Noncommunication heads the list-from agents refusing to answer questions directly, if at all, to completely ignoring phone calls or emails or messages left on their Facebook page. It's an expression of disregard, but there are practical issues at stake too.
Misty Mills mentions, as pet peeves, submitting herself to the same audition for which her agent may have submitted her, or his lack of communication regarding her "type" or the kind of headshots she should be getting. "I don't feel it's wrong to expect answers within at least 48 hours on important subjects, such as questions about whether I should color my hair or get new headshots," she says. "I once was getting new headshots and asked him to respond within the 11 days leading up to the photo shoot. I never received a response, so I took the decision into my own hands. Luckily it seemed to have worked, as my auditions increased after I started to use the new headshots, but I felt that as my agent, he should have a vested interest in my career and my ability to create revenue by getting auditions."
Henning Fischer, a member of The Actors' Network in Los Angeles, is not ignored outright, but he says his agent acts put upon when he contacts her, which doesn't make for easy communication. "When I call my agent and I get her on the phone, it always seems like I am bothering her and she has more important things to do," he notes. "The sigh I hear when the phone gets picked up, it's as if life is too much to handle."
2. Lying and Fudging
Some actors include among their peeves the outright lies their reps tell them, especially early on in the relationship. "They tell you what you want to hear, and how they're going to move your career along, but then two, three months later when you're being submitted for nothing, they say, 'You're a tough sell' or 'We don't know what category to put you in,' " says a New York–based actor who didn't want to be identified. "The same representation that made you believe you were a real talent, in the end can't see beyond cookie-cutter molds. They don't understand that actors are chameleons, and they don't take risks on behalf of their actors even though they say otherwise."
Other actors cite vague and nonspecific answers that border on fudging. Mills says that if she asks her agent if he has submitted her for a specific breakdown, the most common answer she receives-assuming she receives any-is, "If I feel you fit the breakdown, you have been submitted for it."
An actor who is freelancing with several agents recalls catching one of her agents telling her one thing and another actor something else entirely. When he apparently decided he didn't like another actor, he told her he could no longer represent her because she was multi-listed, yet he said nothing like that to his other multi-listed actors. Similarly, he told one actor he was not submitting her for a particular role because it was a nonspeaking part, when in fact other actors he had sent for the same role discovered the part had lines.
In varying degrees, being ignored or lied to are forms of abuse, though outright cruelty clearly takes it to another level. In response to an online audition open to a number of her agent's clients, Croix Provence recounts, she and many others submitted video auditions. The agent's response was totally unacceptable. "'Here is the email that should have been sent out," she says. " 'Thank you for submitting your auditions so fast. The videos were not exactly what the company was looking for, so if you are really interested in the role, please take your video down and reshoot it with a few different deliveries and select the best one. Thank you.' Here is the email we got: 'These auditions are shit. I am so embarrassed to have signed some of you. Take them down immediately.' "
Some actors talk about agents calling to verbally abuse them if they are unable to attend an audition, or question and bash their acting skills when actors ask to be submitted for projects agents don't feel are suitable for that actor. Also disturbing in its expression of contempt is an agent "not knowing how to pronounce my name," says Provence. "It just bothers me."
All of it boils down to this: a lack of respect for the talent they have signed on.