Do’s and Don’ts of Holiday Shopping for Your Agent

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Photo Source: Robert Wilson

In a few weeks, all the talent agencies and casting offices and production companies are going to start shutting down. Why? Because the holiday break is right around the corner and it couldn’t arrive a moment too soon. Everyone I know is exhausted and looking forward to some time off.

But first there’s business to be done, especially if you’re an actor. I realize Christmas celebrates you-know-who’s birth, but it also marks the end of the year. This is the perfect time to take stock and figure out who needs to be thanked.

That’s right. It’s time to buy some holiday presents for your agents.

Like everything in this business, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. So let me give you an idea of the gifts I’ve received over the years that have brightened my holidays—and the ones that look like lumps of coal in my stocking.

The first thing to remember is you don’t have to cash in your IRA to buy your agent a gift. This isn’t about money. It’s about being memorable. And you can pull that off without going broke.

The trick is to make your gift personal. Booze is always a nice way to go, but you can’t just give your agent a random bottle of wine you found on the discount rack at Ralphs. And what if your agent prefers Scotch or beer or whatever? It makes more sense to pick up a bottle of something he or she will really enjoy.

The same is true for gift cards. I love coffee but I always roll my eyes when a client hands me one for Starbucks. Could that place be more overrated? I’m more of a Peet’s kind of guy.

You’re probably wondering how the hell you’re supposed to know all these personal details about your reps. Well, that’s easier than checkers: Chat up the assistant. And if your agent doesn’t have an assistant, put “get a better agent” on your list of resolutions.

You can also make an impression by being creative. I’ve been surprised by mix tapes, toys from my childhood, homemade treats, cigars, potted plants, a car wash—and on one memorable occasion, tickets to a holiday puppet show.

Now let’s turn to the dark side. The worst gifts are the ones that are completely generic, like those humongous food baskets meant to be shared by the population of Malta. Coming in second are presents that are narcissistic in nature. Believe it or not, I was once given a calendar that had a different picture of my client for each month. Talk about a waste of money. Did he really expect me to put that up on my wall?

And now that I’ve got you in a holiday mood, why not pick up a little something for your agent’s assistant? Those people have thankless jobs, working hard for very little money so they can collect some experience and contacts. I guarantee that the smallest gift from you will brighten their day.

For those of you reading this column with a disapproving frown on your face, let me give you some valuable advice: Get over yourself. Showing a little holiday gratitude to the people responsible for your career is not only appropriate—it’s smart. And keep in mind that guys like me keep a list of which clients have given us presents so we can send those actors a thank-you note after the holidays. How weird would it be if your name wasn’t on that list?

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

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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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