First, let me say thank you so much for your advice on Actors Access. It is really helpful. I also read Self-Management for Actors and it has become somewhat of a handbook for me which has been REALLY wonderful. I recently read your article on Agents vs. Managers and I’m still looking for some advice on my current situation.
A couple of months ago, my agent suggested that I think about taking on a manager. She said she really liked me and thought that if I added a manager to my team I could really go far and there was a manager that she had in mind. I told her to go ahead and pass my info on to the manager. That manager ended up not being as interested, but she had another one that was so I met with that management company. It sounded like a lot of what they did for actors was to help them in creating a business plan, field questions, provide resources on casting directors, workshops, classes, help with getting an agent, and encourage postcard submissions, etc. However, I had been doing all of that on my own and had been pretty successful.
I’m a pretty aggressive, diligent self-starter, I already had an agent obviously, had booked four TV co-stars in under a year of landing in Hollywood, knew how to send postcards regularly, etc. So what I was really hoping for was to expand my network in such a way that I would have a manager that was pushing me and helping to get me into doors that my agent or I could not by sending out packages on my behalf, email blasts on my behalf, helping me to get general auditions with select CDs, etc. They assured me that they would be doing that as well as teaching me “what I don’t know I don’t know.”
So I thought, hey, it is a worthwhile investment. I did not sign a three-year contract with them yet. They had me sign a much simpler contract simply stating that I would give them 15% and they said that they usually wait a couple of months before having their clients sign the three-year deal (I would assume to protect themselves, which inevitably protects me as well). Anyway, over the past few months they have advised me in some new headshots and I have utilized them as a sounding board, but that’s about all. I don’t feel that they are pushing me in any other capacity and in the arenas in which they excel (business plan, postcards, etc.), I already know to do that stuff on my own. And I also don’t feel they’ve showed me anything I didn’t already know in any other capacity yet.
Then recently I booked a recurring role off some work I had done on a show before. It’s a pretty big show. Anyway, at this point the manager pretty much just passes info on to me from my agent, which to me just seems redundant. And they aren’t ready to publicize outside of telling me to send postcards (which I already know to do on my own). In fact I feel I would need to hire a publicist to do the publicity anyway if the role turns into something big enough to warrant it. Here again, they would simply be a sounding board. And 15% of what I am making on top of the 10% for my agent feels like a lot for a resource that is simply a sounding board.
As I looked at your article, I feel I am somewhere between “In the Beginning” and “In the Middle.” The recurring role I’m doing right now could turn into something huge, but then again, with this business, I could do another episode or two and then you never see me again. You never know. I haven’t quit my day job yet just because it’s so flexible I can even do it while I’m on the set and until I get a more solid contract I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch.
So my question is, should I fire the manager before signing on for a full three years with them just letting them have the 15% of the money I’ve made over the past couple of months and cut my losses now? The business investment doesn’t seem worth it to me at this point; however, I wonder if I would be missing out by firing them too soon to see if they would be helpful as my career continues to move forward.
Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much!!!
What a great email! Okay, this is one of those Your Turns where I’m gonna do a lot of “it depends”-ing. These issues are so specific that to generalize is slightly unfair to the exact experience you’re having. I mean, perhaps the current experiences you’re having with your manager are temporary and you happen to be with a serious powerhouse of a management firm and they’re just not pushing your career forward yet (but there’s heat coming off you just because their logo is on your resumé). Or, maybe this is a “starter manager” and your career is already a tier (or more) above where they could even hope to get you. From the way your email reads, I would assume it’s a case of the latter (but what if it’s not! Ack! How could I know for sure?) and that your hesitancy in even wanting to sign with a manager at the onset was evidence of your instincts trying to protect you from being stuck with someone whose reputation you’re going to buoy, just by being on the roster.
So, let’s assume that you’ve done enough research to know that you’ve put someone on your team who isn’t really doing you any favors (either as the “I can open doors for you” manager or as the “I can guide you with a business plan” manager). Of course, that begs the question: Why would you take on a business partner like this to begin with (even without a three-year deal)? And the answer I get from reading your email is: Your agent.
I’m guessing you adore your agent and you have the type of relationship with her that if she says, “Go meet with this manager,” you’re going to do it, even if you don’t agree that it’s someone you need on your team at this time. Okay, so this brings up the whole TRUST issue (and, if your agent finds great value in adding a manager to your team, maybe she’s seeing your career from a POV where that need is obvious). But perhaps your agent would’ve been just fine with hearing you say, “I took the meeting — and the one after that with the other manager — and it’s just not a good fit for me. I’m really good at self-managing. Let’s stay the course.”
So, assuming that your thoughts of leaving this manager are not a case of you giving the relationship too little time to prove itself as valuable, let’s move forward with a look at pros and cons to ending the relationship. Again, this will all be very general advice, since I don’t know who your team is made up of (and the reputations of those team members could change everything, in terms of what I’d advise you to do now).
You’ve booked work on your own since getting to LA. You will continue to book work on your own. You are a known commodity and casting people who have put you on sets before will continue to do so. We like working with the people we’ve worked with already and, as long as you keep doing good work, you’ll see more recurring gigs in your future. So, regardless of your agent, manager, or any other team member, you’re going to work. It’s already happening.
An agent or manager is an employee you put on your team when you need a tier shift. Eventually, there will be rooms you can’t get into without an agent’s pitch or a manager’s push. When actors are looking to meet with and sign with representatives, I advise them to research the agents’ and managers’ ROSTERS on IMDb-Pro. If their current clients are actively getting in and booking at casting offices you haven’t been able to get into on your own, then these are very likely good folks to add to your team. If you would be their “star client,” you might want to consider looking elsewhere. You’re employing them to help you move forward… not to give them the ability to get all of their newbie clients into rooms you open the door to.
Since the manager with whom you met hasn’t really delivered on anything beyond advising you regarding steps you could take to self-promote and self-manage (things it sounds like you were already skilled at doing before they joined your team), I can’t imagine wanting to sign on for three years of that level of “management” when you should probably be reaching higher (up beyond the next tier) for the right manager for where your career is headed. Of course, that new high-end manager might advise you to trade up on your agent too… and maybe that’s what your agent was trying to keep from happening, by getting you locked in with a manager at her level.
Again, I’m assuming a lot and generalizing even more. The bottom line is this: If you’ve assembled a team you trust, then TRUST the team. And if you’ve assembled a team you thought was grand when you were just starting out but that you’ve now outgrown, be ready for that tough conversation and move on up. No agent or manager thinks she’ll have a client FOREVER. If she’s doing her job right, you WILL outgrow her services and move on to “the bigs.” Not sure whether you’re there yet, but it’s certainly something to explore.
Good luck! Keep me posted on how it goes for you, whatever you decide. And congratulations on the recurring. That’s awesome!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000745.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.