We started this series last week with How to Fire Your Agent. Now it’s time to look at When To Fire Your Agent (or Manager). Next week, we’ll head into territory like What to Look for in Representation and finally The Difference Between Agents and Managers (and When You Need a Manager). In order to know the best reasons to fire your agent, let’s eliminate the not-so-great reasons.
When to Keep Your Agent
Many actors feel as though their agent deserves a pink slip when they’re not getting out enough. Depending on where you are in your career (just starting out, only recently joined SAG, working regularly as a television co-star, beginning to get guest-star roles on TV and going out for leads in feature films, appearing as a recurring character or series regular and hoping to have your own movie produced), the importance of “getting out” for auditions varies. At some levels of your career, you will book work without having auditioned at all, or by going straight to callbacks. So, the fact that your number of prereads drops could have nothing to do with your agent and everything to do with where you are in your career.
When to Put Your Agent on Probation
What if your rate quote is not improving? What if your billing has remained the same on the last few projects you’ve booked, despite an increase in the size of the roles? These are certainly decent reasons to consider dismissing an agent, but they’re probably even better reasons to have a face-to-face with your agent about goals, priorities, and a timeline for achieving the prioritized goals. Remember that point from last week’s column on how to fire your agent:
First, be sure you’re ready to fire your agent and that the relationship is irretrievably broken. If there is hope for the partnership, consider a “warning” of some sort and then provide enough time to check for improvements upon existing issues.
This is where you put your agent on notice that there are some career issues you’d like to see him handle differently. Remember, your agent (manager, publicist, etc.) is your employee. So, just as you would meet with an employee of yours in any other business in order to strategize better job performance, you should do that with your agent or manager and then provide a timeline for assessing progress, naming as many benchmarks for success as possible. For instance, if you have indicated it’s time to get more aggressive about a bump in your quote, another few negotiations with producers on your behalf should yield that bump. If you’ve booked several jobs and still seen no bump in quote (and if your agent isn’t specifically addressing the reasons why your rate is staying the same, job after job), you can assume your agent didn’t take that warning meeting seriously. What do you do next? See last week’s column on How to Fire Your Agent.
When Your Agent Doesn’t GET You
Okay, what if your agent is consistently submitting you incorrectly? Failure to submit appropriately includes (but is not limited to): consistently sending you out on nonunion auditions when you insist upon working SAG-only, setting you up for auditions on alcohol or cigarette ads when you refuse those types of products, and submitting you on roles that require nudity or simulated sex when you have made it clear those types of roles are off-limits. Assume you’re pitched for a role that includes several things you refuse to do. Let’s say it’s a nonunion role in which you’d have to smoke naked (and you just happen to be a SAG actor who refuses to do nudity and who is very anti-smoking). Your agent pitches you in a way that makes you seem like the perfect fit for this role. The casting director is thrilled! And then you either no-show the audition appointment because you learn about all of the above issues beforehand, go on the audition and feel appalled at what you’re being asked to consider doing (even though all of this was disclosed to your agent ahead of time), or go on the audition and do your best but then refuse the role if offered (since it goes against so many of your personal “NO List” items).
What about being chronically submitted for roles within the wrong type category? That absolutely “counts” as an indication your agent doesn’t GET you! In fact, the chronic inaccurate submission by type is probably the most frequent symptom of this particular problem. And if you don’t think it’s a big deal, consider it from the casting director’s perspective. You’ve heard many, many times that casting directors are frequently miffed about actors who self-submit using headshots that don’t properly represent them. Okay, so if it’s an agent on the other end of a phone, pitching an actor in a way that is in any way off-kilter, you can imagine that we are just as annoyed (and we may take that fact out on your agent, you, or both of you). Since we can’t be sure whether you’ve been asked to be pitched for roles that don’t suit you (either based on type or level of experience) or your agent doesn’t get you, we may have to assume it’s you who doesn’t know your dominant type or the size of role you’re ready to take on. An agent’s unwillingness to address this sort of issue is a really good reason to dump that agent.
When Your Agent Has Shelved You
First of all, how can you tell you’ve been shelved? Well, you’re going to get clues only, as no one will ever tell you outright that you’ve been shelved. Look for clues like only auditioning when you’ve self-submitted, showing up for auditions and seeing other actors from your agency having signed in, but knowing that you’re only there due to your self-submission. The reason this is a big “shelving” clue is that, obviously, you were going to be called in for this one. So, you can assume that your agent must not have submitted you, since obviously others from your agency were called in and you would’ve been called in among those actors (one-stop shopping) via the agency, had you been submitted. Instead, you only got in because you submitted yourself.
Another great clue comes from your conversations with friends in casting offices (interns, assistants, associates, the CDs themselves). If they mention that your agency never pitches you (or that your management company never “suggests” you, since managers can’t pitch), despite the fact that you’ve told your reps that you have an “in” at their office, that’s a big flashing neon sign. There’s an actor I have cast twice in three years. I’ve auditioned her a half-dozen times beyond that. Never once did she come into my sessions because of a submission from her reps. She either self-submitted through ActorsAccess or I called her in directly. When she told me she had even asked her manager specifically to be on the lookout for my breakdowns, we knew something was amiss. (Oh, and it turns out this manager wasn’t subscribing to the breakdowns at all. That’s a red flag for before you’ve signed with someone, an issue we’ll explore further next week.)
When Your Agent Is MIA
Some actors have told me how frustrated they become when their agent or manager is unreachable. It is certainly a sign that your rep has split focus or higher priorities than you when there’s a significant failure to return your phone calls in a timely fashion. Of course, “timely fashion,” can vary based on your relationship and the urgency of the topic of your phone call. And absolutely, there are actors who will call their agents and managers far too frequently or during the worst possible times of the day. Still, your representative is your employee and if you always only get voicemail when you call, you have to imagine that the casting directors are probably getting voicemail too. Even if there’s a “casting contact only” cell phone number left on the outgoing message, that’s still an extra phone call casting directors are having to make in order to reach out to you. If we’re trying to book you, but can’t reach a human being, we may simply go to the next name on the list (especially on a rush job). Over time, we learn which agents and managers are readily available to us. Since it’s already a significant amount of work to book an actor on a project, we may simply disregard agents who provide further obstacles to making that happen.
When It’s No Longer the Right Relationship
Someday, you may need to “move up” to a more powerful agent. Yay, you! Of course, saying good-bye to an agent or manager who helped get you to this point in your career is never easy. Assuming your relationship has, thus far, been positive, an agent or manager who knows that he or she doesn’t have the powerful connections to help launch your career to the next level will absolutely understand that you need to move on. Some agents will even help you transition to the “big guys.” But since most representatives would prefer that you, in your poised-for-major-success position, help them reach another tier of relationships by being their “calling card” for bigger casting directors, it’s more likely that this decision will be met with significant disappointment. Be prepared for this. Take good care of those who have taken such good care of you, when you were having a tough time even getting in front of casting directors. And, know that everyone loves a “thank you,” come acceptance speech time.
Once you begin to understand the best reasons to leave an agent or manager, you will be better-equipped to determine what to look for when you are interviewing potential agents and managers. And that’s what we’ll get into next week.
Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form before you approach your dream rep? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000369.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.