The Business of Show Biz: Don’t Call Agent, He’ll Call You?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
By Velina Brown
Q: My agent is not sending me out for things that I feel I'm right for. I recently took a class in which the teacher said one should never call one's agent and ask if they could send one out for a specific audition because they are professionals and they know what their actors are right for. I am new to the agency. I don't feel like they really know me that well yet. I've been working a lot in theatre, and they haven't yet come to any of my shows. Therefore, I don't see how they could really know my range or my strengths. I don't want to insult them, but I feel stuck. What do I do?
|Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: It is a sticky situation. When I was with my first agent, I made the big mistake, according to your teacher, of calling him about a big national commercial audition that it seemed like everyone and their Aunt Matilda was going out for except me. I asked if he could get me in. He got huffy and said no.
I, like you, felt stuck and frustrated. And I had irritated my agent. In retrospect I wish I had asked my agent at the very beginning of our relationship if he could tell me what he felt my type was and what sorts of roles he felt I was most likely to book. (I was 21 and new to film and television.) That way I would have better understood how he saw me and I could also have made sure that my marketing materials were congruent with how he felt he could best represent me. I'm not sure if that would have made any difference with him. But it probably would have been better to begin with more clarity in the first place rather than to wait until I felt there was a problem before trying to talk with him. Tip: Begin each relationship with clarity.
However, I do think that one should be able to talk with one's agent at any point in the relationship.
I feel very fortunate that now I have agents with whom I can comfortably speak whenever I like. Of course I am mindful of their time and don't expect them to just drop everything on a dime and talk to me at the very moment that I might have a question, an idea or a concern. We set up a time to talk. And we communicate with ease. It's important to be able to do that. However, I can imagine that if an agent has actors calling all day asking why they weren't called for various auditions, it would be quite irritating. And, by the way, a large percentage of actors are unclear about the roles for which they are right. So perhaps your teacher in general is correct to advise you not to call your agent about getting you into auditions, especially if you are new to acting and unclear about your type. If, on the other hand, you are experienced, know very clearly your strengths and feel like, "Hey, that's my part. I need to get in there and audition for it," then I think you could say something like, "I know you are a professional and know exactly what you are doing. I would never want to step on your toes, but I feel I would be remiss if I didn't at least try and see if you could get me into XYZ audition because I really feel I have a good chance of booking it."
Understand that they really may not be able to get you in. The casting director decides who to bring in from the photos the agent has submitted. If the CD didn't choose you, your agent cannot make them. However, if the agent didn't submit you in the first place they could possibly call the CD and say, "Hey, I have this new person I'd love for you to see." Again, the CD may say no, but it could be worth a try.
For example, I have a friend who asked his agent if they could get him into an audition and the agent adamantly said no. My friend persisted, somehow got into the audition without the agent's help and booked the job! It's too bad it was so difficult to get the audition, but it was a big booking, and my friend's persistence really paid off. He soon after moved on to an agency that is a much better fit for him.
As for you and your agent, I like the idea of the two of you, at an appropriate time, having a chat, getting on the same page together and moving forward as a team. It could be good.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.