Actors spend a lot of time and energy trying to get a meeting with an agent, but they rarely know how to behave when they’re actually in my office. I’ve had actors walk in, sit down, and just stare at me. I totally appreciate there are nerves at play because there’s a lot on the line, so I usually go out of my way to make people feel welcome.
Agents are masters of small talk. That’s why I always take the lead. I’ll start off by asking a few personal questions as a way of getting to know the human being who’s sitting across from me. I find that most actors start to get comfortable after the first few minutes of conversation. That’s when I switch over to the professional stuff.
When it’s time to wrap up, I always say the same thing: “Do you have any questions?” And that’s when most actors shift back into deer-in-the-headlights mode. “Questions? Me? Uh, I’m not sure.” Look, this isn’t a trap. I’m simply giving you one last chance to ask anything that might be on your mind.
So, here’s a list of questions you can use if you don’t have any of your own. I’ve been hit by all of them, so they’re field-tested and guaranteed to provide information—and information will always triumph over ignorance. (To be clear, you can ask these at any point during our time together. I find that the best meetings are the ones that turn into a conversation, a give-and-take where we can get to know each other at the same time. But I always leave a space at the end for any last-minute notes.)
1. “What do you like about my work?”
This is a perfectly reasonable question that will help you understand the agent’s perception of your ability. You don’t have to agree with it. You just need to understand it.
2. “In your experience, what’s the ideal actor-agent relationship?”
My response usually involves mutual trust and the sharing of information. Your mileage may differ.
3. “How do you stay in touch with your clients?”
Every agent will have a different response. One might say, “I don’t.” Another might say, “I’ll check in once a week.” Most answers will be somewhere in between. But the actual words don’t matter; it’s the attitude that counts.
4. “How does your contract work? What are the terms?”
Actors are always uncomfortable discussing legal matters. This paperwork is binding, so you need to understand what you’ll be expected to sign.
5. “Do you like my headshots? Will I need new ones if we work together?”
You might as well know now, and the answer will help you understand how the agent plans to sell you.
6. “How did you get to be so handsome and comfortable with your power?”
This one’s my favorite. I sign every actor who asks it!
A successful agent-actor meeting is one in which we interview each other. I need to decide if I want to offer you representation, and you need to decide if I’m the right agent for you. We can only work together by mutual agreement.
In a perfect world, you’ll take several meetings and end up with multiple offers. When that happens, you’ll be glad you asked the right questions, because the answers you received will help you make the correct choice.
This story originally appeared in the August 22 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.
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