The Most Important Job an Agent Owes an Actor

Article Image
Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

There are 101 ways to do my job—the question is which is most important? Some agents will tell you that signing the right actor is crucial. Others say negotiating great deals is all that matters. But what I argue is that at the top of that list should be submitting and pitching.

Every job one of my clients has booked, no matter how small or large, began with the act of me submitting for the project. Trust me. There’s no reason to complicate a ham sandwich because it’s a simple thing. I see an opportunity, I submit, and the game has begun!

But here’s what most of you probably don’t understand: One of the most important decisions an agent can make is figuring out who to submit and then choosing who they’re going to pitch. The sad truth is I can’t pitch every single actor I submit to a casting director. It’s just not possible.

READ: Do You Need to Like Your Potential Agent?

So, let’s talk about the submission process. If a part is described as “a heavy-set African-American man in his 40s who doesn’t take crap from anyone,” that’s a no-brainer. I’m going to submit the one guy on my list who’s physically right for the role. It’s not always that straightforward, though. What if the breakdown calls for “a beautiful nurse in her 20s who is always the life of the party”? Well, that’s a totally different ball game. I’m going to submit every single attractive woman I represent in that age range, and I might even go a little bit older. I’m also going to include as much diversity as possible.

And wait, there’s more! Before I can send my ideas off to the casting director, one of the other agents in my office usually comes running in to ask if I’ll throw in a client he signed who is more of a character type but he feels can play the part. I might not agree, but I’m always open to these ideas, so I’ll throw his suggestion in, too.

Now that I’ve done my submission, it’s time to follow up with a pitch. And that’s the fun part of my job. The trick to being effective is being selective. Casting directors are always in a rush, so I can’t dick around. Looking at the group of nine women I just submitted, I need to do some mental math and calculate who has the best chance of booking the job. And then, once I’m on the phone talking about that actor, I try to be malleable and responsive to what the casting director says, because I might hear something that forces me to switch gears and pitch someone else.

The general rule here is to submit everyone who could possibly play the part, and it’s always a good idea to throw in some wild cards, because, hey, you never know. Then, when it’s time to pitch, you can be more selective and focus on your best shots. This process is the catalyst for everything good, and that’s why I claim it’s the most important part of my day. Second is adding up commissions. And third would be working on my plan for industry domination—but that article will have to wait for next time.

Ask SAM more questions on the Backstage Community forums!

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!