THE PROCESS OF LEAVING AN AGENT
SHOULD YOU OR SHOULDN’T YOU?
The next part of the “How do I find an agent” question is “How do I know when to leave an agent?” As I said in the previous blog the answer in theory is simple, although, sometimes less so in execution.
Here are the introductory steps:
- Honesty (Being honest with yourself AND being honest with your agent)
If we continue to pursue the premise that your relationship with your agent is no different than any other relationship in your life (familial, friendship, romantic etc.) the following holds up to scrutiny.
So…Let’s follow the trail together.
- You have not had an audition in several weeks, and perhaps only very few over a period of many months: What has taken you so long? Communicate.
- The auditions you receive are only for commercials, or very small principal roles. What has taken you so long?
- You get some auditions, but feel you are being typecast and that your agent only sees you in a limited way. What is taking you so long?
- They don’t return calls, emails or texts or at least not in a timely way. (Ex: they don’t respond to the class work you send them.)
- So you’ve sent class tapes and recent short films and haven’t heard back. Should you panic? No. A lack of response is not necessarily a sign of disinterest. However, if you send them tapes of work you're doing on your own or in class and you request feedback you are entitled to a response. You might lead with just “here's some tape of what I have been working on in class. What do you think?” Let them see that you are getting better and expanding your range. Give them a week! Don't call them two hours after you sent it asking “did you see it?” A little gentle prod after a week doesn’t hurt. If they haven't looked at it or commented on it in two weeks or apologized for not getting to it in a timely fashion then there’s your sign.
- The following hypothetical situation is not one to cause concern: You have an audition with a Casting Director and following that audition you ask your agent to get feedback for you. If your agent says “I can't get feedback”, this is not a reflection of their effort/ability in working for you. It’s almost impossible for an agent to get feedback from a Casting Director. You have to realize that you are one of 50 or maybe a 100 of actors who went up for that particular role. That means 50 agents might want feedback. If you did an absolutely terrible audition, you will hear about it. You can be assured that if you go out for an audition and there's no feedback you didn't do a horrible job. You weren't terrible. You can have at least that much of an assurance.
Ok. Now that we have compiled a list of your concerns, we understand that sitting and stewing or complaining to friends about all the above is not going to change anything or make us any happier. So…
Stop to consider for a moment that your agent is not lazy, disinterested, unprofessional or your enemy. Consider that they are very busy and may be trying their best for you, but are hitting a wall themselves trying to get you in “the room” virtual or live. Remember, agents only earn money when their clients work, ergo there is a good chance they are trying. You’ve written everything down and you are calm.
When you have a conversation with your agent: start with an email and say, “I would like to arrange a meeting with you” (by phone or virtually) “to discuss our, (operative word our) plan for going forward. Enumerate your concerns (not complaints). Do not approach an agent leading with “Why am I not getting any auditions?” This is accusatory and often unfair. This is not the way to start a conversation with anybody. It can start something like this: “I haven't had an audition in a while “what can we do together to help my career move forward? What can I do on my side? What can we do together to change these conditions?” Thus, a conversation begins.
This conversation can go several ways. Which way it goes determines your next steps moving forward.
- The outcome may be better than you expected: a plan emerges. Both of you feel recharged and refreshed. Congratulations! There was no need for those sleepless nights and feelings of helplessness. However, if a month goes by and nothing has changed, follow up with a non-accusatory reminder of your previous conversation. If there is no response or you are not satisfied with the response it is time to move on. You have given it a chance. You have done your best.
- The initial discussion may reveal that they don't seem to be terribly interested in you and you both come to the realization that it is time to end the relationship. We can all procrastinate in delivering bad news to someone. Like any breakup, they are hard to do. We all must confront and address that horrible feeling that relationships end. It is either mutual or you are the one leaving it or the one being left. It’s life. Have a couple of down days and then get up and remember your dream of a career as an actor is a noble one.
It is time to move on. There is an expression: “changing agents when you're out of work is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic”. I love that one. It's so dark it’s funny. Please refer back to last week's blog for advice on moving forward on finding a new agent. The same principles apply to finding a new agent as to finding the first one.
There's no need to drop an agent right away. You are allowed to explore other options. You are allowed to look for another agent. A lot of actors (again pursuing this relationship metaphor) think that if they reach out to or talk to other agents they are somehow cheating on their current agent. All you've done is exchanged an email or had coffee with somebody. You're not cheating on your mate. So feel free, and guilt free to pursue any number of agents, while you're still with an agency.
However, at the point discussions get serious with your potential new agent and a move may be imminent, it is at that point, you must contact your agent and say, “I’m now in discussion with another agent and or agents and I just wanted to let you know.” That may kick the relationship back into life in some way, shape or form. It's human nature to be interested in somebody that somebody else is interested in. They might try and change your mind and ask you to stay. Listen. Or they may say “I get it. I understand”. There is a high likelihood that they will keep you for 30 to 60 days (consult the contract you signed when they signed you). They may release you sooner. More likely if you have behaved honourably in the process of ending the relationship.
It's a small industry and over time, being honest matters. Being upfront matters. Short term you can get away with all kinds of stuff, but long term and over the years I've seen this stuff stick. It’s the age in which we live and how fast communication and gossip goes around. Our reputations are our livelihood. Communicate. Be honest.