How Your Agent Can Be Better

Article Image
Photo Source: Pete McDonnell

Agents are a lot like cholesterol. There are good agents and there are bad agents. I like to believe I’m one of the good ones

We all know how to sign an actor. That’s Freshman 101. But what separates me from some of the crappy agents in this business is that I actually give a damn about the actors I represent.

From the day I landed on a desk, I’ve always understood my clients place a great deal of trust in me. They see me as their advocate and protector. Those are roles I take seriously.

Any agent can set up auditions and negotiate deals. That’s easy. It’s much harder to understand your clients aren’t just names on a list. They’re human beings with dreams and fears just like everyone else.

Next to physical survival, a human’s greatest need is psychological survival—to be understood, to be affirmed, and to be appreciated.

Besides opportunity, that’s what actors want most from their reps. They need a personal connection, because their greatest fear is being forgotten once they sign on the dotted line.

Sadly, servicing clients has become a lost art, especially when the client isn’t making a lot of money. That’s why so many actors have turned to managers. They believe a manager can give them the personal connection they so desperately need and agents cannot provide.

(When my agent friends complain there are too many managers, I always respond, “Welcome to the world you created.”)

There are many ways agents can better service their clients. Doing this is in our best interest, especially if we want actors to stay put when a larger company comes knocking on their dressing room doors.

When I’m dealing with clients, I always listen with intent. That helps me understand that when an actor calls to complain about a lack of auditions, what he’s really telling me is that he’s scared about the future. Once I hear what he’s not saying, it makes it easier to provide reassurance.

I’m always surprised to hear that a lot of agents ask their assistants to call out auditions. This seems like a wasted opportunity to connect with a client. I make it a point to call every actor about every audition. That allows me to have a back and forth about all the details.

When I book clients on big jobs, I try to visit them on set. The actor is always thrilled to see me, and it’s a fun way to spend a few hours. I also get to connect with the director and producers.

A few years ago, I got to hang out with Quentin Tarantino on location and I had a blast. The guy is a one-man show. I still have the picture we took together saved on my phone.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from actors is that their agents never go see them in plays. Sadly, I’m guilty of this one because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So I have to pick and choose which shows I attend. And if I can’t make it, I try to make sure someone else from my office goes, even if it’s just an assistant.

Now let me make something clear: I’m not here to toot my own horn. I know a lot of agents read this column, so this is my way of reminding them we can do better. And by doing better, we might get to keep our best clients and make a lot more money.

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

Like this advice? Check out more from Secret Agent Man!

Author Headshot
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.
See full bio and articles here!