Written by Graeme Petrie
When parting is not such sweet sorrow…
Aspiring actors spend hours scouring the internet for golden nuggets of advice on how to get an agent. Such advice can prove helpful, but understanding how to maintain a good working relationship, one that proves mutually beneficial for you and your agent, is even more important. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid being dropped by your agent:
The wannabe diva
Your agent works their tail off to get you “in the room” to audition, so when they do, be appreciative. Don’t come back with “I’m not sure if I’m available.” or “This role seems to small/too challenging for me.” Also, be professional and behave on set because your agent is going hear about how it went…good or bad. They don’t want to hear that you no showed or were late, unreceptive to notes from the Director because you wanted to do it your way, acted like a spoiled brat, threw a tantrum or complained about having to wait. Basically, if you make your agent’s life miserable, they won’t bother arguing with you, they’ll just release you. It’s a big industry, but it’s a small industry, and word gets out about who the wannabe divas are and agents avoid them like the plague.
“… a big part of being a professional actor is acting professionally.”
Unwillingness to take further classes
Completing an acting Certificate or Diploma program allows you to establish a foundation of acting skill. And, just as with any career, you’ll continually be learning on the job for years to come. If you are going on auditions (but aren’t booking), your agent may suggest taking some evening or weekend classes. Do NOT be offended by this! Professional actors are always doing Scene Study, Audition Classes or Workshops as a way to continually flex their acting muscle and remain sharp. Take suggestions positively and constructively. If you are unreceptive to such advice, your agent may view it as a lack of willingness to do your part in the relationship to succeed.
Won’t get new headshots
Showing a little more grey around the sides? Put on a few pounds? Been hitting the gym and sporting a new (very marketable) six pack? If your appearance changes you need to get new headshots. Maybe your agent wants to try marketing you in a different way and needs you to show an edgier, more mature or sexier look. Trust your agent. They are very knowledgable about productions being cast and types they are looking for. Take their feedback and opinions proactively and do what they ask. Perhaps they can even recommend someone that shoots “that type” well.
High maintenance/Overly bothering
Agents manage a large number of people at any given time. During pilot season and peak production periods, they are getting swamped with emails and phone calls. While it’s important to stay in touch to regularly communicate your schedule, don’t bother them all the time thinking they’ve forgotten you. There is nothing wrong with sending an occasional hello or mentioning interest in an upcoming production, just don’t be that stalker type that continually bombards them with emails and calls. Your agent knows the kind of roles you’d be good for, and if you do get a booking, there’s nothing wrong with sending a little ‘Thank You’ card (maybe even a nice bottle of wine) :)
Lack of communication
This can be a deal breaker. New actors must understand quickly that a big part of being a professional actor is acting professionally. This means regularly updating your schedule, replying to emails and returning calls as quickly as possible as there could be a time sensitive opportunity. These three things are the MOST important things you will be asked to do as your part of the agent/client relationship and they are non negotiable. Your agent needs to know they can get a hold of you at the drop of a hat, can trust you’ll get back to them quickly, and that information you’ve provided is current. If they get you a chance to audition and you come back with, “I’m in Los Cabos for the weekend” without having booked those days off your schedule in advance, you have just jeopardized your relationship and may get dropped. Yes, it’s that bad. Do your job properly, so your agent can do theirs.
Harming your brand
As an actor, you soon learn that “you are your own brand.” This means you need to consider carefully how you are projecting yourself (your brand) to the world. If your agent is marketing you as a wholesome, healthy lifestyle, young actor for a Hallmark production, only to learn that you (or someone you know) has posted controversial statements, political rants, images of you partying hard or with a completely different look (piercings, wildly-dyed hair) on your social media pages, it may snuff out your once burgeoning career before it even gets started. Social media can be a low cost, effective tool for getting yourself ‘out there’ and noticed, but it can also be a double-edged sword. Portray yourself the way you wish to be viewed and adjust your privacy settings so as not to be working against your agent’s efforts. And remember that posting on the internet means it will last forever.
“You are not friends, but partners, both working toward your success.”
Being too social
Your agent is your agent; they work for you and (in a way) you work for them. You are not friends, but partners, both working toward your success. You need to understand this to maintain a professional distance and create a proper working relationship. Seeing them at an event and introducing them to everyone you know is not cool. Your agent may be there to work the room and speak with decision makers to open doors for you and other actors they represent. Do not take up too much of their time or invite them to your table. They are professionals, so treat them like one by not overstepping your boundaries.
Lack of availability for auditions
There is no point in your agent looking for opportunities for you to audition if you are never available to attend due to your job. Once you’ve decided to get serious about pursuing an acting career, you’ll need to look for work that allows schedule flexibility to go out on auditions with little advance notice (sometimes only a day or two, even the same day). We have all heard stories about a famous actor who used to be a waiter, but those stories are true! The reason being is that hospitality-related jobs often allow more shift flexibility. Other jobs that lend themselves well to pursuing an acting career are: bartenders, temp staff, telemarketing, tourism, contractual work. personal trainers, modelling, promo work, catering, tutoring or self-employment.
Also, if you lead an active lifestyle, be willing to change plans to be available. You may be able to make a self tape, but that’ll be up to the Casting Director, not you.
The parent manager
While this may only apply to young actors, it’s important for parents to know if/when they are not fulfilling their part of the bargain and/or overstepping their boundaries. The agent needs to know your child’s availability. This is crucial for the relationship to work. While the occasional call to update the agent about a new school play your child was in or how their acting lessons are going is perfectly fine. Excessive communication or questioning “Why was my child was not considered for that role?” however can start to put a damper on the relationship and agents won’t tolerate it for very long.
Parents must keep any promises made. If you promise to get your child new headshots (a child’s look changes quickly) or get your child into on-camera acting classes, do so ASAP. Agents meet hundreds of adorable, cute children whose parents all believe they are extremely talented. They may well be, but there are not many cute young kids who have developed on-camera acting craft at a young age, and fewer yet who can act well. Such kids are very much in demand.
When it’s time to part ways
These are just some of the ways which can negatively impact an agent/client relationship. Always remember that your agent is taking a a massive gamble by representing you since they don’t get paid unless you book a role. Maybe they see something in you that others don’t, and are willing to act on your behalf to try to open doors of opportunity for you. However, if either of you feel that the relationship is just not working out, the industry standard is to provide 30 days notice of cancelling your contractual agreement, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).
For a list of reputable local talent agencies in Vancouver, BC (some with LA offices as well) go to https://vadastudios.com/actor-resources/vancouver-agents/