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Secret Agent Man

Getting Dropped Part 2: The Five Phases of Grief

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Getting Dropped Part 2: The Five Phases of Grief
Last week, we talked about the nature of drop season and why actors get dropped by their agents. Now let's discuss what happens next.

There's a right way and a wrong way to drop an actor. The worst thing an agent can do is send an email. That's just heartless. It's like breaking up by text. Taking human interaction out of the equation makes getting dropped a hundred times worse. I've never done this and I never will.

I prefer dropping an actor face-to-face, in my office. That way, I can see the tears flow. There's nothing funnier than watching a grown man cry.

Relax, I'm just kidding.

I always call the actor directly. It's the only way to do it. You have to show people respect, especially when you're about to break their heart. The conversation always begins the same way. We exchange hellos, and then I say the following six words: "Unfortunately, I have some bad news." At that point, most actors know what's coming; others have no idea.

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book, published in 1969, that proposed the five stages of grief that people go through when someone passes away. Since then, it's been widely acknowledged that her model applies to any kind of loss that causes intense grief. That could mean getting fired, having a bad breakup, or getting dropped by your agent.

The amazing thing is that sometimes all five steps occur in the span of one phone call. Not every actor goes through them in the same order. Some skip a step or get stuck on one. But the similarities are striking. So let's take a closer look at how the good doctor's model applies to an agent's drop call.

Denial

Most actors skip this one because they see the call coming, but for others, it's a total sucker punch. They just can't believe they're getting dropped. The tone in my voice usually shocks them back to reality.

Anger

A lot of actors freak out and say things they shouldn't. It becomes about me, how I'm not a good agent, how I never set up the right auditions. I try not to take any of this seriously, because I know the actor's dealing with a big shock. Anger's a defense mechanism. It usually winds down if I don't respond.

Depression

This is a tough one. Actors who don't get angry usually go the other way. Some actually break down and cry. They immediately jump to the worst-case scenario, which is they'll never get another agent and their career is over. I always try my best to talk them down from the ledge they've created in their own mind. 

Bargaining

After the emotional shock is over, almost every actor I drop goes right to this phase. "Can I have another chance? What can I do to change your mind? Will you keep sending me out till I find a new agent?" My response is always no. Once the drop process begins, it's in everyone's best interest to move on. 

Acceptance

Some actors find their way to this step; others have to be guided. If I didn't enjoy working with the client, I'll use this moment to get off the phone. But if we had a decent relationship and it just didn't pan out, I'll always try my best to offer some useful advice.

If you end up getting a drop call from your agent, I want you to remember that change always feels bad at the beginning. It freaks us out. We build our world around the known, and when change gets forced upon us, it can be a very scary thing. But when you think about it, most changes in our lives are for the best. It's like Adam Carolla says, "Change is growth. It's the rings in your tree."

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