Besides working as a contributing editor here at Backstage, the lovely Jackie Apodaca is also an associate professor at Southern Oregon University. So I asked her to send me the top questions her students have about us agent types. These are the three that came up several times.
“What are some negative traits that make you decide not to sign an actor?”
Some actors fall under the category of Life Is Too Short. They come in for a meeting and I can smell their sense of entitlement. There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but too many actors hide their insecurities by behaving like the world owes them a career. Trust me. It doesn’t.
Other actors have unrealistic expectations about the types of roles they should play. If you’re fresh out of college, you have to work on building your career step by step. You can’t look me in the eye and proclaim you want to compete for roles that usually go to big stars.
I’ve also passed on talented actors because I just don’t like them. It’s like going on a date with a gorgeous model who turns out to be a total bitch. Sure, the package is there, but do I really want to spend a large part of my life trying to make her happy when I can barely stand being around her?
“Agents have many forms of communication these days—text, email, phone; when communicating with your clients about auditions, what do you find most efficient and why?”
When a client gets an audition, I call them on the phone so we can have a conversation about the specifics. When we’re done, my assistant sends out an email with all the information, including a character breakdown, script, and sides.
I like talking to clients directly about auditions because it gives us a chance to connect in a positive way. It also allows me to address any questions the actor might have.
“What are the reasons you would drop a client after signing them?”
Let me preface this by saying I expect all of my clients to work. That’s why I sign them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.
Agents rarely drop clients in less than a year. Everyone deserves at least that much time. The only reason I would cut someone loose sooner is because of bad behavior on his or her part. I’m talking about actors who are always late for auditions or who forget to book out or a hundred other blunders that mark them as unprofessional.
Sometimes the reason for breaking up is financial. If an actor is constantly going out on auditions but failing to book, then that’s a problem. Talent agencies aren’t charities. You expect opportunities from us—and we expect you to bring in money.
In those cases, I always try to save the relationship. There are many ways to do this. I might suggest a coaching session before big auditions. I might also try to get specific feedback from casting directors that might be helpful. I’ll do what I can, but if I don’t see progress inside of a year, I need to replace that client with someone more promising.
There are exceptions to this rule. I’ll forgive a lack of bookings if the client has shown potential. Let’s say we’ve been working together for a year. During the first six months, the actor had 22 auditions and no callbacks. But during the next six months, the actor had 19 auditions and eight callbacks. That’s a promising sign, and I’m definitely keeping that client around.
(I’d like to thank Jackie and all the students at Southern Oregon University who contributed to this column.)