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The Green Room: How do you approach the relationship with your agent?

Stuart Piper, Corrie McGuire and Jonathan Shalit Stuart Piper, Corrie McGuire and Jonathan Shalit, who head up ROAR Comedy talents agents

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…

Albert_Parker

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

John Pepper is 31, and for the past 10 years has worked extensively as an actor in various regional theatres, the National Theatre and in radio, television and feature film

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, RSC, in the West End and on the road

  Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays and toured both national and internationally

Jenny Talbot, 39, has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays

Beryl With honesty.

Albert I think the golden rule here is, like with any other relationship, you have to talk to each other.

Beryl I like a personal relationship, some prefer purely business.

Jenny You should never have to feel nervous about approaching your agent about anything. If you do, then something is wrong in that relationship. Remember: you employ them. I love my current agent and we speak on equal terms.

Albert Lots of young actors sign up with big agents who they’re quite frightened of.

John I treat my agent like a colleague. We work together to achieve the same end.

Beryl Yes, you shouldn’t be scared of them.

Jenny I’ve seen people absolutely terrified because their agent is watching – and not giving two hoots about the casting director with said agent.

Jon This was a reader question – the reader was nervous of calling her agent too often because she didn’t want to seem needy.

Albert I think she should be nervous of calling her agent too often. Agree with your agent what sort of contact they would like and make it work.

Beryl I think liking them as people is key. There has to be mutual respect, as with any working relationship.

Albert It’s not just phone calls. I think agents hate clients just dropping into their offices. It’s a place of work after all. Make an appointment and go and have a proper chat or drop them an email with some direct questions.

Jon The reader said in her email: “I’m worried that I am expected by some unwritten rule to make more of an effort in calling her myself, but whenever I’ve done so I always feel awkward as though it isn’t expected of me to call.”

John That’s a tricky line to walk – it really depends what you are asking them. Your agent is (hopefully) busy working for you, won’t be telling you everything they are doing for you and shouldn’t need reminding you are there.

Albert I’m pretty sure that if her agent had a nice, low-paid job to offer her, they’d be on the phone quick enough.

Jenny You put them in a position of trust really, you have to trust them to understand what is right for you in your career. Fear should never come into it.

Albert One has to remember that, given the number of clients an agent has, they probably only have two minutes a day to focus on you.

Jenny I have heard of a client calling twice a day… that is way too much.

Albert God, yes — ditch them.

Jon I’m dreadful for finding a pretext to call when I’m waiting on something. “Hi, do you think I should get a haircut? Also, any news on X?”

John I honestly rarely phone my agent unless it’s something that’s trickier to stick in an email.

Albert Absolutely. I rarely call unless I have a problem. I always email so they can deal with it when they have a moment. They call me with offers and meetings and it works fine.

Beryl I talk to mine easily, but I have been with them for years and believe they know me, and understand my needs. I don’t badger them.

Jon I’m interested in the mention of “unwritten rules” in the actor/agent relationship. Are there any?

Jenny Don’t sleep with them.

John Limit agent phone calls.

Albert And woman agents are better. They don’t take such long lunches.

Gary Let them know who you are early in the relationship. If you’re front-footed, say so.

Albert Check with them what they expect of you and what they are happy for you to do to chase work. Earlier this year an agent said to me that she expected her clients to be available 100% of the time for interviews. That would never suit me as I have a life.

Jenny And if you’re frightened of them, ask yourself why. Is it your insecurities, or is your agent a bully? If it is the latter – move on.

Gary It’s hard, though. It comes down to personality. I’m always impressed when actors change agents often. I’m too grateful. I guess it’s about personal ambition.

Albert Let your agent know what you’re up to. If they ring up with an interview they’ve been chasing and you can’t go because you’ve booked something, then they have every right to be pissed off with you.

Gary The actor who got in touch with you, Jon, needs to toughen up a bit. Being comfortable with constant judgement is a skill for an actor to work at.

Beryl I have a laugh with mine and I think that’s important.

Gary True, Beryl. They seem to like actors who can see the daft side of themselves.

Beryl Also, I do really feel they have my back, that’s what you want. And they’ll tell me if they think I’m wrong.

John Yes, an agent that has your best interests at heart is vital. I’ve heard too many stories of agents pushing clients to do stuff they really don’t want so they can get a year’s wages.

Jenny In all honesty, I spent a long time with one agent whom I felt ‘silly’ talking to; I was patronised. When I moved on finally, I realised that shouldn’t have been the case at all.

Jon I know it’s all about personal preference, but I’m always a bit taken aback when someone comes in for a show saying something like “My agent was in last night and we went clubbing until 5am” and stuff like that.

Albert Oh God yes, I know an agent who likes to hang around with his clients for hours after shows. Bit of a pain.

John Agreed, a working relationship is a good call

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