3 Ways Being an Agent Is More Boring Than You Think

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Ah, the life of a Hollywood agent. It’s all about screenings, parties, and film festivals. Jay Gatsby would be green with envy.

Except nothing could be further from the truth.

Agents are glorified salespeople who represent a product that has wild mood swings and can be highly unpredictable. Our best efforts are often sabotaged by circumstances we cannot control. And agents put up with this for a measly 10 percent commission that we usually have to chase. That is the life of a Hollywood agent. But I’m not here to ask you to cry me a river. I signed up for this career, and it sure beats working on a dock. What I want to share with you are the boring parts of being an agent. (And let me tell you something: There are quite a few!)

Right now, we’re on hiatus. That means pilots and network shows have wrapped, so it’s slow. Real slow. I only have a tiny stack of breakdowns on my desk, and most of them are for movies no one will ever see. Agents thrive on activity, so being dormant is frustrating as hell, especially when you just spent several months working your ass off during pilot season. Imagine driving a 1962 Shelby Cobra on the German autobahn at 100 miles per hour and then having to sit at a red light for two months while your engine idles. 

READ: Why Being Likeable to an Agent Is More Important Than Acting Experience

Another dull part of my job is visiting clients on set. It’s hard being the stranger in a suit who stands there like an idiot while everyone else is working so hard. Yes, my actors are always happy to see me, but these trips bore me to tears. I almost wish the grips would ask me to lend a hand. I’d be much happier rolling up my sleeves and lifting something heavy. 

The worst set visit is dropping by to watch a client shoot a sitcom. As I’m sure you know, these comedies are filmed on soundstages. What you don’t know is that agents aren’t allowed on the floor where the action takes place. They usually place us in a green room where we can watch the actors on a monitor while we enjoy stale cold cuts and lukewarm soda. Sometimes, these green rooms are in a totally different building!

Another sleep-inducing part of my job is having to negotiate with people who don’t know what they’re doing. This is usually the case with virgin filmmakers working on big dreams with small budgets. Since they can’t afford a lawyer who speaks my language, I end up having to explain everything as I negotiate over pennies. It’s rarely worth the effort. That’s why I only push these projects on my clients if I’m genuinely excited about the script and the people who are behind it. 

So, what’s the thrilling part of being an agent? Every now and then, I get to watch a client go from rags to riches, knowing I was a part of that journey. Or, on a more human level, it thrills me when young actors break down in tears because they just booked their very first job. Those are the moments that add a little balance to my cynical life.

Ever wonder what agents are really thinking? Hear more from Secret Agent Man right here!

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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