Faculty of Animation, Arts & Design
Degree: Honours Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance
Year of graduation: 2009
Music theatre grad Daniel Birnbaum worked in front of the camera on various television and live performances as a child actor growing up in Thornhill, Ontario, but now he spends his days making others look good from behind the scenes. As an agent and manager with Toronto-based The Talent House, Birnbaum’s roster of clients includes Canadian television stars Nicole Power (a fellow Sheridan grad) from the CBC comedy Kim’s Convenience, Melissa O’Neil of Dark Matter and Callan Potter from the young adult series The Other Kingdom and MacDonald Hall. Birnbaum’s path to success, however, required him to shine the spotlight on his own life challenges in order to conquer them.
“When I graduated Sheridan in 2009, I weighed about 275 lbs., and the fulfilment that I had gotten from performing as a child had dissipated, but my love of the industry hadn’t,” he says. “I took a sabbatical from my regular life, lost 140 lbs. and started to question what I wanted out of my life and career. I feel that going to a performance school helped in rediscovering my voice. Some people find what still speaks to them as an artist, and some never do — they can’t reintroduce themselves to their own craft.”
Knowing he had a love affair with the acting industry, Birnbaum leapt at an opportunity in the talent-agency world. “I had to redefine my relationship with the arts and I found my place in a more business capacity,” he says.
After starting out as an assistant at a local agency, Birnbaum started working as a youth agent at The Talent House in late 2012. By June 2013, Birnbaum had taken over the film/television departments in addition to his work with the youth roster, and in 2015, he was named one of Playback Industry Magazine’s “Five to Watch.”
In learning about his craft and about himself, Birnbaum has brought these lessons to his client relationships. “I am drawn to performers who possess an unapologetic sense of who they are,” he says. “They bring themselves and their voice to the work.”
These days, Birnbaum can be found in the audience at every Sheridan music theatre show, cheering on the next generation of actors. “I’m a very proud Sheridan grad: I inherited a roster of my peers and friends from Sheridan when I started here, so it’s been so rewarding to invest in their careers as well, and to redefine those relationships professionally,” says Birnbaum, who now acts as an agent for his two roommates from third year.
In an industry that is apprenticeship driven, he feels that sharing his knowledge is key. “When I first started the biggest challenge was getting people in the industry to trust a kid, but I had a lot of support,” he says. “The challenge now is getting new faces out there. I love fighting for the underdog, probably because I was the underdog.”