The calendar year for an agent begins with pilot season in January. For three months, we endure a hellish amount of work, trying our best to spin gold from straw. And then, just as we’re about to snap, the madness stops.
By April, all the pilots are cast, and the network shows have wrapped. This marks the start of hiatus, a period that lasts till the end of June. It’s a welcome relief that gives us a chance to lick our wounds and toast our victories.
Hiatus is also the time when agents take a close look at their client lists so they can figure out which actors are worth keeping and which ones have to go.
Drop meetings usually take a few days as we shuffle clients around like chess pieces. And it’s not just about who booked and who didn’t. Callback ratios are also taken into consideration. Is an actor showing progress? Are casting directors responding? Those are both good reasons to keep someone around, even if he or she hasn’t made any money for the company.
On the other hand, bad behavior can tighten the noose around a client’s neck. I have a low tolerance for actors who make my life harder. You have to be Johnny-on-the-spot when I ask for new headshots or a new reel. You can’t make me wait for the tools I need to be effective. Being constantly late for auditions can also shorten your life span at an agency. Not showing up at all is a death sentence.
Once the drop list is finished, we release a plume of white smoke. Then it’s time to share the bad news. The agent who signed the doomed actor gets to make the call.
Dropping a client by phone is no fun. I’d rather do it in person. That way, I can see the tears.
OK, I’m just kidding. Those were the words of a brutal hard-ass. I imagine life is easier when you don’t care about hurting people, but I’m not that guy. Plain and simple, dropping an actor sucks. It’s one of the most difficult calls I have to make, and it never gets easier.
At this point in my career, I’ve got it down to a script. “Listen, I’m calling with some bad news. As I’m sure you know, we haven’t been able to get you out much, and that’s very disappointing. So we have to drop you as a client.”
Assuming the next sound isn’t a gunshot, actors always respond in one of the following five ways:
This is rare. Most clients see it coming. The ones who don’t haven’t been in touch with the reality of their careers.
“It’s your fault! You’re the world’s worst agent! You never gave me a chance!” I never take this stuff personally because I know the words are coming from someone I just rejected.
Clients who are being dropped often turn into agents. They start negotiating. “Give me six more months to prove myself.” “Set me up on five auditions, and if I don’t book, you can drop me then.” This approach never works. You can’t agent an agent.
Yes, I’ve had actors cry. That’s when I bust out the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. With a little time, I can usually get most clients to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Smart actors understand this is a professional decision, and they don’t take it personally. They’re the ones who always find a new agent inside of 90 days.
Now here’s the silver lining. Once the drops are done, agents start searching for more clients. That’s why hiatus is the perfect time to send out submissions. So bring it on! I’ve got holes in my list that need filling…