A few weeks ago, I was sitting behind my desk, counting all the new shows that SAG lost to AFTRA, when my assistant walked in. She told me my 4 o'clock meeting had arrived. I sighed. This was a favor meeting and I had no intention of signing the girl. A casting assistant had referred her, but she had almost no experience, and I already have enough newbies on my list. But favor meetings are what keep the wheels greased, so I told my assistant to show her in.
The girl who walked in looked a lot like Ellen Page. She was a tiny little thing with a big smile. I liked her right away. We chatted for a while, and she made a great impression by asking me as many questions as I asked her.
As we were wrapping up, I asked if she had been meeting a lot of other agents. She responded no, just one, and then she told me who it was. I recognized the name right away. The guy worked at a small but respected agency. I asked how the meeting had gone, and after hesitating for a moment, she told me this story:
"Well, it was really weird. After talking for about 20 minutes, he asked me to stand up. So I did. And then he took a real long look at my body. I mean, he just stared at me. And you know what he said?"
"He said I was very skinny, but it shouldn't be a problem because the camera adds 10 pounds. And then he told me if we had met in a bar and he had taken me home and gotten me naked, he would be turned off and would not want to have sex with me because I'm so skinny."
I blinked twice. I asked if she was joking. She said she wasn't. Then she told me the agent had offered to sign her, and she wasn't sure what to do. That's why my casting-assistant friend had referred her to me. At that point, I took her reel and told her I'd be in touch.
Now, I want you to step back for a moment and put yourself in this girl's position. You don't have an agent and you desperately want one. This man has offered to sign you. He works at a decent company with a good reputation. The odds are he'll be able to get you auditions you'd never be able to get on your own. But the guy makes your skin crawl. The idea of trusting him with your career makes you nervous. And worse, the idea of interacting with him on a regular basis makes you sick. But then again, all your actor friends are jealous that you even got a meeting with him. They would kill to get into that office.
So what would you do?
If you're not sure and you're waiting to hear my opinion, I've got a news flash for you. I don't know what you should do. I've been an agent for more than 10 years and I honestly don't know. On the one hand, an agent is not your friend. The relationship is a professional one. You don't have to like your agent to work with him. Getting the job done is all that matters. But on the other hand, is having an agent you can't stand better than having no representation at all? As you can see, this is an extremely difficult situation and there's no clear-cut answer.
So again, what would you do?
And if you're really wondering which way I'm leaning, I'll end with this: I've never believed the concept of any port in a storm. There's always a choice. (And for the record, SAG lost 34 new shows to AFTRA.)