I have a concern about agents and managers.

It comes from a disturbing trend I keep hearing about.

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Agents and managers are providing their clients with a list of CD workshops the actors must hit, in order to get on the radar of the casting directors.

That, alone, is not what’s disturbing.

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What’s disturbing is that this is being explained as “the only way” to start a relationship between actor and casting director. That it’s being required by agents and managers who are no longer engaging in the Hollywood granddaddy of relationship-building: the two-martini lunch.

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Now, there certainly *are* agents and managers who suggest actors do CD workshops to get in front of meticulously-targeted buyers in addition to doing some hustling of their own, which includes “the two-martini lunch” type stuff. Of course!

I’m not talking about those reps.

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I’m talking about this new wave of slack-rep, this lazy agent, this “Coffee Bean manager.”

Once upon a time, there were reps who trucked all over town meeting with casting directors, taking us to lunch (with or without martinis), calling us to introduce themselves and their rosters… there was relationship-building going on at THIS LEVEL because it could only help EVERYONE.

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When I traveled to Sydney for the first time — with a group of a dozen LA-based casting directors — I was the only one who booked her days off end-to-end-to-end with brunches, coffees, lunches, happy hours, and cocktail hours with agents and managers. I was like one of Tyra’s aspiring models hopping in and out of cabs as I zigzagged the city going to as many agency offices as possible.

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I wanted facetime with these people I would certainly continue to do business with, in my casting career. I never wanted to have to “cold call” an office to pitch a script to a name actor’s rep. I never wanted them to have to “cold call” me to pitch their up-and-coming actor on my indie project.

And that’s because I came up during the era of the two-martini lunch.

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I learned how to do my job from casting directors who said that facetime was an integral part of getting business done.

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And as I’ve seen those “second-second assistants” of 2003 (my first year in casting) go up to agent trainee and from there to partner at their own firms or to corner offices at one of “The Bigs” today, I can still get folks on the phone when I’m making an offer to one of their fancy name actors — just like they were able to get me on the phone to pitch their hip-pocketed up-and-coming actors on my first low-budget indies more than a decade ago. Why? We have relationships.

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I’m worried about this new wave of reps who aren’t hustling to build relationships with casting directors. And not just because of the undue burden being placed on actors to do CD workshops as a means of *helping* the agent or manager do his job.

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It’s because — even after the actor *has* created that relationship with casting (which is always a good idea, no matter HOW the relationship gets cookin’) — without a relationship with casting of his own, the agent cannot ever negotiate the best possible deal for the actor. Sure, he can be an amazing negotiator, but the better deal is going to go to the agent with whom the casting director has a long-standing relationship filled with such deals.

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And that affects not just the actors’ paycheck, but the agents’ commissions. Think about it.

What may seem incredibly efficient to the short-sighted agents and managers who are currently putting all the work of relationship-building on the shoulders of the actors they rep is ultimately going to bite them in the ass. Their bottom line is in jeopardy.

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So I hope this trend is just a short-lived blip in the overall history of actor representation… I hope the agents and managers who spring out of bed EXCITED to pick up the phone and pitch actors as if their rent depended on it (because it does) swing back into action — and fast — proving once and for all to those “YOU do the work of relationship-building” lazy reps out there that there *is* a better way.

The two-martini lunch system evolved during the days of the studio system and sustained for many decades for a very good reason. It works.

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This is a relationship business.

Yes, actors — build relationships with casting directors. OF COURSE. But workshops aren’t the *only* way. Not by a longshot.

And if your agent or manager is requiring you to go that route, really ask yourself whether or not your rep is a “hell yes” rep or… you know… that other one.

You’ve got this!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Heather Alexander Pache August 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I’m so glad to hear you say this. I felt the same way, but questioned my ‘newbie ignorance’ as not having enough experience; like choose to represent yourself in court. But, in this case… I’m making Hollywood mine as a SMFA Ninja. I do know what I’m doing and I know when I’m connecting with people how it’s going. Now, if Ari Gold were to ask to represent me, I might change my mind, but he’s not real and I’ve not met anyone who inspires as much confidence in my abilities in Hollywood as I have. So,… I’m game. Let’s do this!

    Reply
  2. Bonnie Gillespie Bonnie Gillespie August 26, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Heather — Good for you! Really trust your gut and keep an eye out for the right kind of creative business partner for your acting career. You’ve got this!

    Reply

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