1 Agent on Why She Says Yes to a Client

Photo Source: David LaPorte

As an agent at Abrams Artists Agency, the question I’m most often asked is: How can an actor trying to break into the business get an agent if they have no work to show—and how can they get work to show without having an agent? Second to that question is, of course, the follow-up: What makes me say yes to bringing on a new client?

The majority of my clients come from trusted industry referrals, most often from well-respected managers, attorneys, and, increasingly, out-of-country agents looking to place their talent with U.S. representation who have material from shows or films created in those regions to share. Being referred is always better than a blind submission, so if you have reps, ask them to make the call for you. At Abrams Artists Agency, we’ve always respected actors who take their craft seriously and put in the work to achieve an MFA from one of the many prestigious theater programs. We attend the graduating class showcases every year with an eye toward discovering up-and-coming talent.

But the reality is that without material to watch, there’s no way to know if you can act, and if I don’t know that, I’m not going to say yes—and you shouldn’t want me to! The good news is that in the era of YouTube, Vine, Vimeo, and other emerging social platforms, there are more opportunities than ever for an actor to self-generate work that shows agents why they should say yes to representing them. A local play, a short film, a funny YouTube video—these are all potential ways to show off your talent. The catch is, if the production value is low, the performance has to be that much better. Meaning: It has to be phenomenal and has to make me feel like if I don’t reach out to you, I’ll be missing out.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. One of my successful, long-term clients is a young man I signed after seeing him in only a commercial. A New York colleague of mine asked me to meet him while he was visiting Los Angeles and I was doing it as a favor, which usually means that the chances of my actually signing the actor are slim to none.

Then this actor walked in and his look, his energy, and his general demeanor were so incredibly positive and impressive that I not only wanted our meeting to last longer, I genuinely wanted to set him up with other meetings because I knew he’d bring that same spirit into other rooms. I am not saying that he was putting on an act for this meeting, because in the last decade he has never faltered from who he was that very first day and has proven my gut instinct right, time and time again in films and TV series.

I share this story to stress that as an agent, I’m also working in an artistic medium and hoping to represent the best artists possible. In art, there are never any hard and fast rules, so sometimes I’ve said yes when I’d normally say no to great results (and sometimes not such great results!).

It’s a tricky business and patience is often just as important as persistence, because a no today could very well be a yes tomorrow!

Marni Rosenzweig, senior vice president with Abrams Artists Agency, heads up both the adult and youth talent departments in the Los Angeles office. Additionally, she founded Agents of Change, a philanthropic organization within the agency inspiring people to do good for the community at large. Follow her at @marnirosenzweig.

Want more advice on how to get an agent? Watch here:

Inspired? Read “Agent or Manager? 12 Factors You Should Consider.”

Marni Rosenzweig
Marni Rosenzweig was a long-time L.A.-based agent, and is currently the owner of The Rosenzweig Group, a talent management and production company. You can find her on Instagram at @ilysemarni.