By: Jess Canty
"The best advocate for any creative person is their representative. Most, not all, representatives are going to play it really right with their clients. You can't afford not to. You just can't."
I was struck when reading this recently (granted I am a smidge behind in my trades - this interview was from early October).
He was, and to some extent still is, one of the most notorious agents in the history of this town, who had a reputation for ruling with an iron fist while he "loved the word 'disruptive' and basically redefined [the industry]. In short order he was at the forefront of disrupting for major arteries that intersected with entertainment: the agency business, financial modeling and dealmaking with networks and studios, advertising and investment banking."
I know we talk about this a lot, but I think it bears repeating. Your relationship with your agent is like ANY relationship. It is a two-way street. It requires give and take and communication. It requires that you learn how your agent communicates and respond accordingly.
Do you notice that they don't respond quickly to emails? Ask if they would prefer texting.
Did they tell you that they don't like emails from clients? Take them out to lunch / coffee or schedule a meeting twice a year to make sure you stay top of mind.
I can't tell you how many times we hear "my agent isn't" or "my old agent didn't" when we take new client meetings. Think about how many times you hear this in your classes.
If we believe Mr. Ovitz - which, again we should - it makes ZERO economic sense to have someone on your roster that you just don't believe you can help. If you, the agent, know that you are only going to be able to earn 10% of their earnings that means you have to believe that this person can earn. You see SOMETHING in them when you sign them.
This is where you, the actor, need to dig down deep. Put yourself in your agent's shoes. Have you given them the ability to say an "isn't" or "didn't" sentence about you?
My client "isn't reliable" they get to auditions late or constantly ask me to reschedule.
My client "isn't prepared" - they aren't in class.
My client "doesn't take this seriously" their self-tapes are unprofessional.
My client "doesn't communicate" I never hear from them about their auditions / training / coaching.
My client "doesn't callback or book" I have sent them on 15 auditions and nothing has come of it - are they coaching? What are they doing in the room that I don't know about?
My client "doesn't listen" I have asked them for the last year to take updated photos but nothing has happened.
90% of reps ARE working hard. They are passionate about what they do. They want you to do well!! Of course they do, their fortunes are tied to your success.
90% of reps believe in their clients and their favorite thing about their day is celebrating a booking with a client.
I will tell you that is one of the most awesome parts of this job - those few minutes when I know you've booked a job but you don't know yet. When I get to pick up the phone, and hear it ring and know that the news I am delivering is AWESOME. It is like throwing a surprise birthday party on every call.
Now, if after all this, you truly believe that your rep sits in the 10% not the 90%, that there is no salvaging the relationship, that you don't believe they believe in you and you have not given them any one of those "my client isn't" statements, then let's chat - because we are here to help you move on from these unfortunate few agents who we agree we don't know why they are here in this town.
But for the rest of you - we are approaching Hollywood Gift Basket Season.
So, if your agent has
gotten you at least one audition this year or
closed a deal for you from a Cinterra audition
You need to think about what kind of gift is appropriate for their efforts. As we have discussed previously - gifts are NOT about large expense. A small personal gift is ALWAYS more special to people who get the Nothing Bundt Cakes assorted basket 5 times a year.
Small Token Ideas:
Fancy Coffee Gift Card - forget Starbucks, go for one of the 'hip' places like Blue Bottle, Bulletproof, Intelligencia, Groundworks.
Movie Tickets - AMC, Cinemark and Arclight offer gift cards and pre-paid tickets. Give them the gift of skipping a screener and watching an Oscar-contender on the big screen.
SAG Screenings - if you are SAG, get yourself on the SAG Foundation mailing list. Sign up for a cool Screening / Q&A and invite your agent as you +1. FREE GIFT!
The Arclight, Paley Center KCRW are also places that do amazing screenings during awards season.
Invited to a red-carpet or industry party? Invite your agent as your +1 this time. FREE GIFT!
Something Personal - remember that your agent mentioned they love tacos? That they never get bay cities any more because their office moved east? A gift that shows you listened to that conversation from 6 months ago will ALWAYS go far.
Is there something you love that you can share that becomes the gift you give every year? Do you make a killer homemade roasted cinnamon nut mix? How about a mason jar of that for everyone you give gifts to - keeping this tradition up every year?
Remember - if your reps are responsible for a combined 20% of the work on your behalf, you have to be responsible for the other 80%. Maybe you didn't have a lot of wins this year on your 80% - but you know what? Acknowledging that your rep is working for you, even if this is the case, goes a very long way.
I will leave you with Mr. Ovitz' thoughts on Tom Cruise: "[He] was not only passionate about his craft, but fanatically determined to become a star." I bet you that part of that fanaticism was a determination to make the most out of the relationship he had with each of his reps along the way.