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Secret Agent Man

Don't Waste My Time

Don't Waste My Time
My high school teacher was wrong. His name was Mr. Thomas, and he always said there was no such thing as a dumb question. I used to believe him, but all my years as an agent have proven him wrong.

At this point in my life, I've been in hundreds of meetings with actors, and they all ask the same pointless questions over and over. You only have so much time to make an impression in my office. It's foolish to waste it with questions that serve no purpose.

So how do I define a pointless question? That's easy. It's a question that leads to an answer that does not educate or inform. Here are some examples:

How many clients do you have?

I love when an actor with no credits or prior representation asks me this useless question. I always want to respond, Why? What do you care? You're in my office because you desperately want me to sign you, right? So what number do I have to say to cause you to get up and walk out? 200? 500? 1,000?

You have to understand that there are too many factors at play for you to get anything useful from my response. You would need to know how the number breaks down—how many of those actors are in your age and gender category, how many are unavailable because they're on a series, how many live out of town, and more good stuff like that.

And when you get right down to it, this is also a lazy question, because the answer is available on everyone's favorite website, IMDbPro.

Do you have anyone like me?

This one bugs me because the answer should be fairly obvious. If I did, we wouldn't be taking the meeting. What would be the point?

On a different note, this question is also irritating when it comes out of the mouth of an attractive blonde in her 20s. That's one of the most popular categories in the business. So the answer is yes, of course I have someone like you! If I didn't, how could I possibly do my job? You're in my office because I have to serve the needs of the marketplace, and that means signing more actors like you, not fewer.

This question is fine if you're in a very specific category, such as Middle Eastern character actor, but even then we wouldn't be taking the meeting if there were a direct conflict on our list.

Do you work well with managers?

This one cracks me up, because the actors who ask this question are always the ones who've been sent to me by managers. I'm not sure what they expect me to say. If I give a negative response, the actor is going to call his or her manager to complain. And if that happens over and over, word will get around that I don't work well with managers. That's a bad thing because I rely on managers to introduce me to brand-new talent. So of course my answer's going to be positive. You have to understand that agents, if nothing else, know how to survive, and we're not going to say anything in a meeting that might come back to haunt us.

Do you like working here?

Let's see. My boss is either in the meeting with us or he's 20 feet away in his office. So what do you think I'm going to say? That I hate the company, my boss is evil, and I'm just killing time until Ari Emanuel gets back to me?

In this business, knowing how to take a meeting is an art form. When a meeting is over, you should feel like you know more than you did when you first walked in. If you don't, then maybe you didn't ask the right questions.

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