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Careers Clinic: Is it too soon to dump my agent?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I was delighted to get interest from a couple of good agents on the back of my graduate showcase, and as I wasn’t performing at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was able to set up meetings shortly afterwards. I enjoyed all the meetings and three of them made me offers of representation.

Two in particular I found difficult to decide between. One was a boutique agency with a small number of clients who has done well with several actors from previous years at my drama school. The other was a bigger agency, but the agent I met with was very energetic and enthusiastic and I felt we definitely had a personal connection.

In the end she was the one I chose. We still have a very friendly relationship via email and when I call the office, but it’s been three months and I haven’t even had a commercial casting. Meanwhile, two of my classmates who signed with the other agency tell me they have had several castings each.

I am starting to wonder if I made the wrong choice. If so, if there is any point contacting the other agency and seeing if they will take me?

First meetings with agents are a lot like first dates. Everyone is on their best behaviour and accentuating the positive. After the honeymoon period, when the relationship proper gets up and running comes the inevitable return to the ups and downs of daily life.

If that day-to-day life includes a reasonable number of castings fairly soon after joining, I don’t think many actors would object. But if castings of any sort don’t materialise for a bit longer than expected, it is only human for the actor to get a bit nervous – but that doesn’t necessarily mean things aren’t working.

In my regular one-to-ones with actors, I often meet clients who tell me their agent ‘isn’t getting them work’ but when I investigate I discover they have only joined the agency in the last month or two.

The average actor’s life can involve longish resting periods whether or not you are represented. If you are regularly being submitted for castings (it is unlikely your agent won’t be doing that as it is their only chance of earning money), decent headshots and a showreel scene or two, a few months is too soon to make a long-term prognosis.

By all means enquire if your agent has any thoughts on things you could update or pursue to help your castability, but at this stage, I’d advise being patient rather than jumping ship so soon.

If the months without any castings were to stretch towards double figures, that’s a different matter. If you then put out feelers elsewhere, whether or not it is worth sending some in the direction of people you previously met will depend very much on how you left things the first time.

Nobody wants to feel like a second choice, but if you were courteous to the unsuccessful ‘suitors’ when you made your initial decision, they might be open to hearing from you again. Be very clear about why your first choice didn’t work out, because that is the question a potential new agent will be asking – in their heads if not out loud.

‘It was my agent’s fault’ is never a good reason even if true. It just makes the new agent wonder what you will be saying about them when you meet the next agent down the line. ‘My agent was good at what they did, but didn’t have the contacts for the roles that best suit me’ is a better approach. If the new agent agrees that those roles do suit you and has the right contacts, you might just be in with a chance.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

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