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Secret Agent Man

Developing Talent Part 2: The Adventure Begins

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Developing Talent Part 2: The Adventure Begins
Last week I explained why it's important for talent agencies to sign new, young actors and develop them to the point where they're ready to start working. Now I'd like to take you through the entire process, using one of my actual clients. For the sake of discretion, we'll call her Holly.

Just over a year ago, I received a call from one of my clients, an established character actor you'd recognize from his work on a hundred TV shows. He's the guy who always plays the police captain who orders the hero to stop breaking the rules. I've got a few actors like him on my list, and they work all the time. For the sake of more discretion, we'll call him Charles.

As we chatted on the phone, Charles told me about a young actor named Holly who had just moved out to Los Angeles from Chicago. They had bumped into each other at a one-act festival. He explained that the girl seemed lost, overwhelmed by L.A., and could use some pointing in the right direction. Would I meet her? Naturally, I said yes. Agents don't say no to their working clients, and as I said last week, we're constantly on the prowl for fresh faces.

The first thing that struck me about Holly was her lack of pretension. Right after she sat down in my office, she thanked me for taking the time to see her. She also acknowledged that she was way too new for my agency and all she really needed was some solid advice.

I was also impressed by her appearance. Holly had just turned 22, but she looked like a teenager, a very pretty teenager. Picture Carey Mulligan on her first day of college. As we spoke, I started thinking about all the roles she could play.

The meeting was a breeze. Holly asked all the obvious questions, but she also shared her concerns about making a life for herself in a city she didn't understand. I tried my best to point her in the right direction. Despite my better judgment, I found myself slipping into the role of big brother. (For the record, I'm old enough to be her father, but like most Hollywood types, I live in a world of denial.)

Holly also made an effort to connect with me. She wanted to know about my background and how I became an agent. Most actors ask these questions, but I can tell they're just playing the game. Not Holly. She seemed genuinely interested.

The two of us chatted for about 20 minutes, and as the meeting came to an end, I found myself infatuated. As she left, Holly handed me a reel with some scenes from student films she had done back home. I told her to stay in touch and that it was okay to call if she had any more questions.

The rest of the afternoon was business as usual. I had to attend a screening that night, but I made the time to watch Holly's reel before leaving my office. It was nothing special, but her work was rock solid. More important, the camera loved her. My eyes were drawn to her in every scene.

I suddenly didn't care about the screening. My attention was locked in on Holly. She had a ton of promise, and I really liked her as a person. Sometimes that's all it takes to sway a decision in someone's favor.

The next day, I asked Holly to come back in so she could meet the other agents. They responded well but weren't sure about signing her. That's when my pitching skills kicked in. My co-workers never knew what hit them. Holly became our client before the sun went down.

Next week, I'll explain how the development process works for a brand-new client like Holly.

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