In my first column in this series on agents and managers, I asked you to feel free to fire off any rep-related questions you might have. Here’s a selection of emails that represent the types of questions I most frequently received, along with my answers.

I have a question that goes along with your current topic on agents and managers. Is it necessary for agents and managers to have an actor’s Social Security number when an actor signs a contract for representation? I can understand an agent needing an actor’s Social Security number, but since managers “aren’t allowed” to pitch clients for projects, wouldn’t that mean managers can’t “obtain” employment for their clients? If that’s the case, managers shouldn’t need an actor’s Social Security number, right? As always, thanks for your insight.

You are absolutely right! A manager does not need an actor’s Social Security number. Technically, even an agent doesn’t need an actor’s Social Security number unless the representation contract includes power of attorney and payment authorization. In that case, agents are authorized to sign performer contracts on the actor’s behalf and collect payments for the jobs. After that, the agents will send the actor his or her payment minus agency commissions. Technically, the only people who need your Social Security number are those who work in the payroll department of the production companies that hire you. This, of course, assumes that you are working as an independent contractor and not a loan-out of your own LLC or Corporation (in which case, they would need your company’s Federal Tax ID number).

How am I to find a new agent without my old one finding out I am looking and firing me? I have deleted the agency’s contact info on my resume and I’ve covered the logo on my headshots, but I still worry the new agent will contact the old and my goose will be cooked. All they have to do is look it up on any website if they really want to know who is repping me.

First, let me correct you on a concept in your first question. Your agent cannot “fire” you because your agent is your employee. Of course, I’m certain you’re concerned about being “dropped” once the agent learns you’re shopping for other representation. I wouldn’t worry about that. The fact that you’re looking to leave your agent tells me that you’re already dissatisfied with his job performance. Assuming you’ve already held a meeting to discuss ways in which you’d both be happier with the relationship, I don’t think being “found out” should concern you. Perhaps you’re of the mindset that “any agent is better than no agent.” For one thing, I simply don’t agree with that concept. Secondly, I doubt that any agent is going to call your soon-to-be-fired agent to check on you, thus revealing your activities. Every agent knows that actors move on from time to time. If a new agent is interested in meeting with you, he is far less likely to contact your current agent than he is likely to contact you, for a meeting.

Is it possible to fire your across-the-board agent in only one area? I am basically happy with my agent in two categories. I just can’t imagine getting a new theatrical agent without suffering repercussions in the other departments at what will then be my “old” theatrical agency.

Ooh, that’s a tough one. First, consult your contract(s). If you have signed only ONE contract with the agency, covering you in all three departments, you may have to terminate the entire contract and then hope to get re-signed theatrically. Check the exact terms for severability in the contract itself. I know, that’s a big risk. If the contract is departmentally severable or if you have signed three separate contracts, you should technically be okay to terminate one of them but not the other two. Of course, what is “technically” true may not cover what actually happens, within the agency. There absolutely could be a little “shelving for punishment” that goes on. The best way to avoid that is with a series of meetings with the heads of the departments in which things are going well. Let them know that this has been a tough decision, but that you hope they’ll continue to enjoy your partnership. Make them your allies in this decision, before it’s official, and hopefully you’ll minimize the damage. If you have a great manager, utilize her help in smoothing things over. Remember, all anyone wants is to earn a commission on your work. If you keep the money coming on in at any department of the agency, they’re not going to “punish” you for long.

I’d love to see some ideas about “How to stand out from the crowd when submitting.” I’m a type that most agencies and managers have lots of. What do I need to do to make them want to put their time and resources into me–and not all those others? I’m already doing the standard things: struggling to build a reel (which is harder than it sounds), networking, acting whenever and wherever I can, etc. But I always feel like if they have a choice between the late 20s leading man type with a thin on-camera resume and the late 20s leading man type who’s a known quantity, they’d be fools to give me a second look unless they had some way of knowing that I can hold my own against the known quantities. Naturally, I want to overcome that (or become the known quantity) but I don’t want to resort to gimmicks.

It’s absolutely true that most agents will go for the “known commodity” and not for the “thin on-camera resume” actor. If your resume is light, I wouldn’t even begin to focus on trying to sign with an agent yet. Even if you found an agent who was eager to sign you, you may find yourself not getting out any more frequently than you already do on your own (or even less frequently than you already do, since you’d begin to assume you were being submitted by the agency and stop self-submitting). Get some on-camera experience by doing student films, taking on no-pay or low-pay gigs that offer copies of the footage as a bonus, and working with fellow actors who are in the same boat to develop on-camera projects with the objective of increasing your experience and deepening your relationships. You are right, there is no gimmick that will help you get an agent before the time is right. If your resume isn’t strong enough for you to compete with professional actors in your market yet, focus on beefing up your resume before you focus on getting an agent to look at it.

Thank you for your wonderful article. I am actually in the same situation right now. My relationship with my manager is terrible and I want to “cut ties” now. The problem is that I signed a three-year contract. Do you know of any way I could get out of the contract? Thank you for your time.

The contract in use by members of the Talent Managers Association and the National Conference of Personal Managers includes an annual “out clause.” If your manager is not a member of the TMA or NCOPM, there may be no such clause, and that would mean you might not have that option. Talent managers are largely unregulated, which is part of the appeal behind starting up a management company. All the more reason to be sure you sign with a manager who has “been around” for a while and/or who is a member of one of the two national regulatory groups. Then, at least, you can be assured that your manager is held to a certain code of conduct. Obviously, you’ve already signed (and are unhappy with your relationship), so I’m directing that last bit of advice to those who are choosing a manager. You, on the other hand, should review your contract to see if you, too, have a termination clause (read: list of justifiable reasons for either party’s decision to terminate the contract prior to its end date) somewhere in there.

Now, I know there are actors out there who have successfully terminated management contracts before the end of the three-year term (even in non-regulated management agreements). So, I’m going to ask that those of you who fall within that category write in and let me know how you were able to “dump the dud” while remaining within the required elements of your agreement. Let’s hear it! I know that phrase, “Every contract is breakable,” exists for a reason.

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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/000370.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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