Booking Ratios

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Our lives are ruled by numbers. A high grade-point average can get you into the college of your dreams. The right credit score will help you buy neat stuff like cars and homes. Health insurance rates are based on the results of your cholesterol test. It seems like our actions always result in rigid numbers that are then used to judge us. That's just the way society works. Fair or not, the entertainment industry is no different. When movies are released, their success is based on weekend box office figures. New television shows live and die based on ratings. And actors are often judged by their booking ratio.

A booking ratio is exactly what it sounds like: two numbers that represent how many jobs you've booked compared to how many auditions you've had. So if your ratio is one out of 20, that means it took 20 auditions for you to land one job. Actors are usually freaked out by these numbers, because they're afraid if they don't book enough, they'll have to start looking for new representation. This is absurd, because agents are a lot more forgiving than you think and because our expectations are based on the individual and his or her category. We also know that numbers are not always what they seem.

For example, I represent quite a few older character actors who often play men in suits. I'm talking about bankers and lawyers and police captains who tell the hero to stop breaking all the rules. These clients are worth their weight in gold, because every project out there needs a suit guy. As a result, they tend to work all the time and their numbers are very high. A common booking ratio for them would be one out of six.

On the other hand, I also represent a lot of attractive young people who are just starting out. Their ratio is much lower because they're not as experienced as my suit guys. They're also in the single most competitive category in the business. So I take all that into consideration when I'm reviewing their numbers. A common booking ratio for them would be more like one out of 20.

One of my most promising young clients has been out on something like 40 auditions and hasn't booked a single job. That makes her booking ratio zero out of 40. So if you're a bean counter, that looks pretty damn bad. Well, guess what: It isn't. That girl got callbacks on half of those auditions, and she went right down to the wire on the last few. That's called momentum. Her booking ratio is the perfect example of how numbers can be deceiving.

Agents also take into account what's being booked and what's not. Here's what I mean: I have an actor in his 30s who booked three of his last nine TV auditions. On the surface, those numbers look good, but what happens if we take a closer look at the actual auditions? It turns out the three bookings he got were for small, one-day roles and the six he didn't get were for large, top-of-show guest stars. Suddenly that booking ratio doesn't sound as good, does it? My initial impression would be the actor doesn't have the chops to be more than a day player. That's fine, but I'll probably focus more of my energy on the clients who can bring in real money.

Numbers are important, but they can also be misleading. So keep track of the big picture. Factor in callbacks and good feedback. Make sure you understand what your booking ratio really means. There's no need to let numbers freak you out. This business is scary enough as it is.
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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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