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 got in touch with me a while back to tell me 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."
So 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 shot them an email instead of writing them a card (video) like I do for booked gigs.
Healthy communication can be that simple. If you're thankful for something, tell your agent! They're humans that need encouragement, too.
If you are in a good situation, and I hope you are like I am, then I want you to be proactive. We're gonna 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.
I mean outside of learning your craft and getting coaching on your talent it's like, "Where's the manual? Someone tell me!"
So 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. Say, "Hey 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 that might mean waiting until you're financially ready to get new headshots if you know it's time to update them.
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ASKING FOR AUDITION FEEDBACK
I've heard a lot of different opinions on this topic, so I'll share my experience.
I do not ask for audition feedback. I've never once asked my agent to contact a casting director for me, but I've had casting directors reach out to my agent about me for positive feedback.
Typically, if a casting director wants to send you notes, they're gonna contact your talent agent, then your talent agent is gonna send that to you.
I've also had a situation where I was in an actual casting office and one of the casting directors came up to me to give me feedback face-to-face about a particular client really liking me.
She didn't need to take time out of her day to tell me that, but she did.
They will tell you! The information will get to you, okay? Casting directors love giving actors good news or helping them reach the next level when they see potential.
When you do get that golden, rare in-person audition now-a-days, I want you to pay attention to what they're saying to you while you're in the room. That's feedback!
You may notice that casting directors are giving you the same note over-and-over again. That's feedback.
You may notice that they consistently ask you to try again without moving too much. That's feedback.
The best time for you to ask casting for feedback directly is while you're in the room. You already have them as a captive audience, but make it quick and specific.
Weak Question: Do you think I'm a good actor?
Strong Question: Do you feel like I took the note you gave me, or should I go further next time?
Weak Question: Are my auditions good?
Strong Question: Are my objectives being clearly communicated?
Weak Question: Why am I not getting more callbacks?
Strong Question: How's my energy when I walk into the room?
I think this is best done when you're in a solo audition on a low-key audition day. Avoid days when the lobby is packed. Never ask for feedback at a callback in front of a client.
Notes will go through the right channels if you need it, that channel being your talent agent, if not to you directly in the room. There's no need to email your talent agent in my experience.
Go with your gut on this, but my two cents is that I haven't asked for it, and I've gotten it.
CELEBRATE YOUR ANNIVERSARY
Are you happy that you have a talent agent? Have you heard all of the actors that don't have talent agents talk about how hard it is to get one?
Actor friend, send a gift to your agent at least once per year, okay?!
If they don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, but you know their birthday, send something for their birthday.
I think the strongest, best option is to send something on the anniversary of your contract signing.
Do you know when that is? You should still have your contract somewhere so that you can look at it.
I kept thinking mine was in July, and for the longest time I would intro my social media videos saying, "I signed with my agent in July of 2016." It was actually in May.
And I thought, "You know what? I need to go check my contract and see."
You should know where you put that contract. You should have a date on that contract.
Find that date so that for every additional year they say yes to you, you can say thank you to them by sending a gift.
Get comfortable expressing gratitude. Your gift does not need to be super expensive.
It just needs to be thoughtful.
I have an entire bonus section on gift giving for every price range (including free) in my Actor Boss Thank You Cards download.
CONFIRM OR DECLINE EVERYTHING
I'm always surprised at how often I see audition emails or postings that need to highlight a request to confirm or decline an audition.
This is a very standard practice for our industry.
Confirm or decline every single audition no matter what.
It's super quick and simple to shoot them back an email.
Sometimes you'll be instructed to decline through the system (i.e. Actors Access), but I say send your agent an email as well letting them know you did.
I declined through the system once, and my agent didn't see it, so they reached out to me a couple of days later reminding me to submit the audition.
So play it safe if you're declining through a casting system, and email your agent letting them know you declined.
Hey Actor Boss, you do not need to give a lot of detail about why you're declining. Some of the best advice I've ever gotten was to simply put "not available." Your agent will reach out to you if they're curious as to why, but even then, keep it short and sweet.
Speaking of short and sweet, keep all of your emails to the point. If your email is a paragraph, ask yourself how you can compress it down to two sentences max.
I like to add details to my confirmation emails just to make sure we're on the same page.
So I will say, "Confirmed Tues 11/12 at (Casting Office Name) 1:00pm Thanks," because sometimes the date and times don't match so they may catch that and clarify.
Also, I made a mistake once of writing a huge long email to my talent agent without giving them a heads up it was coming.
It was in reference to information security, so I should've sent them a short email asking them if I could send them more info about the topic first.
BOOKING OUT AND REMINDERS
I recently booked out for vacation, and when I got back, there was an audition email in my inbox for a SAG commercial that I hadn't responded to!
So I'm now implementing a new system.
Spurgeon's 3-Step Booking Out Process:
First, please book out and let your agent know if you won't be available to audition, even via self-tape.
If you can't go to an in-person audition, but you can self-tape, then don't book out.
I would still send them an email letting them know that you can't do any in-person auditions, but will have access to self-taping. If they forget, just request a self-tape in lieu of the in-person.
But I personally book out when I can't attend an in-person or film a self-tape.
I let them know that I'm on vacation, and I'm not working or self-taping.
Let's park here for a second. Are you okay fully booking out and stepping away from auditions for a few days? You really need that freedom to clear your mind and get away sometimes.
Are you planning your weeks and months in advance?
Because if you're not, it's gonna be hard for you to know when those book out dates are coming up in your schedule.
I try to book out at the beginning of the month by saying, "Hey here are all of my book out dates for April."
Sometimes things will happen a little closer to the date, and I'll need to book out last minute. That's ok! Just be sure to do it.
It's so crucial to let your agent know because they need to go into your casting profile to mark those dates.
That's something only they can do, at least on Breakdown Services, that actors don't have access to on Actors Access yet.
Your agent needs to fill that audition spot with different talent if you're unavailable, which makes the casting director's life easier as well.
Include a reason for booking out if you want, but keep that short, too.
USE THE BEST WORDS
Lastly, let's talk about the words you use with your agent.
We need to be generous and affirming in our conversations.
I try to say things to my agent like, "Hey here are these five new headshot options. Which ones are your favorite? I trust your opinion."
Tell them you trust their opinion. Do you trust their opinion? Because if you don't, you might need another talent agent.
I know that my agents have been in this business a lot longer than I have, and they know what's going on over on their side of the table a lot more than I do.
Sometimes, trust in your agent will get tested, like with any relationship.
I had a piece of footage rejected and that was hard for me. I thought it was a great piece of footage but they said, "Hey this isn't right, for this reason," and they explained why to me.
I said, "Okay, I trust you with that."
Your agent should take the time to provide you with explanations or feedback if they reject your materials so that you know what to do next time.
If they do reject something, don't take it too hard. Walk it off for maybe thirty minutes, then realize they have your best interest in mind because that's also their best interest.
The more your acting income increases, the more their revenue and exposure increases. Their success is dependent on yours, so they want you to succeed.
Say nice things. Affirm them. They're humans, too.
Has this helped you better understand the secret of a happy actor-agent relationship?
Comment to let me know which points caught your attention.
I'd also love to hear any additional advice you have about interacting with your agent.
If you know any actors that need to see this post, feel free to share it on social.
Do you currently have a talent agent? How long have you been with them?
The next post will be all about the one thing that is no longer a best marketing practice for actors and what you should do instead.
I'll explain why and give you lots of really good tips and tricks that you can start applying ASAP.
I'm gonna bet it's something you're not doing yet, but it will make a huge difference in your working relationships if you do.
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