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Secret Agent Man

Top-Secret Statistics

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Top-Secret Statistics
Darren Aronofsky's first movie was a tiny independent called "Pi." It's about a mathematician who searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature. A similar plot device can be found in Kiefer Sutherland's new Fox series, "Touch." I love those stories because I've always believed numbers are both a universal form of communication and a gateway to understanding any difficult concept.

This week, it occurred to me that most of you don't really know how a talent agency works. So to give you a clearer picture of how I make a living, I've decided to share some intriguing numbers actors never get to see.

Let's start by taking a close look at my client list. I currently represent 128 actors, ranging in age from 16 to 82. Seventy-six of those clients are men, and 52 are women. Nineteen are over the age of 50. That group is made up of 14 men and five women. Forty-two are under 30. The gender split there is right down the middle. Remember, agents are glorified salespeople and these numbers reflect the needs of a marketplace we must address on a daily basis.

Now let's examine the same list from a different perspective: Ninety-two of my clients are white. The rest are African-American (14), Latino (9), Asian-American (4), Middle Eastern (3), Indian (2), Native American (2), disabled (1), and I Don't Know (1).

Here are some statistics that illustrate how a client list is in a constant state of change: Last year my company signed 24 actors. (Three were former clients who begged to come back because they weren't happy with their new agents.) Last year we dropped 12 clients. Another seven dropped us. Those numbers show how agents maintain balance on their lists. And for the record, I only miss two of the actors who left us.

It's time to talk about money. This is how the earnings were divided last year: Out of 128 clients, 56 actors earned less than $20,000. Seven earned more than $100,000, and two made more than a million. The old expression is true: "Ten percent of a client list generates 90 percent of the income."

Here's another breakdown you might find interesting: Over 60 percent of my clients have managers. (As far as I can tell, most of them don't really do anything.) Over 10 percent of my clients have lawyers. (They're all valuable members of the team.)

Let's close with a few random statistics:To the best of my knowledge, nine clients have had plastic surgery. (None of those procedures involved breast augmentation.) Three of my clients are fighting a substance abuse problem. About a third of my clients lost their health insurance last year because they divided their earnings between two unions. (So vote yes for the merger!) Last year 56 out of 128 clients gave us holiday presents. (We got a big fat zero from the actors making more than $100,000. I guess they figured our commission was a big enough gift.)

There are a lot of liars in this business, but numbers always tell the truth. So I hope these figures give you a clearer picture of what goes on behind your agent's door. Knowing these statistics won't make you a better actor, but they will definitely turn you into a smarter one. And the way I see it, knowledge is always a better choice than ignorance.

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