Take it From an Agent: Actors Today Don’t Know How Good They Have It

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

I’m writing this column 20 years ago.

To be clear, you’re living in the present. And I’m in the year 1999. If you’re wondering how Secret Agent Man became a time traveler, the answer is surprisingly obvious: I used a DeLorean.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, the lease ran out on my black BMW and I decided to buy something interesting, something that would make me stand out from the pack. I was thinking about getting an old-school Mustang, but then I came across a restored DeLorean, and that baby had my name all over it.

READ: 1 Agent’s Advice on How to Relieve Stress When You’re Feeling the Pressure

While checking out the car, I realized the owner had customized the interior to match the one in “Back to the Future.” How cool is that? I started playing with the dials and just for fun, I entered “10-04-1999.” That’s the date I started working as an assistant at one of the largest agencies in town.

Next thing you know, I was driving home, feeling good about the purchase. So I jumped on the freeway, punched the accelerator, and bang!—I time-traveled back to the day my career was born.

Curious to see myself, I headed over to my old office in Century City and made my way upstairs. Then I spent the rest of the day spying on young me, and I came to a startling revelation: This business used to suck.

The first proof of this was when my younger self took a call from casting. They needed a reel from one of our clients right away, so young me jumped into action. He hurried down to the storage room, found the right DVD, and called a messenger service, who promised to deliver it to the casting office within the next three hours. In 2019, I would just copy the reel’s link and email it to casting. Mission accomplished in less than 30 seconds, and it doesn’t cost the company a dime.

Close to noon, the mail got dumped on my desk. Holy cow! The stack of manila envelopes stuffed with headshots was taller than the “Stranger Things” kids. I had forgotten how much money actors used to spend on pictures that ended up in the trash. Nowadays, 99 percent of submissions come in by email, which is a massive cost-saver in terms of time, energy, and materials.

My last observation about the past is a doozy. It took me a moment to spot the difference—but it’s the phones! They never stop ringing. Everyone is talking to someone. I realized that back in the present, my office is fairly quiet because everyone connects by email. Instead of a constant ringing, I mostly hear tapping on keyboards.

Is that a good thing? Or have we lost something?

Confused, I decided it was time to go home. But first, I stepped up to young me and whispered, “Buy stock in Amazon and Netflix. Seriously. Just do it.”

On that note, I hurried back to my DeLorean, and that’s where I am right now, still in the past, writing this column. If you’re reading it, that means I made it back without changing the present—phew! But if you’re reading something crazy like Secret Manager Man, then I definitely created a paradox that screwed up the timeline and I need to learn a lot more about gigawatts and plutonium.

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe 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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