10 Tips for Leaving Your Agent or Manager

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At a certain point in every actor’s career leaving an agent or manager will become necessary, whether that’s because the relationship is no longer working out, agreements have not been fulfilled, or a career shift makes it important. It can be a painful process, both for actors and their representatives, but it can be done with consciousness, compassion and clarity. If and when the time comes to make the move, the following tips might be helpful.

1. Identify your motivations. Before you take any action it’s important to get in touch with the motivations behind your decision to do so. This way you’ll gain more clarity about yourself and the reality of your situation. You might be motivated to leave your rep because of a lack of auditions in the past six months, you may be swayed by another, more powerful rep showing an interest in you, or you might realize that you and your rep have very different ideas about where your career should go. Whatever the motivations behind this decision, fully explore them, perhaps even write a list. This may lead to a change of heart, it may not, but either way you’ll be straight with yourself.

2. Review your legal position. Once you know what your motivations are, and before you go firing your rep, make sure you fully understand your legal position. What contractual agreements are still intact, if any? Being legally bound to an agency or a manager when the relationship is broken can be very complicated for both parties. If you’re going to leave, do so with as many loose ends tied up as possible.

3. Own your part in it. It’s all too easy to blame others for our disappointments in life. To own your part in the dynamic is only fair to your agent or manager. They probably worked much harder for you than you will ever know. Stepping back and looking at the situation from a wider perspective will help you understand what your part has been in the dynamic, which in turn will raise your personal integrity and emotional intelligence and allow you to learn from your mistakes.

4. Make contact with yourself. Make contact with the feelings you have about your decision, perhaps naming and even writing them down. This may seem unimportant or too mushy, but all change brings a type of grieving experience even when it seems like a good thing! Ending relationships, personal and business, can bring up all sorts of emotions, including anger, sadness, resentment, fear, relief, or guilt. When you acknowledge your own experience there’s more self-awareness, compassion, and authenticity—essential elements to your acting craft and overall personal development.

5. Decide how to tell them. You may be tempted to send a quick text to your rep saying that you’re leaving them, hopeful that the situation will go away quickly, but that would probably burn a bridge forever. It could also be considered cruel, callous, and immature. Instead, ask yourself what medium the relationship has primarily been through. Have you and your rep primarily spoken on the phone? Has it been predominantly an email relationship? Or have you been one of those remaining few who see your agent or manager in person? Whatever the prevailing medium is likely the most appropriate means to deliver the news. So, if you email or call each other, then an email or phone call might be appropriate. If you usually see each other, make an appointment to sit down in person. If, by chance, however, you usually text each other, I urge you not to fire them that way! Whatever you do, just act with integrity.

6. Plan what you will say. During any tough conversation it’s far more productive to talk about your own needs and experiences rather than the other person’s shortcomings. When planning your conversation or correspondence, be clear, concise, and specific about what your part has been in the dynamic, what you want for yourself and your career, and what you need to do from here on out. Focus on those things as the reasons for leaving, not what the rep did or didn’t do. But make it short! They won’t want to hear the whole story and just a synopsis will do.

7. Prepare to stay connected. Understandably, you might be nervous about letting your rep go. It’s never easy breaking up with anyone! The main thing you have control over is yourself and you’ll have a far better outcome if you are in a resourceful state. So before you write, phone, or visit your rep, take a moment to connect, first of all with yourself, by grounding and getting calm. This way you will be able to connect with the person you are engaging with. After all, your representative is a human being. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t liked how they’ve behaved or what they’ve done for your career, they have their own hopes and dreams and, yes, even feelings! Have compassion as you deliver the news.

8. Be detached. Your rep may need to vent their feelings about your decision. If you’ve done the self-exploration and career review I’ve suggested you should feel confident about your decision, so make sure you stay detached from any reaction to it. Your agent may not respond the way you’d like them to but remain cool. Let them vent if they need to. Most of all, don’t get into in a back and forth argument about who’s right and who’s wrong and who did what. There would be no positive outcome to that.

9. Be grateful. As mentioned, your representative has probably done more for you than you will ever know. After all, the vast majority of what they’ve done to pitch you, protect you, and serve your career happens when you’re not around. So, at least be grateful for what you are aware that they’ve done, no matter how resentful or disappointed you may be, and thank them clearly and directly. In fact, if you make gratitude the focus of your “talk” with them, you will step into a higher version of yourself, and in the end there will be benefit.

10. Learn from it. Any challenging situation is either a trial to be endured or an opportunity to become more than you’ve even been. You’ll be moving on to a new relationship with another agent or manager and the only way to avoid repeating yourself is to review what went well, decide what you will do differently next time, and get clear about what you want to bring with you.

This is a relationship business, so treat all of them—as you enter and exit—with consciousness and intention.

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Justina Vail
Justina Vail, PCC CHt is a personal development coach, consultant, master NLP practitioner, hypnotherapist, speaker, award-winning author, and award-winning actor. She is owner of Actors Life Coaching and author of the award-winning book “How to be a Happy Actor in a Challenging Business: A Guide to Thriving Through it All."
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