Agencies come in all shapes and sizes. Larger, well-established West End concerns certainly have the attraction of the star names they represent, and if they offer you a place it could work for you. They will have the first look at film scripts, and the international cachet.
However, what are sometimes referred to as the ‘boutique agencies’ might also be advantageous: with them, you are likely to have direct access to the principal partners, and you are more likely to be important to them. Smaller agencies have the motivation to secure as much work as possible for their clients, for as much time as possible. They will not want ‘passengers’.
If you do get an offer, or offers, of representation, take time to think about it, and always seek advice. This is an important decision. Remember that you are entering into a business relationship, not looking for a new best friend. Of course, the best sort of actor to be is a working actor, and so the agency that works best for you is the one that helps you to keep working, irrespective of its size or location or how long it has been established.
A contract should place your business relationship on a professional basis, clearly stating not just commission rates, but also such important issues as the required notice period for terminating your agreement. Don’t be afraid of being contractually committed, but neither should you ever sign a contract on the spot. Take it away and get a second opinion, be it from another performer, from Equity, or from someone with specialist knowledge.
How often do agents hear actors complain that their agent never puts them up for anything – or that they are not seen, even though they are ideal for a part? The harsh reality is that it is a buyer’s market. You face vast amounts of competition for every job, and despite your agent’s best efforts, the casting director still might not want to see you.
If you really do feel that the actor-agent relationship is not working, the first person you should talk to is your agent! Try to work out if there has been any misunderstanding about your skills, or playing age, or photo; often such issues can easily be resolved by honest discussion.
If there are irreconcilable differences, then try hard to part amicably. It’s a small profession, and agents do talk to one another. Attempt to secure new representation before you move, but first check any obligations you have to your existing agent in terms of period of notice, or ongoing work, or work for which you have been submitted.
Always try and work with your agent. Establish how proactive they want you to be. If there are any areas of work you do not wish to pursue, make sure that you let your agent know. Always ensure that you keep your agent fully aware of your availability – weekends and holidays included.
Remember: actors face huge amounts of competition, and it’s the agent’s job to improve the odds in a client’s favour. It is a very tough profession, and experience often indicates that you have to work very hard just to be lucky.
From Actors’ Yearbook 2013
, Methuen Drama (Bloomsbury)