Helen Wells Agency: Discovering Big Talent in a Small City

Photo of Lisa Burns by Kathryn Harrington.

By Miranda McDonald

If you have flipped through a local magazine or watched a television show on the CW network, chances are you have seen one of the models or actors represented by the Helen Wells Agency (HWA). The business, which opened its doors in Indianapolis in 1980, is a full-service agency dedicated to connecting talent in the Midwest with elite clients throughout the country. After seeing there was a real need for an industry-standard agency in her area, the late Helen Wells launched HWA from her home with just a small roster of clients, a single agent named Lori Fetter and a mission to not only create a premiere institution in the Midwest, but also to set a higher standard for all talent agencies in the area.

“In smaller markets, you sometimes see ethics begin to slide and the talent being cut out because we don’t have the union they have in bigger markets overseeing things,” explains HWA director Lisa Burns as we sit in the Louisville office. “Helen wanted to put an end to that with how she ran her agency. She felt it was important to put integrity and honesty above everything else.”

Photos by Kathryn Harrington.

It is this vision of having a higher standard in the industry that has led HWA to represent over 1,500 individuals and open a second location in Louisville last year.

Beth Hall – a talent scout, acting coach and one of the most enthusiastic individuals you will ever meet – currently leads the local office. Hall is originally from Louisville and started working in the industry as a child.

“I was the Edward Sausage girl in the commercials,” Hall laughs as she flashes the warm smile that landed her the job as a child actor in the first place. Now, two of her own children are members of the Screen Actors Guild.

After living in Los Angeles, Hall moved back to Louisville and immediately started vetting agencies to bring to the city. After meeting with Burns, Hall realized the standards at HWA were in line with the firms in bigger cities. However, what really stood out for Hall was the respect and care the company gave to the individuals they were representing.

“When I met Lisa, I realized she didn’t just care about the business side of things,” explains Hall. “She cares about the actual people involved. This agency really puts talent first

Hall also maintains that the culture at HWA is more about nurturing the actors and models than booking them for jobs. “We are all so supportive of one another and the talent really feels like this is their agency,” she says. “You will never find another place that is more pro-talent than Helen Wells.”

“We are like a family here,” Burns adds.

Burns also feels strongly about the quality of bookings made in this area. She believes Louisville is a smaller city that is delivering top talent to bigger industries. However, she believes HWA truly shines in offering a unique roster of individuals that fill a gap in the industry. For her, each person they represent brings something interesting to the table. The agency also puts great emphasis on making sure they deliver exactly what the client is looking for, and that each model or actor is professional and completely prepared for every job.

“We make sure every model or actor we book is just right for the job,” explains Burns. “It is less about trying to fit the talent into what the job calls for and more about making sure the job is exactly right for the individual talent.”

When asked about what the future looks like for the agency, Burns confidently responds: “We see more growth on the horizon. Growth for our talent. Growth to other markets. Growth for our team. Really, we just want to grow in a healthy way while bringing more attention to the incredible talent we feel you have in this city.” VT

Helen Wells Agency

1860 Mellwood Ave., Suite 115