The Green Room: How do you switch 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 is 58 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
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 Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured national and internationally
Dale McKenna is 25. He trained at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey, has performed in West End musicals and is currently touring the UK
Molly Muffet is 37. After graduating from uni, Molly joined the cast of a major BBC sitcom. Since then she has worked extensively on stage
Victor Winstanley is 42. His career has encompassed the National, West End, touring and regional work. He writes extensively for radio and TV
Beryl I changed from an actors’ co-op to my agent. It was a very long time ago.
Victor I’ve changed agents only when they’ve retired. I did once try a mailshot when I was in a big, successful production and my agent was doing some pretty out-of-order stuff, but of course didn’t mention that in the letters. The one reply I received told me off for disloyalty.
Albert: In 39 years, I’ve had six agents, but I’ve had my current one for the past 20 years. So I think, in the end, I got something right.
Dale Is your relationship quite personal then, Albert?
Albert It’s like any relationship – partner, friend, colleague: you have to talk. And not be afraid of being open but ask them how they would like to work.
Jenny I’ve moved agents three times. Most recently a year ago. I spent 13 years with one agent, who I found really hard to talk to. So my priority was finding someone easier to get along with. So I did – and they got me no auditions. Now I have a lovely new agent who is young, ambitious and ballsy. Can’t be a bad thing. I think I will stay put for a fair while now.
Dale I know someone whose agent is their sister. I thought it was a bad idea at first, but I’m really jealous now. There’s none of the concern that their agent isn’t working hard for them.
Victor I want to have a good relationship with an agent, but I don’t necessarily want to be close pals. I see pics on Facebook of people getting hammered with their agents and I get all anxious on their behalf.
Thomas When you have been looking for a new agent, how do you decide who to write to? Is it a blanket email or do you target specific agents? How do you know who’s good?
Victor I’ll always start with recommendations from friends when it comes to agents. Actors, to put it mildly, like a little moan when it comes to agents, so if someone is very enthusiastic about theirs that’s a really good sign.
Albert Sometimes when you look at clients on an agent’s website, you don’t recognise anybody. That tells me something.
Jenny It’s hard to remember that it’s a business and it’s your business. When agents aren’t working as well as you’d like it can be hard to let them know. Also, you feel really helpless and not in control.
Thomas I agree. Too many actors forget that they employ their agent, not the other way round.
Jenny I asked for recommendations on the q.t. from a casting director, having done a bit of research online.
Thomas Some casting directors suggest actors directly to agents. That, I presume, is a good way of getting in?
Albert When I changed agent, I’d always decided to leave before thinking about who I would go to. Then it was nearly always on personal recommendation. Writing one letter to a lot of agents is just sending out junk mail.
Beryl Generally, it’s best to do it when you’re in something agents can see, unless you have a cracking showreel.
Thomas Do you need to wait until you’re in something before moving agents? Can it be a little chicken and egg?
Dale Definitely chicken and egg. Lots of friends struggle to get representation because they aren’t in anything. But they can’t get in anything because they aren’t represented.
Molly I’m in the process of changing agents right now. I left my old agent first, which has been a little scary.
Thomas What made you do that?
Molly It seemed respectful. All the agents seem to know each other and I didn’t want to put anyone in a difficult position. I’ve heard people get into tricky conversations when they talk to other agents behind their agent’s back. It’s a bit nerve-racking though.
Albert I think they do know each other, but I’m not sure they share information about who has approached them.
Thomas What made you leave the last agent (as you have certainly had a steady stream of work recently)?
Molly My old agent was getting difficult to contact. Emails and phone calls were going unanswered. We’ve parted on good terms, though. I’m meeting a potential new agent soon. I wouldn’t have moved if I hadn’t been in a show to invite new agents to see. We’ve had good phone conversations, so fingers crossed.
Albert An actress I know left her agent recently because the agent had one client who had made it very big and he seemed to spend all his time focusing on them.
Jenny I spoke with my last agent a few times as she was so approachable, but it actually delayed my leaving because I waited for the auditions to start pouring in and they never did.
Molly I decided to make a clean break. They’d originally taken me on after another agent left and, despite their best intentions, they didn’t seem to have time for extra clients.