How to Have a Healthy Actor/Agent Relationship
Actors often approach an agent in deep need, having invested so much into achieving their dream, desperately needing to be validated. They can see the agent as their lifeline to the industry—to their dream, even. Lost and alone, an actor looks to her agent for any sign of career life.
And when they don’t respond to an email within 24 hours, an actor’s mind spins, creating intricate narratives that start with insecurity and lead to bitterness. An actor swings effortlessly back and forth from, “She doesn’t believe in me!” to “Well, fuck her!” But of course, most of this has nothing to do with your agent. You HAVE to manage your relationship with your representative.
Here are three ways to have a healthy relationship with your agent.
Don’t need an agent.
You have to show up to any relationship on equal footing, with balance. Relying on your agent to pay your bills or to give you permission to act is insanity. It puts too much pressure on any one person and shirks your responsibility to take care of yourself. When you’re taking care of your own basic financial needs (a side-job or running a business) and you’re creating ways to act consistently (making your own work), you approach an agent without desperate need. You become more attractive to them, you give them more to sell, and you engage in a relationship as an equal, a collaborator. And the more work you’re doing proactively, the more you can expect from an agent. “Here’s everything I’m doing, what about you?”
Give an agent space.
If your agent requires 10 emails and three texts every month and a delivery of expensive donuts to their office before they’ll email you back, they’re not your agent. And it’s not worth pursuing that relationship.
An agent is only going to be helpful if they believe in you. That’s the only way they’ll work on your behalf. They have to believe that you will make them money. It’s a business, after all. If they don’t believe in you (for whatever reason), you have two options: Work on your craft and your own career until it’s at a place where they believe or leave that agent. More desperate emails won’t help.
Give them the space to prove that they want to work with you. If they ignore you, you know they’re probably not working for you. That said, your agent does get really busy. An actor on their roster who booked a series regular role that helps pay that agent’s mortgage may storm off the set in Australia and threaten to quit because of a temperamental director. You won’t be on their mind that day or week, and that’s okay. But if your agent really isn’t communicating with you, leave. Or stick around until you get a better offer. But don’t waste months chasing an agent who isn’t returning your calls.
Work harder than your agent.
Once they’ve acquired an agent, actors can think that the work of career building is the responsibility of the agent. More than ever, that’s not the case. There is so much you can and must do. So why not take all that obsessive energy and put it into doggedly pursuing your craft, making yourself the best actor you can possibly be by working all the time. Make your own work, do theater, readings, web series, student films, etc. So long as the project is not offensive or the people abusive, do it! Make contacts in the industry by doing work. And when you do the work, you give off the air of someone who is working. You make your agent catch up with you.
Your career is best served when you have a healthy relationship with your agent. Agents can’t carry the full weight of your need and do the job you need them to do for your career. Your agent is not there to make you feel safe and worthy. That’s your job. Your agent’s job is to pitch and sell you to the decision makers in the industry. And in a market this competitive, you’re going to have to give her a hell of a lot of good stuff to sell. So don’t worry about whether or not your agent really loves you. Focus on consistently doing as much amazing acting work as you can possibly do. Your agent will smell it, and she’ll be all over you!
Do the work of a working actor. Audition with power.