Before You Get Mad at Your Agent, Consider This

Article Image
Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

The lack of understanding between agents and clients can be frustrating. It creates a gap between us, and I’ve always felt that divide is detrimental to our mutual success.

As an agent, I don’t have any direct experience as an actor. I’ve never had to walk into a room full of strangers and audition perfectly with the hope they’ll hire me to play a part. Sure, I’ve had job interviews, but it’s not the same thing. All my knowledge of the day-to-day life of a performer is indirect, learned by listening to and spending time with clients.

And as an actor, you’ve never had to get on the phone and convince an unreceptive casting director to see a client they don’t want to see. You can hear me whine about it all day, but, like a virgin, you’ve never actually done it. Your knowledge is secondhand.

None of this means we can’t appreciate the hardships we both experience, though. The emotions are the same, we just experience them in different settings. So, let’s bridge the gap: I’m going to share a few frustrating aspects of my job and, in return, you’re going to put on your empathy hat. Do we have a deal?

Just because you don’t hear from me, it doesn’t mean I’m not working for you.   
There are 120 clients on my list. I’m sure they would all love to speak with me on a regular basis, but that’s just not realistic. There are only so many hours in the day. This means the majority of our interactions will center around auditions. If you haven’t heard from me in a while, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been submitting or pitching you, it just means I haven’t scored any auditions. It’s worth remembering that I can’t possibly forget about you because I stare at your face every day on my computer screen. I also see your name on the client list that sits on my desk. Trust me: I couldn’t forget you if I wanted to.

READ: Your Acting Homework for 2019? Practice Empathy 101

The conversations CDs have with actors in person are very different from the ones they have with agents on the phone.
Last week, I had a client show up an hour late for an audition. The casting director was very understanding and he accepted my client’s apology and allowed him to read anyway. Then, at the end of the day, the casting director called to yell at me. Why? Because agents are always the bad guy. You may never know when it happens, but I am constantly swallowing my pride and taking the hit for your mistakes. 

Agents don’t enjoy dropping clients.
I hate this part of my job. It never goes well. Actors get upset, they cry, and it’s terrible. And I’m an old-school agent. When it’s time to cut someone loose, I do it by phone, not by email, so I can’t avoid the blowback. (In my opinion, emails are for cowards.) Unless you’ve given me specific reasons to dislike you, I will never take pleasure in being a messenger of doom.

In short, I promise to be more understanding of your profession and your feelings if you return the favor. After all, we really do need each other! And who knows? This might be the start of an improved and promising relationship, just like the one Romeo and Juliet enjoyed. (Because that ended well, right?)

Want more tough love from your resident L.A. agent? Read more of our SAM column right here!

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!