Hey J! Ask the Agent: Tales of the Unexpected

Hey J,

I have a meeting with a new agent – what should I expect?

Cate

Oscar Wilde said – ‘expect the unexpected.’ That’s good advice anyway, regardless of whether it’s a meeting with an agent, an audition, or just popping to Woolworths. Your meeting is unlikely to veer off into uncharted territory but thinking ahead can help you get the most out of it.

Agents’ meetings can vary; it will depend on the agent and the agency and it will, of course, depend a little on you. How much of the red carpet gets rolled out might depend on your own profile – not to mention how badly the agent wants you. It could be an informal coffee, a chat in the boardroom, or lunch in an upmarket restaurant.

If you’re interviewing at one of the ‘big’ agencies there’s a weight of history and tradition there. The offices might be particularly swanky and decked out with expensive artwork. The old CAA building at Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevard was designed by award-winning architect I. M. Pei and featured an enormous 18 foot mural by Roy Lichtenstein. Everything about it was intended to impress upon visitors the power and influence of the agency. There’s no hard and fast rules for where it will take place, but at least the content of the meeting is a little easier to predict.

Thankfully most agents meetings aren’t at all intimidating. If you’ve been invited in then it’s because the agent wants to meet you. What we really want is to get to know you. You’re there on equal terms and, remember, you’re interviewing the agent just as much as they are interviewing you – both of you are wanting to find out whether working together might be mutually beneficial.

A meeting isn’t you coming in to be chosen by us – we have to choose each other. In that sense it’s a bit more like a date than a meeting. We’re getting to know each other, finding out what our mutual interests are, seeing if we have things in common, working out whether we want a relationship or not. There’s no need for you to feel like there’s a hierarchical imbalance, or as if you have to be in any way awed or subservient.

One of the most important elements of a good actor/agent relationship is being able to communicate with each other so don’t feel like you have to nod along with everything. Have your own thoughts about your work and don’t be scared to disagree. I do think a certain element of shared taste is helpful – liking the same genres or practitioners for example, but having your own taste and your own opinions is vital. During the meeting we are trying to find out as much about you as possible. We’re also trying to get a sense of how you’re going to present in the room when we send you out to auditions; after all, how you audition doesn’t just reflect on you, it also reflects on your agent.

Be honest. You know that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai is on a first date and she pretends to be a huge fan of the great outdoors and loves hiking and fishing, all because she wants her date to like her? Yeah, don’t be like Lorelai. Be truthful about your strengths and weaknesses. You want to give your prospective agent all the information they need to be able to promote you successfully, so don’t pretend you’re a great fishing expert if you don’t know your casting spoon from your crank bait!

You will certainly find it useful to talk about the type of work you do want to do but you may also find it helpful to find out what kind of work the agent sees you doing. You may have different opinions about the path you’re going to take and it would be best to know, right at the beginning, what they’re thinking. Is there any work in particular that you don’t want to be doing? Some people may have personal reasons for not wanting to go on tour, or be on a cruise. Your politics may mean there are certain companies you don’t want to work with, there may be some mediums that simply don’t interest you. Don’t be afraid to bring this up so you’re both clear about the parameters.

It’s maybe a good idea, before you go in, to think about what kind of relationship you want. Are you someone who wants to chat to their agent on a regular basis? Do you need regular check-in opportunities? It’s worth asking about this. If you haven’t discussed this you might start to feel like Lachlan from a few weeks ago and feel you’re becoming a bit of a bother if you check in too often. It’s good to have some guidelines in place at the beginning because hopefully this isn’t going to be just one date – hopefully this will develop into a longterm relationship.

My best tip is try to be interested just as much as interesting. This is a two-way relationship after all, so be as interested in your agent and their career as you expect them to be in you.

Finally, I don’t think an agent should ever pressure you into making a quick decision. Take your time, go to some other agent meetings if you have them – you might have to have coffee with a lot of frogs before you find your prince. If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s maybe not the right fit. Keep looking.

Above all, be yourself and enjoy meeting someone as passionate about this industry as you are.

Stay connected. Stay creative.

J

Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]

JBR

JBR is a UK Talent Agent based in London. He began his career as a child performer in the 1980’s and has spent more than three decades in the industry exploring creativity and working across a number of fields. He has been an actor, a director, a writer, a designer, a drag queen, a producer, a dramaturg, a teacher, a comedy booker, a publican, a marketing manager and an agent. He runs JBR Creative Management working with a small group of multi-platform creatives. JBR's first book, published by Nick Hern Books, will be released in summer 2021.

JBR

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