Why There Is Such a Thing as Stupid Questions Between Actors and Agents

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

I love meeting with experienced actors who are looking to leave their current agent. In those situations, we’re all getting to know each other, trying to figure out if we’re a good match. And as a guy who spends a large part of his life in a conference room, it’s fun to interview people who ask as many questions as they answer, especially when those questions are smart ones.

Meeting less experienced actors is a little bit different, especially when the actors are looking for their first taste of representation. Those situations are more one-sided, because the actors are usually nervous, trying hard not to make a wrong move. That’s why I go out of my way to make newbies comfortable. I do this by being as friendly as possible, asking easy, personal questions, so the ball of sweat sitting across from me can hopefully chill out before we tackle more professional matters.

(Full disclosure: Nerves are normal, but if your hands are shaking while we talk, I’m going to be a little hesitant to sign you because I’ll worry about how you’ll perform in a casting director’s office.)

READ: Got a New Agent? Here’s How to Make a Good Impression

In these meetings, I’m the one who’s firing off all the questions, but I’ll always leave a window of time at the end for you to ask any of your own. Every agent I know does this, so if you’ve got a meeting coming up soon, it would be wise to have a few questions chambered before entering the ring.

The one thing you don’t want to do is waste this opportunity by asking inane questions that some stupid book told you to ask. For example, here’s one that serves no purpose and I get it all the time: “How many clients do you have?” A monkey could find that answer online. Why waste my time with it? The follow-up is even worse: “Do you have any clients like me?” This is when I usually go on a rant about how every actor is an individual, and if I was concerned about conflicts, you wouldn’t be sitting in my office.

Here’s a question that’s certainly not dumb, but it does show a lack of experience: “What kind of roles do you see me playing?” I usually respond: “You just asked me to typecast you. Is that what you really want? And if your answer is yes, I don’t think I could because I’ve only known you for 10 minutes and your reel doesn’t have much on it.” Then I explain that if we end up working together, we’ll figure out what roles are the best fit through a series of auditions and feedback from casting directors. In other words, we’ll do it together.

You’ve probably heard people say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” but I would argue that’s absurd. Of course there are stupid questions. Smart ones exist as the polar opposite of dumb ones. So choose your words wisely, because industry types will judge you based on them.

And if you’re ever taking a meeting with me and you draw a blank, just ask how the hell could I possibly be an agent when I’m so much better-looking than trolls like George Clooney and Brad Pitt? That should work out just fine.

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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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