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Secret Agent Man

L.A. Noir

L.A. Noir
It's 10:29 a.m. The city is Beverly Hills. I'm your narrator, Secret Agent Man. Those who know me say I'm a good man in a bad town. Those who don't wish they did. These are my stories.

I'm sitting behind my desk, studying a contract for a low-budget picture. I sigh. It never fails. The lower the money, the more holes I find in the contract. And this one's starting to look like Swiss cheese. I take a moment and wonder what my life would be like if I had gone to medical school. Then the clock ticks over to 10:30, signaling the arrival of my lovely assistant. She struts in, pops her gum, and drops a stack of mail on the desk. My trained eye sees a few bills, The Hollywood Reporter, a box from Amazon, and a thick stack of 9-by-12 envelopes. Submissions. They come in every day, five days a week, all year long. How many postal carriers have had their discs herniated by the sheer weight of all the actor submissions they deliver?

Needing a break from the so-called contract, I open the first submission. Or at least I try to open it. Some Nervous Nellie of an actor has glued the flap so tight, the envelope's choking to death. And to make matters worse, the artiste has double sealed it with half a roll of tape. Why do actors always treat their submissions like state secrets? I haven't even seen what's inside and I'm already in a foul mood.

Five minutes and two paper cuts later, the envelope is finally open. I pull out some headshots and a cover letter, which I notice is handwritten. That's strike two in this game. I start to read the chicken scratch. This is the first sentence: "I feel your agency would be a great fit for both of us." I read on, but the mug never explains why. That's odd. Maybe he knows something I don't. Then again, I doubt it. The rest of the letter goes on and on and on, but I never find the dingus I'm looking for—a referral. That's the only thing guys like me want to see when we read a cover letter: "My name is…and I was referred to you by…." Referrals are the stuff that dreams are made of. Well, your dreams, not mine.

I toss the useless letter aside and study the pictures. There are four. The first one isn't bad. The guy's got a decent look, the kind that makes heads turn. But the next two aren't nearly as good, and the last one is terrible. What gives? Why do actors always sabotage themselves by including too many headshots? Are they just trying to cover their bases? Sometimes you have to look the devil in the eye and make a choice. So that's strike three. Or is it four?

If I were an actor sending a submission to a ten-percenter like me, I'd do it right. First, my tongue would never even come close to the glue on the flap. Why bother? It's covered with germs, and I know the agent's getting a ton of these envelopes, so why make life harder? Inside, my cover letter would be shorter than that little guy who shines shoes down at the Bradbury Building. I would show a little moxie and get someone, anyone, to let me use their name as a referral. Maybe a casting assistant I know would lend a hand. Or even my acting teacher. And I would swing for the fences with my best headshot, maybe two. But that's it, no more. Now that's smart thinking, the kind of thinking that gets you places.

I'm Secret Agent Man. These are my stories. I hope they help.

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