When + Why You Should Pass on an Agent’s Offer to Represent You

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Agents are important because we have the ability to introduce our clients to the casting community. Sure, actors can do some of this themselves, but a lone wolf mentality will only get you so far. If you want to be a working actor with real access, you need someone like me in your corner. And that’s why unrepresented actors have “get an agent” at the top of their vision boards.

READ: Here’s Why Signing With an Agent Is Like Buying Into the Stock Market

With that in mind, I’d like you to meet Chuck. He’s a talented actor who doesn’t have representation. This keeps him up at night. The guy is desperate to get an agent.

The odds are that Chuck will sign with the first person who makes him an offer. He’ll do this because that offer will be a port in a storm. Somebody finally wants him. Great! What is there to think about? Chuck is all in. Problem solved.

And who knows? Maybe it is. But then again, maybe it’s not.

I would argue that our boy Chuck is making a big career decision. Signing with your first agent is a significant step. It will have a major effect on your future, so you can’t allow desperation to cloud your judgment.

When you receive an offer from an agent, the first thing you should do is celebrate. I don’t care if it comes from Joe Slick at Gersh or a one-man shop in the Valley; it’s an accomplishment, and you should own that. Congratulations!

Now, take a beat to think. Did you do your research? Did you reach out to your acting friends and industry contacts for information on the company? Did you study IMDb carefully for details on their clients and the type of work they’re booking? If you didn’t, now’s the time to get cracking.

And, most important, consider your inner voice. Did you feel comfortable with the agent? Did he or she seem genuinely excited about working together? Did the agent’s office reveal anything that might influence your decision?

READ: 3 Ways to Make Your Agent Regret Signing You

My point is this: You shouldn’t just jump at the very first offer you get. Being with the wrong agent can be worse than being alone. Why spend a year of your life with someone who isn’t really psyched about working together and isn’t going to get you out for the right kind of parts? It might make more sense to wait for the right fit.

To Chuck, I offer a counter: Meet Katie. She’s another talented actor who just received her first offer of representation, but something about the meeting made her uncomfortable. The agent kept talking about her beauty and how there were so many great parts for someone like her. He even asked if she was open to nudity. There’s nothing wrong with that, but her looks were all the guy talked about. They never discussed her training at RADA or anything else.

So, Katie did her homework. She investigated the list and discovered that most of his clients were gorgeous men and women. That was a red flag. It meant there were too many actors like her at the company, and the agent would probably only focus on those types of roles. Trusting her gut, Katie passed.

Remember: It’s your career, and that means you’re in charge. You don’t have to accept every morsel this business throws at you. You have the right to say no. 

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 7 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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