Hi, I’m Alex Spieth, an actor and writer living in NYC. I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a BFA in acting in 2013 and was dropped by my agent in 2014.
Being dropped by your agent is basically like going through the most boring version break up. It’s the intense shiver of, “Oh...my career doesn’t want me anymore.” There’s no one to talk to or to hash it out with—it’s just over.
Quick word of advice: Better to drunk text nearly anyone in your phone book before your former agent! A drunk-texting your former teachers is not much better.
When I tried to tell people about getting dropped, very few wanted to hear it and most suggested brusquely that I hop right back on the pony. In 2014, I went to a number of “meetings,” many in which I cried openly. The crown jewel was when I was talking to one of the heads of a prominent Shakespeare festival and began bawling upon being asked, “Well, how are you getting work now?” He was a very nice man and walked me to an ATM to pull out cash for a taxi home.
However, life, time, and making your own work cures all. Eventually, I looked out at the world and thought, “Hey, I’m ready to be repped again.” I opened my arms and trusted I’d fall into the loving agenting arms of….anyone? Anyone?
It’s very tricky to get an agent who’s interested in you and has the power to make a difference in your career. There are a few options, all of which I’ve explored and illuminated below. Hopefully, you can learn a thing or two from my trials and tribulations….
Option 1: Pay-to-play classes
In my five years in New York City, I’ve spent roughly $1,000 on those “opportunities” to “network” with “industry players” and have seen no results. I’d encourage you to instead use that $1,000 to make art about sexual assault, social justice, or literally your butt before you throw that money to one-on-one. I pray that one day I’m able to fund the documentary crew who exposes these “chances.”
Moral of the story: There’s a special place in hell for artists who don’t help other artists.
Option 2: Ask friends to recommend you to their reps.
I’ve asked every friend, family member, non-friend, or person who seems “vaguely impressed that I’m still alive” to rec me. From al this asking, I’ve had four meetings and no results. Listen, I get it: I look like every other blonde girl on the roster.
Moral of the story: Yes! Send those headshots/resumes/reels to anyone who will take them. But it’s a long day’s journey into night to rep, so thank god Manhattan’s bar-to-person ratio is roughly 5/1.
Option 3: Grad school
Okay, okay, I’ve never gone or applied. However, I did graduate from a BFA with a great showcase. At the time, I was so upset by my results and general delayed development that I wrote showcase off as being “bullshit.” But it’s not true. A good and well-attended showcase is an awesome opportunity that doesn’t happen very often (thusly the reason I’m writing this article). Grad school can be great for multiple reasons: training, new community, badass collaborators, a new chance to grow. However, I see it as the means to getting some new rep.
Moral of the Story: I haven’t explored it well enough so you should talk to folks who actually know something about this.
Option 4: Make your own work
I do this. I make an awesome series. The process is tiring, fulfilling, unreal. It hasn’t lead to anywhere entirely tangible yet, but I don’t lose hope. It’s the option I bank on again and again because it feels the best.
Moral of the story: This is the one I keep choosing. Feel free to DM me about my work—I’m looking to date more people who are impressed by me.
Option 5: Leave New York
It’s hard to look special in the city that never sleeps. I was lucky enough to get to do a show in another city and reached out to the talent agencies there. The team is talented, supported, and interested in me. I’m very glad to have found a group of people who are willing to look out for me.
Moral of the story: Do it sometime.
Yesterday, a man at the bar I work at looked like my former agent. I expected to feel something, but there was nothing: no rush of emotion, no feeling of dread. If you do a lot and live a lot, the ghosts of the bad times erode.
Believe me, an NYC agent isn’t the be all, end all. You can still have it all, with or without that fancy agent.
Alex Spieth is an actor/writer living in NYC. She began writing the series [Blank] My Lifeafter being dropped by her acting agency and says, “Turn that depression into anxiety!” to every actor who feels down on their luck. Watch the [Blank] trailer and season two here. Alex frequently collaborates with Irondale Ensemble, Third Space, and Tele-Violet, and tours a one-woman show about rape culture called “Jane Doe" to colleges/universities. Carnegie Mellon Alum of 2013, and she weighs 150 pounds.
Get all of your agent questions answered by peers and experts on the Backstage Community forums!
The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.