Hey J! Ask the Agent: It’s not you…It’s me.

Hey J,

What does it mean when an agent says I don’t fit their book?

Jade.

Hiya Jade,

Well, to misquote the title of a 2009 Jennifer Aniston movie sadly overlooked by the Oscars – they’re just not that into you.

Or to be more precise, they’re just not that into you, right now. 

When I send my clients to an audition I say to them, ‘all anyone is asking is that you do the best you can in the current circumstances. You may have been better when you were practicing in your room yesterday, you might be better tomorrow morning when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, but right now, offer the best you can in this moment’ – it’s the same when applying to an agent. You offered the best you could in the moment and right now, for whatever reason, they didn’t bite. Tomorrow morning you may be offered the lead in a new Netflix series and I bet if you applied to the same agent again the response would be different.

There are two things I want to unpack about all this – ‘right now’ and ‘for whatever reason.’

Not being right for an agent ‘right now’ does not mean they’re never going to be interested in you. As agents, we have a tendency to be REactive rather than PROactive. We are responding to your package of materials – showreel, voice-reel, CV and headshot rather than to your potential. In this industry your potential, while it’s definitely a factor, can’t always be relied upon. We can’t predict whether you’ll get lucky and a lot of this industry does rely on luck. Agents make money from you working, not from the potential of you working. We are reacting to what you have, where you are right now, and what we have and where we are right now. 

The positive from this is that ‘right now’ is a moveable feast. Just as your circumstances might change suddenly, so might ours. The actors we think are too similar to you might book a long job, or might leave the agency; our circumstances are just as fluid and changeable as yours.

The other part I want to unpack is ‘for whatever reason’.  We may simply not be taking on any new clients at the moment. Personally, I have a sweet spot, a certain number of clients I know is the ideal number for me. Any more and I start to feel harassed and overworked, any fewer and I’m not busy enough. That sweet spot varies from agent to agent. An agent with several assistants and a lot of clients in long-term contracts might have the time and energy to represent more clients than an agent in a smaller company without an assistant. It may simply be that the agent you’ve approached is currently at capacity.

You might not be right because we already have a number of clients who are closely comparable to you, who’d be going up for the same types of roles as you because they are similar in temperament, type or at a similar point in their career. If they are not working at present then our job is to work hard for them and find them work. My focus is always on finding work for the clients I already have before I start thinking about prospective clients.

A few weeks ago I wrote that an agent is a great addition to your team but they’re not essential. I stand by that –  you can do a great job of building a good body of work, and a strong CV, without the help of an agent. Doing so might even make you more attractive to an agent – we’ll see you as someone proactive, driven, and bluntly, someone who has a proven track record of earning money.

I do understand that rejection can be disheartening. I like to say rejection is redirection. What an agent’s rejection is doing is redirecting you – to build a more compelling body of work that we react to more positively, or redirecting you to someone else entirely who does want you, who is interested, who is going to work with you and who does have the time to develop you.

Learning to read between the lines of the rejection is also important. If I’m interested in someone but it’s just not the right time, I always ask them to keep in touch – and I mean it. If an agent asks you to keep in touch, drop them a line when you have something to say. If they say they’re ‘not taking on clients at the moment’ maybe re-apply a few months down the line. If they say they ‘have someone similar to you’, try again in a year – it’s possible that person might have moved on. I don’t think the door is ever really closed so always keep your foot in the door. Well, perhaps just your big toe.

And remember, truly, it’s really not personal. Don’t lose faith in yourself. Keep growing, keep developing, keep applying.

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, Getting, Keeping And Working With Your Acting Agent will be published by Nick Hern Books on May 27th 2021 and is now available to preorder.

JBR

One thought on “Hey J! Ask the Agent: It’s not you…It’s me.

  • Thank-you, this was very helpful. They’re not looking at potential – got it!

    Reply

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