Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Pick an Agent

Tales of the Myspace Blog!
So I have about 3 years of acting blogs languishing on MySpace, boring 17 year olds (or is it 47 year-olds now? Myspace should join with the AARP). So every once in a while, rather than repeat myself, I'll simply let my genius renew itself. Enjoy

December 25th, 2006

New Agency, Nice Office

Here's my guide for young actors on what they should be looking for when meeting a new agent.
impressive client list? nope.
compatible personality? no.
Promise of getting you work. never.

Ready? Here it is.

How nice is their office.

As soon as your eyes have returned from their obligatory rolling I tell you that this is a backed up, strong technique. This theory has results.

In fact, I mentioned this question as I was taking a meeting with Ellis Talent Agency the other day. we had a wonderful hour and a half long meeting. The two agents and I were really clicking, laughing, agreeing smiling. It was a perfect first date that would end in a kiss if we weren't all married.

But let's go back a step further. My manager pitched me to this agency a while ago (you might remember my video from a previous blog) and after the predictable lag time they finally got around to watching my demo reel. The word came back that they absolutely loved it and that they wanted to meet me.

This is fair-to-pretty-good news. It means that you've reached a stage in your career that merits this agency's attention. They are car buyers and they've already done their internet homework on you and now they want to kick the tires. You usually stop by toward the end of the day, meet all the agents, chat about stupid stuff for the first 30 minutes before they grill you about your career and what you think about your potential. They let you awkwardly sell yourself (at least I do) until you run out of platitudes, credits or steam. When you're exhausted they make themselves feel good with a history of the agency and it's (perceived) successes. At the end they ask if you have any questions. You may or may not muster up some softball question to toss them just to show them that you've paid attention. After that, everyone shakes hands and agrees to contact each other at a later date.

these meeting are by no means a guarantee that they'll take you on. I've met with several agencies (including one in the same building as Ellis) that seemed to go well (or not) and end up with the agency passing. Most of the time it's pretty obvious that one or more of the agents didn't like you. At a now defunct agency called The Syndicate (dumb name), 5 out of 6 agents loved me. The 6th agent was of course the head of the agency. Guess how that turned out? Generally, you'll get a call from the agent that liked you explaining that one of the agents just didn't see how to market you, but we'll keep you on file and..........

The ones that like you will also call, generally sooner than later. Many will tell you right there that they'd like to sign you. It's flattering. In a town that doesn't want you unless you're symmetrical and young, when someone does want to take you to the dance you almost always want to say yes.

But I knew to fight that urge. It's the old axiom that you'd never date some one that actually LIKES you. In acting, there's actually validity to it, but more importantly, you need to do some of your own tire-kicking.

Such was the case with Ellis. They had tipped their hand pretty early in the courting process by telling my manager that they really, really loved my demo reel. I knew going in that as long as I didn't threaten them with bodily harm, they would offer to sign me. So now it was up to me to decide if I wanted to sign with them.

And so we're back to my agent criteria.

It's pretty simple, actually. If an agency is doing well, they'll have a nice office. Remember, they're only making 10 percent of the actor's paycheck so they need either quantity or quality. If they have neither, it shows in the decor, the computers, the location of the office. I had interviewed with those agents before and I still impulsively feel the urge to shower. You feel like you're in a haunted house and that these people are the dealers of the dead (careers). It seems like you could come back the next day and they'd be gone or the building would.

But the good agents have paid themselves, their assistants, their accountants, bought their clients holiday gifts (iPods..always ipods) and had plenty left over to carve out a temple of luxury in Beverly hills. If you ever have the time, stop by William Morris, ICM or CAA's offices. You'll see what I mean.

So at the end of the meeting the two agents looked at me. They are very nice women who I believe will work hard for me and understand my humor and acting potential. They paused for a moment before asking if I had any questions.

I shrugged looked around and replied "Well, I like your office." And that was it. they didn't know it, but I was unofficially their client. Their office was not opulent, but it was not a dive either. It was homey and in a nice building. there were new computers and a sense of decor stability (meaning that things had been there awhile). To merge my competing metaphors, I had agreed to buy the Honda Accord to take Miss Personality to the dance.

So a day later I agreed in principle to sign with the Ellis Talent Agency. My manager (no office, but works out of a nice condo)was thrilled at this lateral move for me and possible vertical opportunities for her other clients. I was happy to be done with "The Hassle" and start auditioning in January. I really hope this policy continues to work. If I'm right , then eventually my house will look 90% better than the best agency in town. If I'm not, then I'll be working at home depot, consulting agents on bathroom fixtures.

No comments: