Does Your Talent Agent Need to Be Talented?

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

Agents have a funny way of talking. We tend to make statements that don’t always reflect the truth. Just the other day one of the guys in my office yelled out, “I booked a huge guest star on ‘NCIS’!”

Now, if you were an outsider who happened to be walking by, you would probably believe the person who made that statement is the one who booked the job. But you’d be wrong. Agents aren’t actors. We don’t book anything. Our clients are the ones who do the booking.

I think we express ourselves like this because it allows us to have some ownership over our lives. Yes, we set up auditions and we negotiate the deals, but it’s the actor who books the job. Not us. And that brings up an interesting question: Do talent agents have talent?

Of course we do! We may not be the ones in front of the camera, but we definitely have skills that make us talented people.

For example, agents can juggle like no one’s business. On any given day, I have to balance the needs of my clients, their managers, the casting community, my fellow agents, and yours truly. Juggle, juggle, juggle. A casting director wants my client to accept a role for less than his quote. If I say yes, I’m making that casting director happy, but am I screwing the client? And what will the client’s manager say if I push to close this deal? Juggle, juggle, juggle. Screw Cirque du Soleil. Guys like me are the best jugglers in the world.

Agents are also shape-shifters. We can switch faces in the blink of an eye, just like those cool assassins on “Game of Thrones.” A few weeks ago, I had a deal go bad in the worst way possible. Countless hours of work flushed right down the toilet. And then 30 seconds later, I had to step into an important meeting with an established actor we were trying to sign. The smile I had to paste on my face wasn’t a fake one—it was real. In a flash, I became the agent that actor wanted to meet.

We also have the ability to deny reality. This is a skill all of us need if we want to work in the entertainment industry, because let’s face it: The odds of succeeding are as bad as winning a crooked card game south of the border.

I work at a boutique agency with a decent client list. We’re much smaller than the big boys at CAA, but we’re also much larger than a starter agency. This means we have a decent shot at getting our people in for series regular roles on pilots, but we also know our clients are up against name actors represented by powerhouse agencies. If I really sat down and considered those odds, I wouldn’t have the strength to even submit, but you know what? I put my blinders on every morning and I do the job. I submit. I pitch. And every now and then, a client pulls a Rocky and ends up going the distance.

So call me what you will, but don’t you dare called me an untalented talent agent. I’ve got miles and miles of the T word running through my veins!

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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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