Let’s do some math. I’ve been an agent for 12 years. On average, I meet five actors each week. Not counting holidays or my vacation time, that’s 240 actors every year for 12 years, which gives us a total of 2,880 meetings, give or take. Looking back, a lot of those people have asked the same three questions in those meetings, and I’m here to put an end to it. These are pointless questions that never lead to actionable information. Let me tell you what they are and why you should avoid them.
How many clients do you have?
This is one of the lamest questions you can ask in a meeting with an agent. First of all, the answer’s right there on IMDb. You’re lazy if you don’t look it up; and you don’t want to seem lazy, do you? Second of all, will the answer really have an effect on your decision if I offer to sign you? I mean, think about it. You don’t have representation. You need representation. So what’s the magic number that will force you to pass when you have nowhere else to go? 100? 150? 200?
Also, numbers can be misleading. For example, there might be an issue if one agent is working with 150 actors. That’s a heavy load to carry. But I wouldn’t be too concerned if that same list were being serviced by three agents.
Do you have any clients like me?
This one’s about conflicts. The concern is that if an agency has too many actors in the same category, some of them aren’t going to get enough attention. There’s some truth to this, but the first thing we have to consider is the word “category.”
For better or worse, the category with the highest casting demand is always going to be young women. So, for instance, if I represent three women in their early to mid-20s, I can confidently sign a few more and get them all work. Why? Because there are opportunities to go around. When you factor in diversity and different experience levels, I wouldn’t be comfortable with fewer than 10 choices. On the flip side, there are other categories for which I don’t need a lineup that extensive.
The ultimate truth here is that I already considered all of this before I set up the meeting. So if you’re sitting in my office, that means you’ve got a clear runway for takeoff; you don’t have to worry about conflicts, because I already did.
What’s the best way for clients to stay in touch?
This one makes no sense. The options seem fairly clear. It’s not like I’m going to suggest smoke signals or those cool ravens from “Game of Thrones.” As far as I know, you have two choices: You can call or you can email. Most agents prefer the latter, because emails allow us to respond when we have time. But, hey, calls are fine, too. I would just be selective about the frequency. Clients who call every day just to check in don’t last long as clients.
In conclusion, most meetings are just 30 minutes long. That means you have half an hour to make an impression. Don’t waste that valuable time by asking me the same pointless questions I’ve already heard 2,880 times. You’re a creative individual, right? So be creative. Be original. And most of all, be yourself.
This story originally appeared in the Sept. 10 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.
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