Being in Sync

This will be a quick column. And that’s because it’s a really simple concept I’m going to cover, and I don’t want to overcomplicate it by writing too much “about” it.

One of an actor’s primary concerns, in assembling a team, is making sure the team is in sync. Your agent, your manager, these are people who are employed as members of Team You, and they should always be working within the mission statement of your business plan.

What? You don’t have a business plan? You’d better get on that. You are running a business and before employing others to execute your mission, you need to be sure that you understand exactly what that is.

Assuming you have an understanding of your core mission and your business plan, sitting down with agents and managers to interview them as potential employees of Team You should be a piece of cake. Either these people you’re meeting with click with your business model and will work to advance your career… or they don’t and they won’t. It’s not personal. And they know that. They meet with thousands of actors over the course of their careers, and they only sign a tiny percentage of those they meet. They’re looking to partner up with actors whose missions they can get behind. So, you had better be very clear about who you are and what you’re selling before you start interviewing potential employees.

Why is this important?

Well, I was talking with a member of a recently-developed producing partnership (this particular person ran a talent agency for nearly 20 years with over 600 clients and over a dozen agents working there) the other day and commenting on an experience I had just had. An agent had called me non-stop for weeks, pitching his heart out, trying to get a meeting for his client on this project I’m casting. “You have to see this kid. He’s amazing. He’s looking for projects like this. This could be his breakout role. I know you’re looking for stars on this, but believe me, this kid will be a star. Give him a shot. Take the meeting. You won’t be sorry. Even if it’s not this project, I know you will cast him in something and you’ll come back and thank me. Please. I’d consider it a personal favor. I’ll take a meeting with the next three actors you want me to meet for representation, no questions asked. Please see this kid.” So, finally, I agreed to the meeting. I decided to involve the director of this film and two of the producers too. If he’s this great, let’s make this a big meeting. Let’s all fall in love with this actor.

Cut to: the day before the meeting. I get a call from the agent. “Bonnie, I’m so sorry.” “What happened?” “He’s passing on this project.”

What?!?

So, this agent busted his hump trying to get a meeting for this client, swearing up and down that this actor was looking for exactly this type of thing, and then, AFTER the agent got the actor the meeting, he sent him the script and told him to prep for the meeting… and then the actor said, “Not interested.” Are you kidding me?

So, in talking with that above-mentioned 20-year-agent vet, I discovered this is all too common. And, from her side of things, it’s one of the really frustrating parts of being an agent. Like, how is this agent going to be able to get another client in for a meeting with me? He and the rest of his clients now pretty much find themselves at the back of the line, when it comes to favors. And what about all of that work the agent did on that actor’s behalf, only to have to call and cancel the begged-for meeting? It has to suck.

I’m not suggesting that the actor should’ve taken the meeting anyway (although, I’m certainly not retiring from casting the second this project is over, so there is a “future potential payoff” with any casting meeting, typically), but instead that perhaps the agent and actor weren’t really in sync.

Had the agent been in tune with this actor’s mission statement and business plan (and perhaps he was, at one time, but now things have changed. A great reminder to stay in sync with your rep, rather than assuming they always know your current career goals), he wouldn’t have fought for that meeting in the first place. He wouldn’t have traded favors in order to get it, not knowing whether his client would even want to show up for it.

Now, I know it’s impossible for an agent to send every client a script ahead of time and find out whether each actor even wants to be a part of the project, prior to picking up the phone and giving casting “the big pitch” on behalf of his or her clients. But, again, that’s why it’s so vitally important that everyone be on the same page about what the “Team You Mission” is. It saves everyone time. It makes life easier.

When a casting director assembles her team of associates and assistants, she needs to be sure that these folks understand her tastes and preferences (and those of the individual producers by whom she is hired), so that members of her team can handle prereads or scan session tapes and bring the “right” selects to her.

You, as director of your company, will need to develop a level of intimacy of knowledge of your tastes and preferences — as well as your specific career goals — with the members of your team. If your agent has been given authority to pass on projects involving nudity on your behalf, that’s great! It keeps that agent from even bothering to submit you on projects where you’d have to drop trou, much less pitching you or getting you an audition and then having to decline an offer. But some actors get nervous, giving their agents too much authority. I think the key isn’t the level of authority as much as the understanding of the reasons behind making those key decisions.

For example, letting your agent know you’re through taking on co-star roles and only want to be submitted on guest star level roles is fine. But what happens when you are up for a really meaty co-star that could’ve easily been negotiated into guest star billing? Eek! A blanket policy without flexibility really sucks. So, I recommend that you do a little bit of hand-holding (not micromanaging, but hand-holding) during the first few experiences to be sure your team really does get what your goals are.

Having a manager is a great way to protect against the downside on this. While an agent may have dozens of clients, hopefully your manager only has a few. So, her attention is much more squarely on you and your goals, and she can help bridge the gap if there’s some level of disconnect between the big power agent and you from project to project.

One of the things I see actors do very little of — but something that most successful actors do quite a bit — is the “taking the rep to lunch” thing. Bring your team together at least once a year to be sure that everyone is on the same page about your career goals, your current “type,” your business model. Calling your staff together to make sure everyone is in sync is a great idea and it really helps with team morale.

So, here’s your To Do List, from this week’s column: Create a business plan, form a mission statement for Team You, and schedule a lunch with the members of your team to be sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t have a team yet? No worries. With that business plan and mission statement in place, you can bet that when you do have a team, it’ll be in sync.


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


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000848.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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