HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED
First, I want to explain the difference between poor communication and an unhealthy actor-agent relationship to make sure that's not your issue, then we'll dive into communication tips.
An actor friend of mine asked if we could talk one day about a strange interaction she had with her agent. She'd only been signed with her for a few months.
She said, "I think this is weird. I'm not sure if this is right." When I heard and read the really negative comments being made to my friend (that I knew were not true about her), I was shocked.
I said, "Look, you need to be done with this particular agency. You need to write your 30-day written notice. This is not just an issue of poor communication. This is straight up unhealthy."
When you have a negative feeling, or you feel like there's a red flag that goes beyond poor communication, ask other people in this business that you trust for their opinion.
You may need to make the hard decision to step away from your agency. If you're wondering, "Should I change my acting agent?" then ask yourself, "Is this interaction good for me?"
I want you to listen to that warning if you have it because that shouldn't be the case. Communication is one of the key components of an actor-agent relationship.
After hearing about my friend's issue, I immediately wrote my agency a quick email saying, "Hey, thanks so much for always looking for the silver lining and trying to stay positive. I really appreciate that. Here's what I just heard from another friend, and I'm glad that's not true for us."
That type of negative interaction is not anything I would ever expect my agency to do. so I let them know I was thankful. I'd encourage you to do the same if you're in a good situation. Healthy communication can be that simple.
If you're thankful for something, tell your agent! They're humans that need encouragement, too.
I want you to be proactive this year. Let's break down tips and tricks that I've personally used in this post.
Hey, if you don't have an agent yet, actor friend, that's okay. You're gonna get one one day. So stick with me because there's really a lot of trial and error in this business for figuring out what works and what doesn't.
Outside of learning your craft and getting coaching on your talent it's like, "Where's the manual? Someone tell me!" I want you to hear these tips and tricks about what the actor-agent relationship should look like in case you're asking yourself, "I have an acting agent--now what?"
HOW OFTEN TO EMAIL
Sometimes I hear actors talk about how often they contact their agents, and my stomach hurts because I always want actors to communicate from a place of confidence.
Initiating conversation from a place of confidence is a good way to keep the actor-agent relationship healthy. I, too, have written an email that I regretted because it sounded insecure in hindsight since it was so wordy.
Communicating from a place of power is also dependent on how often you communicate. The first tip is that I want you to send out an email to your agent maybe once a quarter.
I don't even do it that often if I know I haven't provided them with what they asked for in a prior communication. For example, I know my agent needs more film footage from me since I have a lot of commercial clips.
I sent them a couple of film clips after that request, only one of which they liked enough to use. I also recently uploaded new headshots. So if I were to contact them with the same question right now, what do you think they would say?
The same dang thing. They need more film footage! Ergo, there's no need for me to ask them again if everything is up-to-date except for what they've already requested.
When you are ready to check in with them, keep it simple. Ask, "What do you need from me right now?"
You may get feedback you didn't realize was an issue. What if they need a certain look or type of footage that you thought you'd already uploaded but isn't translating the way you hoped? You won't know unless you ask.
If you're not bombarding them a million times a week with emails, it's more likely you'll get a detailed response.
They see things differently on that end of the submission table, and good agents are aware of current casting trends that you may not recognize.
Be proactive. Don't wait on them to get in touch with you. This is your career. You check in with them, just don't do it too often.
Again, I don't want you to come across as desperate or needy. You also need to be prepared to follow through on whatever notes they give you, so communicate when you'll be financially ready to do that if it won't be soon after they respond.
ASK TO SEE YOUR AUDITION SUBMISSIONS
Avoid accusatory questions such as, "Why aren't you submitting me more?" They most likely are! If instead you ask what they need from you, it puts the responsibility back on you where it should be.
But what if they're not submitting you?
Most actors don't realize this, but you can ask your agent to send you a breakdown of roles they've submitted you for this year.
Good agents are happy to send it.
Try to make this request feel like a team effort, though. You should be looking at your submissions list to analyze that data. What types of productions did they submit you for? Which casting directors consistently turn down an audition from you? Are they submitting you for guest star roles when you don't even have co-star or U5 roles yet?
Let's say you have enough principal commercial roles to be ready for a national commercial, but you realize they haven't submitted you for any national commercial auditions. Have you communicated that goal?
It's important that you ask for feedback in a situation like this. Here's an example of how I suggest you communicate:
"Hey, I feel like I've booked enough commercials that I'm ready for a national commercial. I noticed I haven't been submitted for any. What needs to happen on my end from your perspective to make that a reality? Thanks so much for your input and help!"
You may find out that there simply aren't any national commercials filming in your area. It could be that they don't have enough of your commercial footage to submit a strong demo for you. It might be that industry trends are changing, and digital commercials are taking over in lieu of national commercials (which is actually true).
Feel free to ask for your submissions list, but make sure to ask from a place of openness that promotes teamwork.
HEY ACTOR BOSS,
I'm a screen actor and certified goals coach focused on helping other screen actors that are not yet a household name achieve their most urgent goal.