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Secret Agent Man

Stealing Clients 101

Stealing Clients 101
I work at a boutique agency where I'm lucky enough to represent an established client list. Sure, we have some young talent that's just starting out. But for the most part, I work with actors who have substantial résumés and are easy pitches. This allows me to make a decent living at a job I enjoy every other day.

So how exactly do I find these actors? If we're talking about young talent, I meet them the usual way: graduation showcases, workshops, submissions, and industry referrals. But if you want to know how I sign established actors, the answer's simple. I steal them.

A few years ago, one of my clients booked a recurring role on a soap opera. He was going to be there for six weeks, playing a judge presiding over a murder case. I was thrilled because he's been with me a long time and he desperately needed this job. Looking for any excuse to get out of the office, I decided to visit him on set.

While watching the taping, I noticed one of the regulars on the show, a stunning girl in her 20s. Let's call her Belle. She was so beautiful I couldn't look at her directly. I found myself wishing for one of those contraptions people use to stare at an eclipse.

Needing to know more, I whipped out my smartphone and discovered that Belle wasn't represented by a shark at CAA. She was with a small agency in the Valley. I smiled. There was no security around this priceless diamond.

So during a break in shooting, I introduced myself and explained that I was visiting my client. She looked surprised. I asked why, and Belle told me she'd been working on the show for almost two years and her agents had never dropped by. I gasped. How could that be?

Having planted the seed, I took off. Patience is a virtue, so I waited two whole weeks before making another appearance. This time, Belle spotted me first and came over to say hello. I noticed she remembered my name. So I decided to make a move.

"Let me ask you something, Belle. Did you get in on that movie Francine Maisler's casting? No? That's crazy. There are a lot of small roles you're perfect for, and I'm sure the soap would let you take a few days off. Well, I'm sure your agents are on it. But if you want, I can email you the script so you at least know what I'm talking about."

Here's what this passive-aggressive conversation accomplished. First, I got her email address, which allowed me to open a direct line of communication. Second, I turned myself into a source of information, a knight in shining armor.

When my client wrapped, I sent Belle an email explaining how much fun he'd had working on her show. The two of us stayed in touch, and I never once mentioned representation, not even when I sent flowers on her birthday.

When Belle's contract ended, she fired her agents and signed with my company. Long story short, she ended up booking a half-hour pilot, which became a successful network show that ran for several years. My commission paid for a shiny piece of German metal that goes from zero to 60 in 4.9 seconds.

As far as I'm concerned, her original agents dropped the ball. You don't put a client on a show for three years and then forget all about her while you're collecting the commission.

I'm sure some of you find my behavior objectionable. Well, don't. What goes around comes around. Belle just fired me and signed with one of the big boys. But hey, that's the nature of this business. Clients are always in and out the door. It's like Roger Sterling said, "The day you sign a client is the day you start losing him."

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