior to North Toronto, Halls attended Crescent School, and after graduating high school, he completed his post-secondary education at the University of Southern California. The first big step in his career as a publicist came when he landed the position of public relations manager for the first McDonald’s in Moscow, Russia.
Following that stint, Halls returned to L.A. and entered the world of entertainment PR because as he puts it, “If you live in L.A., it’s a one industry town, so if you want to succeed on a broad level, it seems like the best way to do that is to be part of the entertainment industry.”
Halls and his partners would go on to form Huvane Baum Halls, which became one of the most successful boutique agencies in Hollywood.
“I think forming a company with my partners was a bold thing to do, and we were very fortunate that we had clients that were very up and coming at the time, like Jennifer Aniston, Jude Law and Ang Lee. They were not famous, but it turned out they became household names. When their careers took off, ours took off,” he says.
Halls and his team later merged with a larger agency before eventually splitting off again to form Slate PR where clients include Ridley Scott, Ryan Murphy, Sam Mendes, Frances McDormand and many more.
He attributes his success so far to a few key factors.
“I think to succeed in any business you have to have good instincts and a willingness to work as hard as you need to, be willing to listen to opinions from all kinds of folks,” he says. “The through line with all who have succeeded is that they were willing to roll up their sleeves and think innovatively. That serves anyone in any career.”
As for what his day-to-day job entails, Halls says it starts with determining the most important part of an issue you are dealing with and how to get that out into the media.
“It’s learning how to sift through information and decide what is salient and what is not that important,” he says.
Although downtime might be scant with his busy career and being the father to three teen boys with his husband (actor Matt Bomer), he does try to get back to Canada whenever he can.
“We spent a lot of time in Canada pre-COVID. We usually get a place in Muskoka every summer where my kids go to camp. My kids all consider themselves part Canadian,” he says.
In terms of what’s currently on his roster, Halls is working on a movie that Ryan Murphy directed and produced called The Prom, with Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep, as well Ridley Scott’s Gucci, starring Lady Gaga.