SAM’s Essential List of Agent Don’ts

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Actors can be like puppies. Sometimes they need guidance. And if you don’t provide it, they could end up pissing all over the carpet.

That’s why I’m here. I want to save you from the embarrassment of having your nose wiped in your “accidents.” An acting career is hard enough. There’s no need to make it harder. So here are a few random don’ts that I’ve been collecting over the years that I believe will serve you well.

When you meet with me, DON’T call yourself a triple threat. Seriously. I will just laugh at you. That sort of thing might fly in New York, but it means nothing to us agent types here in L.A. And please DON’T tell me there are so many shows on the air that are looking for actors who can pull off all three hat tricks, because I will ask you to name them and you will fail. “Glee” is a memory, “Smash” was a bomb, and “Nashville” is on the way out.

When you send me a submission, DON’T throw out nonsensical statements like, “I’m in the middle of a paradigm shift so I can build my brand.” Unless your acting goal is to become a YouTube sensation, you shouldn’t be using silly expressions like that. (And is that really an acting goal?)

DON’T approach me in a public setting. If I’m with people, I don’t want to talk to you. And I certainly don’t want to hear your woes about needing an agent. So leave me alone. Believe it or not, I have a life that doesn’t involve actors.

Now let’s assume you have representation. That opens up a totally different can of don’ts.

When you have new headshots taken, DON’T send me over 500 choices. How much free time do you think I have? When you bombard me with so many pictures, they start to blur together and my focus fades, which could lead to the wrong decision. It’s more respectful of my time if you narrow our options down to about 100. That’s much more manageable.

And DON’T make those 100 choices on your own. Most actors can’t see themselves clearly. So enlist the help of your spouse, significant other, friends, family, barista, whoever. What you’ll discover is that the best pictures always rise to the surface because everyone will choose them.

Please DON’T invite me to see you in a mediocre play where you have one good scene in the second act. Trust me. By the time we get there, I’ll be in a pretty foul mood.

Agents hate to be surprised, so DON’T sign with a manager unless we discuss the decision first. I need to have some say on who joins the team. And who knows? There could be some bad blood there you don’t know about. Also, management contracts can be a little wonky, so you might want your agent to read the damn thing before you sign it.

By the way, you should know that the original draft of this column came in at just over 10,000 words instead of the usual 600. After I turned it in, my lovely editor in New York responded with one word: DON’T! And then she wiped my nose in it.

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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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