Boy, do I eat a lot. Why? Because I’m constantly being invited to lunch by people with whom I may or may not want to share a meal. That’s just part of my job. It can be fun, or it can be as torturous as being held hostage by Somali pirates.
Over the last few weeks, I had lunch with several managers. Some of them share clients with me. Others want to. Most of those meals were pleasant. They were an opportunity to cement existing relationships and create new ones.
The only lunch that made me grind my teeth was the one I had with a low-level manager who chased me for weeks, begging for a chance to meet. The meal was fine, but when the check came, the cheap bastard asked if I wanted to split it down the middle. What I should’ve said was that I wanted to split his skull down the middle, but being a decent sort, I agreed to pay my share.
First rule of Hollywood: The one who invites is the one who pays. I will never work with that manager. And I’ve shared the story with all my agent friends.
I also recently had lunch with two clients, and those experiences could not have been more different. One was a pleasure, and the other brings us back to that Somali pirate metaphor.
Let’s start with the good.
I recently signed an established character actor named Bruce. The guy is in his 40s, and he has an extensive résumé. Sadly, his prior agency went down the tubes, so a mutual casting friend sent him my way.
We picked a restaurant near my office so I wouldn’t have to drive. It was a friendly place, not too industry, not too pricey.
During the meal, he never once mentioned our professional relationship. He didn’t even bitch about his former reps. Instead, Bruce made a genuine effort to get to know me. He asked a lot of questions, and he listened intently to my answers. This motivated me to do the same. It was an hour well-spent.
And when the check landed on the table, there was an intense blur I couldn’t quite make out. It was Bruce reaching for the bill.
Now let’s move on to the bad.
The second client was a young lady named Rona. From the moment we sat down, I knew I was in for a rough ride. She started off our conversation with a dramatic sigh and then proceeded to whine about the other agents in my office. “They never get me out. They take forever to return my calls. They don’t understand what I’m about.” And she went on and on like that for an entire hour.
When we were done I liked her less than before, so I’m not sure what she accomplished by inviting me to lunch. And in case you’re wondering, Rona claimed poverty when the check came. Her musician boyfriend had borrowed a lot of money, and she was waiting for him to pay her back. (Yeah, good luck with that. The guy’s probably halfway to Seattle by now.)
So let’s recap. Was Bruce playing it smart, creating a situation where I would be motivated to work harder for him? Yes. That’s exactly what he was doing. And it worked. As for Rona, she had no real plan, so the meal was a mess. The entire experience left a bad taste in my mouth, and she’s hardly a priority to me now.
Inviting your agent to lunch is a smart move if you play your cards right. But be smart about it, and don’t forget to bring your credit card.