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Secret Agent Man

What's on My Desk?

What's on My Desk?
1) The phone

Without a doubt, this is the single most important item on my desk. It allows me to reach out and get things done. I don't keep a call sheet, but I'm constantly placing calls, trying to create opportunities for my clients. An agent's strength is measured by who he can get on the phone.

2) My computer

It's an old Dell PC, and it gives me access to everything I need, including breakdowns, scripts, sides, audition information, client schedules, contact numbers, and Nikki Finke. The computer also works like a phone, because if I'm not rolling calls, I'm busy sending out emails. I even have instant-message relationships with certain casting directors. Sometimes that gets things done faster than leaving a message with an assistant.

3) A client list

This is a simple but valuable tool that's never far from my reach. I'm talking about two pieces of paper, stapled together back to back, inside a clear sleeve. One side is marked “Men” and the other is labeled “Women.” All my clients are listed on it, broken down by broad age categories. I hold this list in my hand when I'm doing the breakdowns or when I'm pitching on the phone. This way, no one gets forgotten. (The big clients have dollar signs next to their names. That's not a reminder; that's motivation!)

4) Breakdowns

Some agents keep them on the computer, but I prefer hard copies that I can hold and smell. (To me, breakdowns smell like money.) I keep them clasped together in five categories: film, one-hour TV, half-hour TV, pilots, other. That last one includes long-form television, Equity theater, and random projects that pop up from time to time. I can't begin to tell you how many times a day I pick up one of those stacks to see what I should be doing next.

5) Commission statements

When a client books a job, we file a check authorization with the production company, so the payment can be sent directly to our business manager. He then deducts 10 percent, and the balance is forwarded to the client. I always have a commission statement handy, because it allows me to keep track of who's been paid and who hasn't. This is especially important when you're dealing with independent films. The commission statement is also a way for me to monitor how much I'll be seeing at the end of the month, in addition to my weekly salary. You see, that's the life of an agent: One month you're up; the next month you're wondering if it's too late to go to law school.

6) Three pens and a legal pad

I hate reaching for a pen and not finding one. That's why I always keep three pens with blue ink on my desk. (I like my coffee black, but my ink is always blue. No reason. That's just the way I roll.) And by the way, those pens are all Cross. I can afford better, but I hate wasting money on crap you don't really need. Which is why I don't understand why actors give managers 10 percent, but that's a totally different column.

7) My stress ball

What would I do without it? And since Obama took office, new employment laws prevent me from throwing stuff at my assistant, so squeezing this orange piece of rubber is the next best thing.

8) An antique clock

This one has an emotional component. I've had it for more than 10 years, and it was a gift from the very first client I took from rags to riches. When I signed this guy, he couldn't afford to feed himself. During the three years we worked together, he never made less than $200,000 a year. And then he left me for a bigger agency. That clock is a daily reminder of what this business is really about.

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