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Secret Agent Man

Tough Calls

Tough Calls
In my line of work, the computer is rapidly replacing the phone as an agent's lifeline to the rest of the world. We can email pictures and résumés to casting directors in seconds. We can instant-message a link for a client's reel right to a producer's desk. And we can access an endless supply of information about anything and everyone in the industry. So there's no doubt about it: Computers rock. But you know what? I still love my phone.

I use an imported Fujitsu desk phone with a modified Lamarr speed dialer. It connects perfectly to my handmade Handelsblatt headset. And by using a Supertex push lever, I'm able to speak comfortably and clearly all day long without getting a headache. There's no doubt about it: Phones also rock. But you know what? Not every call I make is fun.

For example, I recently signed a well-known actor in her 40s who's fallen off the radar. This is someone I used to watch on TV when I was Secret Agent Boy. Her poster got me through a lot of lonely nights, so I was very excited about representing her. But after setting up some generals for my new client, I got the same feedback from every single casting director: She's terrific, but she's too fat.

Now, here's the thing. This woman is only 20 pounds overweight, but in Hollywood that's considered obese. So I had to call and explain that she needed to hit the gym if she wanted to start working again. My client was mortified. But as an agent, I've been trained to put a positive spin on everything, so I told her that only character actors are allowed to gain weight. Gorgeous women have to stay in shape. (Trust me. That kind of stuff goes over big-time. She's probably in the gym right now, running a mile a minute while downing shots of Himalayan wheatgrass.)

Another tough call to make is the drop call. This happens when an agency decides to stop working with a client. I've heard that some companies prefer to send out emails, but that's a coward's way out. I believe that sometimes you have to look the devil in the eye. So when it's my turn to make a drop call, I skip the small talk and cut to the chase. The response is always different. It can range from shock to anger. Some actors even cry. That's when I try to do the agent thing and put a positive spin on the bad news: You need some new energy in your life. Change is the most natural thing in the world. It's not you; it's me. That sort of thing.

Without a doubt, the worst call to make is the "you didn't get it" call. That one sucks because we're both in it together. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill audition for some crappy TV show. No, I'm talking about you just tested for a series-regular part on a network pilot that's being produced by J.J. Abrams. Booking something like that is a game changer. It can make you rich and famous. Not booking it can break your heart. A "you didn't get it" call is tough to spin, but I like to point out the obvious: If you tested once, the odds are you'll test again. And I'll be there to make sure that happens.

On the flip side, I also get to call clients with exciting news about auditions and bookings and all sorts of great stuff. So when the final rinse is done, there's no doubt about it: That Fujitsu phone and I have been through a lot together. It's my friend and partner. Best of all, it never nags me about wanting a manager.

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