Here is my (light-hearted) look at actors’ most common complaints about their agent.
1. My agent has too many clients
When I started my agency, I had grand designs to represent just 10 to 20 clients, which I did for over year. But the reality was that the phone didn’t ring enough. Not enough information passed through our office. There is of course another extreme – your agent could well have too many clients – it’s a constant juggling act we ourselves assess ongoing. But, when judging how many clients the agency you are with has, also add into the equation how many staff they have.
We at Cole Kitchenn are a team of seven, on the acting division alone, and have additional staff throughout the ROAR Group for other areas like music, broadcasting (non scripted, presenting), branding, PR, literary etc. An agency could have fewer clients than us, but just 2/3 staff, and still have a higher client to agent ratio. Ultimately, I would recommend reviewing your relationship based on your own experience, rather than guesswork of how many overall numbers you can see on a website. Only last week, a job came in for one of my clients Louise Jameson to star in a BBC drama over Christmas, and we managed to secure the role of her daughter for another of our clients Charlie Clemmow, before the role even went out on breakdown. Multiply this ten-fold, and you start to see cross fertilisation that you would otherwise not.
2. My agent has too many people like me
Well indeed if your individual agent personally has 10 actresses who have red hair, graduated from RADA, are short, overweight, from Newcastle, with a lisp, then there is a clash issue to discuss. But actually, when an actor sees several other people on an agent’s books in the same ‘casting bracket’ it’s rare that there is a true conflict that leads to one client or another losing out on possible work. An agent doesn’t want to be selling two people at once, it’s not in his or her agent’s interest. But if you have two clients who are extraordinary in subtly different ways, chances are casting directors will usually bring both in if they are both right. And are any two people identical?
3. I can never get my agent on the phone
If this statement is true, then there indeed may be a problem. But if it’s that you can’t always get your agent on the phone, you should ask yourself several questions. 1. When you don’t get your agent, but instead you get the assistant perhaps, is your enquiry satisfactorily dealt with? If it is, then you shouldn’t necessarily begrudge not talking to the agent. 2. If it is important to talk to your agent, did you express that when asking to speak to him/her? That could affect your success. 3. Are you calling too much? Some actors find an excuse to call every day. Work out how many hours a day your agent would lose if every client called once a day for a five-minute conversation.
That is time that could be spent finding you a job.
4. My agent never comes to see me in anything
Again, if this statement is true, then there is indeed a problem. We pride ourselves in covering all that we can, and wherever possible bringing a helpful guest. If you find yourself in this situation, ask your agent why they haven’t come to see whatever you wanted them to, and listen to their reason. If it’s fair, give them the benefit of the doubt, if it is not, perhaps the time to reassess has arrived.
5. My agent puts me up for the wrong roles
Ultimately, you have to trust your agent’s judgement, and believe that they know how to sell you, otherwise you have a core problem. Often, conflict arises when a client believes they look younger perhaps than the agent is suggesting them for. Raise the debate, of course, but remember that an agent is on the outside and is better placed to judge how you appear to the outside world, than you yourself are – that is, if you trust you are with a good agent.
6. My agent doesn’t get me feedback
This is a common one. I always ask for feedback at final stages of castings for theatre (when there are multiple rounds), and only ask in earlier rounds if there is a specific reason: perhaps we are monitoring the progress of a new client, or they’re trying something new. But if we called for feedback on anyone who ever auditioned anywhere – the casting directors would have no time to do anything else, and start to not take our calls!
7. My agent calls me too much
OK, that’s never been uttered by any actor, ever.
8. My agent pays me late consistently
For this, there is no excuse. Change your agent.
9. I’m worried my agent wants to drop me
I think if you’re asking the question, perhaps you know something is up – so assess what it is and try and fix the relationship. Be wary of raising issues too often, as it might risk bringing matters to a head before you want them to. Remember, the agent signed you in the first place, and no one wants to be seen to fail, so chances are, if you’re still there – that’s a sign that the game is not over.
10. My agent is writing a blog on The Stage, but I haven’t got a job yet, so can he get back to work please?
Hmm. This may be fair. Having imparted just a little advice today, I must now get back to my day job. Until next time!