The Business of Show Biz: Change Agents
Thursday, April 10, 2014
By Velina Brown
Q: I've been with my agency for almost three years now, and I'm not very happy with it, but I don't know what to do about it. I like my agent on a personal level, but I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere in my career. I'm a nonunion actress with a theatre-heavy résumé, and trying to beef up my film credits. I thought having an agent would get me seen at more auditions than I could get on my own, but as the years have gone on that just doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I don't get sent out on many auditions at all, at this point maybe one every month or sometimes longer. I know a lot of people say you need to go in and essentially "stalk" your agent so they remember you, but I've never really been that sort of personality; plus I work two jobs just to keep myself afloat, so free time is an issue. I update them all the time when something happens, like I'm in a play or created a website, but I still get nothing from them. I'm wanting to back out of the theatre scene a little and do more film so I can create an exciting body of work, and I'm wondering if I should just find a new agent altogether. How does one do that? Do I submit to audition for a new agency and go from there? I don't want to burn bridges either, so I don't even know how to bring that conversation up with my current agent. Any advice?
Actor and career consultant Velina Brown
A: I think your very first step is to request a meeting with your agent to touch base, assess how things are going, and ask them if there is anything more they need from you. Let them know you feel that things are slower than you expected and ask if things have been slow in general, if the frequency of auditions from their perspective seems typical for this market and your type. Perhaps they feel they could do more for you if you took certain steps such as update your headshot, take an on-camera class, do regular mailings to casting directors, etc. I don't think you have enough information at the moment to make an informed choice about whether the relationship with your agent should end. Let them know that any feedback and advice they have for you will be much appreciated, and mean it.
"Stalking" your agent is not the way to go. They (hopefully!) are too busy to be dealing with actors calling them or showing up to talk to them constantly. If you have a specific reason to contact them, then by all means do so. They are a part of your team, and the lines of communication need to be open at all times. However, if you don't really have anything important to talk about and you're just hanging around to "stalk" them, they will quickly tire of this and will end up having the uncomfortable task of asking you to stop wasting their time.
You mentioned that you have two jobs and don't have a lot of time. Is it possible that you don't really have time to audition? If they started off setting up auditions for you that you couldn't attend, that may have affected how much they send you out. Again, clear communication is very important. If there are certain days or times that you are not available due to your heavy day job schedule, let them know what they are. Don't have them working on sending you out for an audition that you can't attend because it's on a Thursday and you are not available Thursdays. If you are not available on certain days or times, "book out" with your agent, meaning let them know you are not available or already booked at those times. That way they are only spending their time submitting you for projects that you are available to audition for and accept if you are cast.
If your schedule is too difficult to work around, you may need to work on getting a different day job so that you are more available for film and television opportunities.
Again, this is all speculation. There is no substitute for talking with your agent and clarifying the situation before you make any decisions about your future with them.
Remember it's a partnership. Too often actors think that all they have to do is get an agent and then all the jobs will come rolling in. Actually you still have to hold up your end of moving forward your career.
Have a good talk. Be open to feedback. Then see what the next step needs to be.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.