5 Truths About Life as an Actor That Only Your Agent Can Tell You

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Actors are always given the same advice: Stay in class. Use great headshots. Learn to network. That’s all fine, but I’d like to dig a little deeper. Here are five nuggets that are just as valuable, and I’m betting you don’t hear them every day.

1. Everyone in this business is out for themself.
No truer words have ever been spoken. Every single person I’ve met in this industry is out for No. 1. If you’re lucky, you have an agent who really cares about you and your career, but the truth is, you will only get to enjoy that kind of representation if you have the ability to generate bookings. When that stops, the agent will let you go—and it’s not because he or she is greedy. It’s just self-preservation. Agents need to generate commissions, and if you’re not helping, you will probably find yourself checking into the Drop City Hotel.

2. Think before you speak. What goes around comes around.
I had to learn this the hard way. A few years ago, I was having dinner with a manager I thought I could trust. We were drinking, and I said a few negative things about the lawyer who had just helped us close a deal. Well, guess what? That manager snitched to the lawyer and the lawyer called me the next day to rip me a new one. And he was right to do it.

READ: 8 Tips for Where to Begin Your Acting Career

I’ve taken several meetings with actors who want to be clients, and I’m always stunned by how they badmouth their previous reps. That’s such a bad idea. We all know each other! Consider your words before you open your mouth.

3. Be patient.
This is a tough one for me because I’m not the easygoing type, but actors really need to learn this. You send a submission to an agency in the morning, and if you don’t hear back that afternoon, you assume the submission was rejected. That’s possible, but people like me are busy, and we get to things when we get to them. An actor seeking representation is not always my top concern.

This also applies to auditions. I have clients who will audition for a gig at 3 p.m., and if they don’t hear about a callback by 6 p.m., they immediately assume the casting director hated them and will never read them again.

READ: The Guide to Becoming an Actor in L.A.

4. Don’t let rejection get you down.
I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth mentioning: Rejection will always be a large part of your life as an actor. It will come often, and it will be arbitrary. You’re too tall; you’re too short; you’re too young; you’re too old. It’s all white noise. Just focus on being the best performer you can be. That’s all that really matters.

5. Trust your gut—especially about people.
You need to listen if your Spidey-sense starts to tingle when you’re in a meeting with someone. That’s a warning from the instinctive part of your brain. Listen to it. Trust it. That voice is your friend.

These are all the kinds of lessons you have to learn the hard way—and for actors, they’re just as valuable as knowing how to format your résumé. I only wish I’d known this stuff when I was starting out! 

This story originally appeared in the Sept. 12 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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