6 Tips on How Best To Work with Your Agent
Signing with a talent agent is a firm step forward in any actor’s career, and it’s important to know how best to work with your agent. When a talent agent signs you, it’s an endorsement. In fact, most agents are smart, talented people who are passionate about promoting art and getting worthy projects made. Agency representation tells casting directors, directors, producers and studio executives that an experienced industry professional bet their livelihood on you knowing your stuff and making money as an actor.
Talent agents take a percentage of the work they help their clients book, so they only make money when their clients make money. If a talent agent has signed you, that agent has backed you with their valuable time and the expectation you will book jobs. Here are 6 tips on how best to work with your agent so you both enjoy successful, rewarding careers.
1. Know What Agents Do
Actors sign with agents to help them land jobs and broker better paying contracts. Actors count on their agents’ broad professional network of contacts and knowledge of what projects are being made, by whom, how and when, and to submit them for auditions. Agents make sure their actors get paid, help safeguard their rights on and off set, and many agents have MBAs or law degrees. Talent agents take a percentage of their clients’ pay (generally 10% of gross for commercial, television and film work, though the more detailed the contract, the more variation there may be). In California, talent agencies must be licensed under special sections of the California Labor Code.
2. Be a Good Partner
The agent/actor relationship is a partnership, and both sides have responsibilities. Just as agents are expected to network and develop contacts, so must actors. Working actors look for projects within their own industry connections and alert their agents to opportunities they want to be submitted for or scripts they’re excited about. Actors rely on agents to know the industry.
Agents rely on actors to be available to audition or work, to continually develop their skills, expand their abilities, and to market themselves effectively in person, on casting and social media sites. Actors must keep their pictures and resumes current, their training sharp, their work reputation clean (being on time, having a good attitude, working well with others, etc.). In these ways, actors can increase their agents’ success in advancing their careers.
3. Keep in Touch
The best way to keep in touch with your talent agent is by e-mail. Whenever possible, stay off the phone with your agent. After all, you want your agent on the phone with casting directors, producers, studio executives and anyone else who might get you a job. What should you e-mail your agent about? Anything directly relevant to your career. Do you look different? Did you get new pictures? Did you book something on your own? Did you learn a new skill or take a new acting class? Do you have a show coming up? Did you meet a director, bump into a casting director, or get invited to audition for something? Are you out of town or for any reason unavailable to audition? Let your agent know, by e-mail. And e-mail your agent regularly.
Emailing once a week or twice a month is a good way to stay on your agent’s radar and keep your agent informed. Make your e-mails specific, on point and brief. Unless your e-mail is very private (and why would it be?), it’s also a good idea to cc any assistants your agent may have. Agents rely heavily on their assistants to keep their calendars and call sheets so they can stay on time, organized and on task. Assistants are your agent’s precious and valuable resource. If you ask your agent a question by email, expect the reply to come through the assistant (and likely dictated by your agent). Remember, every minute your agent spends communicating directly with you is time he or she is not getting you work.
4. Accept Some Distance
You and your agent are in a business partnership because you both hope to make more money together than you can separately. Unless you’ve also married or adopted each other, there will be little to no hand-holding, hugging or heart-to-hearts. If you need therapy, find a therapist. If you need comfort, get a pet. You have family and friends, and your agent probably does, too. Aside from time-sensitive communications about auditions or projects in production, replies within 24 hours of contact are considered prompt. Stay calm. Be confident. Trust your agent. If you feel your trust is misplaced, you might want to consider looking for a different agent. Working partnerships require trust.
5. Be Courteous
Agents are hard-working, talented people just like you, and they deserve respect. Everyone appreciates being remembered and basic courtesies like “please” and “thank you.” If your agency calls you in for a face-to-face, it’s nice to bring a small token of appreciation for their taking the time to meet with you. Equally, a gesture at the end of the year will help set a positive tone for a mutually prosperous year ahead. Agents typically go to similar trouble for their clients. Does your agent seem to make way more money than you do? That’s okay. Gifts from clients are often passed on to the hard working, low-paid assistants who take your calls, answer your questions, and bend over backwards to keep your agent focused and efficient. Stay within budget and give freely.
6. Remember, it’s Business
Acting can be wonderfully rewarding. However, the entertainment industry is an industry. Talent agents are fully aware that they are involved in a business. Business partnerships are formed and dissolved based on their strength, efficiency and productivity. If you find yours is not a good fit, it’s best to try to diagnose the problem before quitting the partnership all together. Have you communicated well? Are you meeting your obligations? Are you doing your part to further your career?
If you decide the partnership is at fault, you may choose to leave your agent and seek other representation. If that’s the case, be forthright. Changing representation is common enough. And many agents get excited about meeting an actor who’s in demand and taking meetings with other agents. Most actors can expect to change representation at least once in their careers. If your agency decides to go another way and drops you, consider it just another stepping stone in your career path. It’s also an opportunity to re-examine your expectations and how best to work with your next talent agent.