By: Jess Canty
I have been thinking a lot about one of the biggest problems we encounter as Managers when we meet with potential new clients, and that is the complaint that their agent "just wasn't / isn't getting them out."
We hear various versions of this story.
Now... we agree. Not all agents are created equal, and as many of you know we've had to help you manage a transition from one agency to another because there was truly something broken. But I am not talking about that case - because if/when that happens it is pretty clear that something needs to change, and that is what we are here to help you identify and then navigate.
What I am talking about are the relationships with agents that experience a bit of a "failure to launch."
Before we talk about how to fix this, however, I want to take you back... Back to when your agent was starting in this business - or maybe they are young now and are just starting in this business.
They are probably one of a few types:
The actor that thought it would be a good idea to 'learn the business' and then discovered they were way better at agenting than acting,
The person that didn't know what they wanted to do in the industry and so started in a mailroom somewhere
Came from some other part of the business (management, casting etc...), or
Always knew they wanted to be the next Ari Gold.
In any case these people work their asses off. Seriously - about 12 years ago I almost went over to William Morris to start my career over and the reason I didn't? Because I was 28 and what they were 'offering' me was a 70 hour work week for $35K. And I was just too old to go back to that LOL.
So now you are talking about a person that has survived that - or survived rising up via casting or a management company with probably the same hours etc...
In California they have to apply for a license, get a $50,000 bond with the state, and build a roster of clients that will hopefully make this all worthwhile. On top of all of this they have to be able to not only know the market but spot talent that will fit within that market. Someone they can sell.
So, now, imagine you've done all of this. You are working for an agency and making a living. You've got a couple of series regulars. You have relationships with Casing. You have relationships with managers that pitch good people to you and you decide to take on a few new clients.
You meet with Susie. Man is she talented. She has a look or age range that isn't "hot" right now, but damn you just can't pass her up she's THAT good. How is it that she's not repped? You push that thought to the back of your mind and give it a chance.
You work with Susie's manager to make sure you all understand her pitch - and then you start making calls and submitting. And you get Susie an audition for a guest star on a network show because you tell the CD that this is the best person you've seen in a long time. They're skeptical, but you push and they agree to squeeze Susie in, even though they've never heard of her and she only has one co-star credit.
You send Susie the audition information - its on Thursday at 11am. You tell her to get coaching and suggest a couple of coaches you trust. You wish her good luck.
AND THEN IT IS THURSDAY AT 5PM AND YOU REALIZE YOU HAVEN'T HEARD SHIT FROM SUSIE since she confirmed the audition.
Did she coach? How did it go? But those thoughts disappear as quickly as they came because the phone is ringing and you are behind on the over 300 emails you get in a day and oh! CMAIL for another client on your roster.
Submit. Call. Auditions #2, 3, 4 for Susie and always the same story. Confirmed for the audition - but it is like a black hole after that. Does she even care about this? Did she actually GO to the auditions? She must have, casting hasn't said any-- DING! CMAIL for another client.
So... what should Susie have done?
What you are doing here is building a BUSINESS relationship with your agent. This is NOT a friendship - at least not at the beginning. But it is still a relationship. So you need to put yourself in their shoes once and a while and you need to work at this like you work at any other relationship. Just in the business lane.
The most difficult thing about being a rep is that we cannot be in the room with you. It is, I imagine, what parents feel like sending their kids off to Kindergarten on the first day of school.
We and your agents can bring you right up to the door - but we can't be in there. We can't know what happened and even if we get "feedback" from the CD it is largely unhelpful: "Susie was great, just not the right fit." "She's just not a three-camera animal at the moment." Gee, thanks casting. I'll get right on helping her fix THAT.
Building a BUSINESS relationship with your agent means finding any business-related excuse to engage with them.
Moving forward I want everyone on #teamcinterra to be emailing their agent and cc-ing us on EVERY SINGLE AUDITION after you are in the room. No exceptions.
Keep this to 3 sentences maximum and attempt to keep it positive. ***If something really negative happens that requires a longer story, please just email talent@ first and we'll help you figure out how much to share with your agent. We are your friend here so no worries on this front.
The email should look something like this:
"Hey team! So happy to be back in front of [enter casting director]. Read was really fun, thanks as always for the opportunity."
"Hey team! Thank you so much for getting me in to meet [enter casting office] - she laughed during the read so no matter what happens I feel like I booked the room."
You should do this even when the audition comes from us. You should do this when you have an audition from a self-submit. Keep them engaged. Keep them abreast of what is happening with your CAREER.
Have a self-tape from Cinterra? Send your agent a copy of the tape after you submit via Ecocast - because this is the only way they will see it.
Same thing in reverse - we want to see your tapes that your agent is submitting!
DO NOT email them to tell them that your ultimate dream is to be the co-lead in the next Marvel movie -we're all for goals of course but you have to keep it realistic. DO NOT email them to tell them your best friend is getting married. DO NOT email them inviting them to your cousin's son's bris. This has to stay professional. Remember, you aren't trying to make a friend, you are building a partnership.
I had an agent gushing to me once because a client sent her a selfie (via email) after a callback and said "rainbow in the sky as I walked out of the callback - I think we nailed this one." Notice how the client used "WE" - as in you, agent, and me, actor. Team. And they were right, they did book that job. This agent couldn't stop talking about how she'd never had anyone send her a selfie before. Imagine how much more she wants to work for this client.
Haven't had an auction in a while? Then let's find another way to re-engage your agent.
Did you attend a film festival where you got a shot on the red carpet?
Did you do an amazing scene in class that was taped?
Did you read that your agency just was nominated for an award?
Your agent is NOT heartless. Accept that. We promise they are people who care deeply. Look how hard they have to work for 10% and never knowing how the audition went unless Susie gets a callback, because she doesn't tell them!
I had a client recently who thought they were dropped by their agency because they received three CMAILs in a row saying the agency had "removed them from their roster." This client called me to let me know, and I asked if the agent had also reached out to them directly. They said no, but were convinced that they were for sure dropped.
I countered that there was no way that this agency, one of the most respected in their territory, would drop clients in this way. The would have emailed and released the client from the contract at the very least. You know, professional-like.
I offered to email them to see what was going on. So I do, and I come to find out from the agent that Breakdown Services had some kind of glitch and 'dropped' their ENTIRE ROSTER.
That means EVERY SINGLE ACTOR they represented thought, like my client, that they were dropped. And they were all calling and emailing and FREAKING OUT. The agent was like "no need to reply to this email, I am sure you can imagine that we're dealing with over here."
Now, imagine if you had such a good working relationship with your agent (because you kept them in the loop in a responsible fashion) that if something like this happened to you, you didn't automatically think "yeah, I'm terrible, I suck, clearly they are dropping me in the most heartless way"
You might have actually thought "hmmm, I wonder what's going on - this doesn't FEEL like something my agent would do, I should see what's happening in a calm manner that assumes that something else is going on. Or I should have my manager reach out."
There is a happy ending to this story - my client and I brainstormed about how to turn this lemon into lemonade and they sent the agency a 12-pack of emoji stress balls with a note that said "heard you had a stressful Thursday, here's something for the next stressful day that comes along."
Bottom line here is that I never want to hear again from anyone on this team that they "haven't talked to their agent in 6 months."
Because that is on you.
YOU need to build the relationship. Professionally.
YOU need to find creative ways to thank them, and put yourself in their shoes and engage with them without bothering them.
And if you have questions or are unsure of how to do this, that is what we're here for.
We are here to help you strategize appropriate ways to keep your agent engaged with you.
Goldilocks your agents people - not too hard, not too soft but juuuuuusssst right.