Is an Acting Career Right for You?

How To Work With A Talent Agent


agentDo you need an agent and/or manager to make your acting dreams come true? They sign you, then they introduce you to casting directors who then introduce you to the decision-makers and the result is champagne and red carpets, yeah? Not really. Agents are human beings with human limitations who require some understanding.

Whether you’re looking for an agent or already have one, here are six things to know about him or her.

1. Your agent is in business. This is “Show Business”, not “show friends”. You’re an artist who’s in it for the art. Fine. However, William Shakespeare and every other artist must balance art with finance. We both know you can’t eat creativity.  Every actor I have ever met either loves or hates their agent.  When they are booking, there is lots of love; when there are no bookings and no auditions, there is no love. Vilifying them because they’re trying to pay their mortgage payments and put their kids through private school gets you nowhere. Ultimately, it doesn’t serve your personal super objective, which is to get you closer to working with great artists. You need to accept the fact that your agent is trying to make money and figure out a way to make you easy to sell.  And if you’re not the marketable product they can sell, it’s not personal, it’s business. Your job is to be that actor who has the undeniable force, the “it” factor, and flourish as an artist.

2. Your agent is not here to save you.  Actors can suffer from a “save me syndrome”. Symptoms of this include thinking it’s your agent’s job to listen to your insecurities, laments, resentments, etc.  Hollywood Filmmaker Dov Siemens said to me once “If you want sympathy, call your mother”. Legendary acting coach Larry Moss states “If you have issues, go to therapy”. Don’t burden your agent with this time consuming hogwash.  You’re taking time away from them which could be spent getting you auditions. Another common misconception is that your agent does all the work. Inherent in this thinking is the thought that there’s someone or something outside of yourself that has the power to make all your dreams come true with little effort or output from you, and once you find that person, you’ll be rich and famous. You’re are nuts if you think this!!! This is insanity. Spending one minute of your time waiting for your agent to call is time wasted. Remember your agent/ manager gets 10-15%, that means they do 10-15% of the work.  The other 85-90% of the work is up to you. You have to train, write, shoot, produce, direct your own material, put up a play, and put yourself out there. These days you have to work harder than your agent. You have to be training in class consistently, creating your own material constantly, and doing whatever you can to engage with other artists. You have to give your agent the tools to sell you. Relying upon anyone other than yourself is death. Giving up your artistic and professional responsibility to an agent is a grave error that too many actors make. Instead, do the work and make your agent catch up with you.

3. Your agent is cheating on you, and that’s OK.  Yes, your agent has other clients. Deal with it. Most agents have anywhere from 30-100 clients.  That is just a fact, they need that many to make a living.  So when you are home stewing in resentment about your 1 agent, your agent is at work focusing on ALL their clients.  Your agent would go hungry if they only had you as a client. They have to widen their reach in order to give themselves the best shot at making a living. Moreover, part of the charm for them is that they have a dynamic group of different actors with different needs and different talents who allow them to explore different parts of the industry. So when your phone call or email isn’t returned right away, know that there are 20 other actors who are also demanding their call returned. While they themselves are trying to get their calls returned by casting. Let it go! Rather than stew about it and talk yourself into a lather, go write a scene and shoot it. Go to class. Address your artistry. Stay focused on what you can control – your work, art, etc.

4. Your agent doesn’t speak your language. Chances are your agent isn’t in a weekly acting class. Perhaps he or she has never even been to one. They don’t spend hours reading the many tomes about acting; studying the techniques and verbage. No, they spend their evenings trolling the computer till midnight, hounding casting directors and trying to get you in the room. While many agents have great instincts about actors, they may not speak a language that suggests they understand your process.  So, don’t expect them to. When they offer a note about performance that might seem insensitive, don’t take it personally. Also, they may be the messenger. Translate it into a language that helps you grow as an artist. Because that is what the note is; it’s a help flow to increase your booking potential. If it’s not helpful, chalk it up to a subjective opinion. Keep in mind that agents spend 10 hours a day on the phone trying to turn a “no” into a “yes.” They’re doing and saying anything they can to get you in the room. When you call to talk to them in the middle of the day, don’t expect them to put the brakes on everything else and talk to you like the vulnerable artist that you are.

5. Your agent has feelings too.  Sometimes actors think that their agents are these pillars of humanity they can dump on.  Trust me, nothing is further from the truth.  Agents have feelings as well. They get jealous, hurt, rejected, insulted and everything you feel.  Remember how crushed you were when you tested for that pilot and were the Network’s first choice, but they gave it to that name actor at the last minute? Well your agent had sad face too…and that was probably the fourth time that very same thing happened to one of his or her clients this year.  Now imagine that same call over a commercial, a bit part, an audition, a tape submission, etc; you get the point. Your agent is a person. They have emotional and financial needs that inform how they conduct themselves. They believe in you but they’re not responsible for your happiness or your success. Their greatest thrill is when you book a job. Believing that they live to make your dreams come true shirks your responsibility to work tirelessly on your craft and gives up your power. Choose to believe that it’s all got to come from you—the work, the marketing, the mindset, etc. It’s when you stop chasing your agent (any agent) and take control of your work and your career, that the agent starts chasing you.

Simon Longmore
Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts
Owner & Founder