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Great Agent Expectations – are you expecting too much from your agent?

What can an actor truly expect from their agent? When is the expectation too high and when is an agent simply not doing enough? The answer isn't simple and here acting mentor, Charlotte Thornton, walks us through the variables to consider.

11th October 2018
/ By Charlotte Thornton

acting agents work relationship ISTOCK

A regular issue I hear from my clients is that they are unhappy with their agent. It seems, to them, that their agent isn’t doing enough. When we aren’t getting through the door we blame the person who we feel controls this – our agent. "Are they submitting us?" we ask ourselves. "Why didn’t I get seen for that part? I was perfect for it! Why haven’t they responded to my emails?" These thoughts can corrode the relationship we have with our agent, especially when we act on these beliefs. 

By understanding what an acting agent is actually responsible for, we can ensure we don’t leave a perfectly good agent. Or worse, find ourselves culled by our agent because we have been so needy and demanding, when really it was our expectations that were wrong to begin with.

Working as an agent in a cooperative agency gave me a fantastic view into the life of an agent. Agents have a manically busy day responding to the Spotlight breakdowns that come in describing what roles are required for what shows. This is their main job. But of course, not all agents get sent all jobs. Shows where ‘profile’ actors will fill the leads will go straight to those agents. Chances are, your agent won’t get a look in. That is not their fault or yours. On these occasions, the agent is dealing with the same issues you are; that, when you are new, you are a risk, and before you have a profile you are in the queue behind those with leverage. You can change agents but ultimately it won’t change your place in the queue. We need to gain leverage first.

The second misconception actors have is in thinking that their agent is also their manager and their mentor. In LA, actors pay managers and coaches to help them plan strategic moves, gain more exposure or to assess their work. They do not expect this of their agents. Yet in the UK, for some reason we do. If you find an agent like this, well done, that is gold dust. Most do not have the time to mentor you and all their other clients. And let’s be honest, they are not paid to be your manager or mentor. In fact, until any of their actors book paid work, they are working for free. This is an important fact to remember. Agents need to make money; otherwise their business won’t exist.

As actors we so often fail to have a business perspective. To think about profit, loss and that dirty word ‘money’. But if you have brought no work in, you have brought no money in – this alone may be a reason to cull you when the agency decides to trim their books. But, if on top of that, you have also made frequent demands to review your new headshots or acted frustrated at the slow replies to be put forward for this role or that, then you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position.

It would be wonderful to have a close mentor relationship with your agent. I am sure many agents would love this also: to collaborate and launch your career, but it just isn’t realistic. There is not enough time in the day or money in the bank. There are coaches and mentors in the UK now that work for actors in this way, so if you need that level of support in your career, why not outsource it? Then you can let the agent do what they do best: submitting you for work.

To gain further advice on enhancing your acting career read about my book here Talent Isn’t Enough.

Charlotte is a former West End Actress and Agent turned Career Mentor for Actors. To read more advice on enhancing your chances, buy her book Talent Isn’t Enough.

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