“When should I leave my agent?” This is a question I receive often from actors. I’ll do my best to offer my perspective because it’s a great question.
First, actors need to understand and realize that they are entering into a business partnership with their agents. And like any business partnership, there has to be a constant exchange that occurs between the two parties. In the partnership between an actor and agent, the actor is the one who needs to put in more work. Some actors expect the agent to do ALL the work for them. And these same actors sit back and complain that their agent is not getting them out enough or not getting them out at all for auditions.
Remember, when you book an acting job, you typically receive 90% of the pay and your agent receives the remaining 10%. So just these percentages alone should clearly indicate that you are the one who is driving your career bus. You are the driver. You are the one that is in charge of developing the relationship with your agent. You are the one that is in charge of sharing your dreams, your business plan, your goals, your hustle, your materials, etc. to your agent. It is your responsibility to keep the exchange in this business partnership alive and exciting.
Some actors do not do that. They don’t navigate their own journey and expect the agent to do all of the work for them. And in this day of technology, social media, insta-fame and insta-celebrity, people want things YESTERDAY. I want to be a star YESTERDAY. I should be working YESTERDAY. And so when an actor signs with an agent, some want to jump ship if their agent doesn’t produce results in a month! I’ve known actors who have jumped ship after being with a new agent for a few months. I’m like: What the fuck?!
It’s like those actors who jump from acting class to acting class and expect to receive a fully-realized education and experience in a few months. “I’ll take scene study for three months here and then I’ll jump into this on-camera acting class for four weeks.” I’ve had actors ask me what they can get out of a scene study class in two months. What the fuck?! It doesn’t work like that. When you enroll in an acting class, you need to commit time to it. You have to let the teaching work. It takes time, commitment and application to really get a handle and understanding of a particular acting approach. Your career is a marathon race. Your career is a life race.
Look at it from this perspective: Are you going to enroll in a gym and expect the long-term results you’re seeking to achieve in one month? Are you going to declare a college major and expect to master that discipline in a few months?
So, why do some actors jump ship so quickly when their new agent hasn’t secured an audition for them in a month? Give this relationship time. The agent is learning about you. They are learning about where you fit and belong. They are learning about your strengths. At the same time, you have to be present in this exchange and make them excited to have you on board.
So, going back to the original question (“When should I leave my agent?”), my personal advice is:
*Leave when you have been with your agent for a year and have exhausted every single avenue to get yourself out there. Meaning, in the year that you’ve been with your agent, did you do everything to update your headshots and reel; to be in an acting class; to utilize social media as a way to build relationships with industry people; to create evidence for yourself that you can share with your agent and the world; to give your agent a list of shows you can be on right now; to pitch you for projects in production or in development; did you ask them what they need from you; etc.
When you have done everything in your power to build this relationship in a year, then you can leave. You’ve exhausted every avenue.
And look, I know that some agents are better than others in terms of their ability/clout to get their clients into the door. I totally know that. Some agents have better/great relationships with casting directors and other industry people. So I know that all agents are not created equally. But don’t jump around from agent to agent when you haven’t done your part to build the relationship first and foremost.
Also, leave if your agent is hostile or unsupportive. If the atmosphere is hostile and unsupportive, leave. But you should have already sensed that from the first meeting with them. You’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You know in your gut if something is not a right fit. I remember meeting an agent–who on paper–seemed like a great fit. But as soon as I stepped into their office and met them, I could feel this was a hostile environment. When we talked, they had a hostile point of view about how an agent-actor relationship should work. They believed that an actor shouldn’t tell an agent what to do, they shouldn’t ask an agent to pitch them for things, etc. Basically, the agent runs the show and the actor is the passenger with no voice.
I clearly was not down for that. I’m looking for collaboration. I discovered during this meeting that the agent was a former actor and I understood why they were hostile: They had a failed purpose with acting and they were taking it out on other actors. No thank you. I was out the door for that agency.
Sometimes, when an actor has momentum and trajectory, they leave their agency for another one that can open bigger doors for them. If you are booking a certain level of work with one agency and find that you’re stuck on that level for a while–and that agent can’t get you bigger auditions–then you can set your sights on a higher-level agency that can get you bigger auditions and opportunities. So, as your career progresses and gets bigger and bigger, you can move up to an agency that can handle that higher level and caliber of your career status. So if you’re stuck in co-star land and want to graduate to guest star, recurring guest star and series regular status, then look at a higher-level agency that can get you those auditions. Just make sure that you leave your current agent cleanly, with a sense of integrity and ethics. Express gratitude to them for getting you to this level and now you’re ready to go with another agent who can get you to a higher level.
So my advice is to leave after you’ve done everything you could to build that relationship in a year’s time. Or leave if the environment is hostile and unsupportive. Or leave when your career evolves into a higher status and you need a higher-level agency that can support that status.
See you next week! Maybe next week’s entry will be another video blog!