What does an agent do?Mar 10, 2022
Understanding the agent-client relationship.
The relationship between the artist and an agent is a strange one. You don’t work for the agent and the agent doesn’t work for you. It’s a mutual agreement between 2 people to work together, because you might struggle to get castings without an agent, and the agency wouldn’t have an income without its clients.
The agent will spend a majority of their time trying to find opportunities for you to audition for. You don’t have to go to the auditions they find for you because you don’t work for them. However, it’s going to be mutually beneficial if you do go to the casting. You may get the job which means an income and experience for you, and commission for the agent.
If you did decline a series of high-profile castings, the agency might question why they’re representing you, but that works both ways. If you’ve been with an agency for a while, and you’re not getting any auditions, you’d be right to question whether your agent is representing you properly.
They’re the link between you and the casting director.
An established agent will have a good working relationship with many different casting directors and producers. It’s likely they will have worked with them before and they’ve built up a reputation of having a good eye for talent. This means the casting directors know that any of the auditionees coming from that agency will be of a very good standard.
This reputation will be important to the agency, but essentially, it’s been built up by the artists. Not only is the agent representing you, but you are also representing the agent. If you go to an audition unprepared, this will reflect badly on you and it will reflect badly on the agency. If a casting director has a series of bad auditionees from the same agency, it’s likely they’ll stop asking that agency to send in clients. Being properly prepared for each audition will leave the casting director with a positive opinion of both you and the agency.
The agency's clients, who have been before you over the years, built this reputation, and now it’s your responsibility to continue the high standards set before you. That way the agency will continue with its great reputation, meaning more casting directors will want to meet their clients, meaning there’s a better chance of you being seen for the more exclusive casting sessions.
A new agent will not have that reputation, however, a good agent will have a Spotlight account so they can see every opportunity that’s posted, and they can submit you for those projects.
Your agent is there to book auditions for you, they’re there to get you into the room, then it’s your job to showcase your talent.
On the rare but brilliant occasion, you have a successful audition, the job offer can sometimes be complicated. A big agency will have a legal team to go over any contractual issues that might come up, but more often than not, it’s your agent who’ll read the contract. If they have a lot of experience, they’ll know what to look for. If not, if your agent is fairly new, it might be a good idea to have someone else check over your contract as well, just to make sure it doesn’t leave you exposed in any way.
Let me give you an example. If you were to film a commercial for MyTheatreSchool.com, I could pay you a BuyOut fee that could last 12-months. However, we could write the contract in a way that allows me to use the footage forever without any further payment. More often than not, the contract will say it’s a 12-month buyout, and if the footage is used after that period then another payment should be made to you.
Whilst you’re super excited to get the job, and would probably do it for free because you love what you do, the agent will look into the financial details. The last thing you want to be doing is saying to the person who’s just offered you the job, I’d like to do it but you need to pay me more money. That’s where the agent comes in. Let’s say you start rehearsals, but then the production company decides you need to rehearse for another week, you don’t want to waste a moment thinking about the finances. You just want to focus on the job, knowing that your agent is sorting all of the financial details out for you.
Your agent is there to have those awkward conversations, with the people you might consider to be your friends. Let’s say you’ve been working on a show for 12-months and you get on really well with the Director. As your contract comes to an end, the Director might automatically assume you’ll carry on with the show for another year, and because you’re friends, you’ll take on some extra responsibility to help out. Without an agent, you might feel pressured into doing this, whereas the agent is there to flag up any issues, and have those awkward conversations for you. So you can still have a great relationship, and not jeopardize anything by asking for a better contract.
The agent is there to support you in any way they can, so use that resource as much as possible. Their contribution to the relationship doesn’t stop once the contract is signed. They’re there to look after you for the duration of the contract. In fact, during the project, you should be having conversations with your agent about what the next steps are. Should you extend your current contract if that’s an option? Should you be looking at something abroad, or committing to local projects only? Is now the right time to start ruling out smaller projects, and only go for the big ones?
There should be some kind of progressive dialogue between you and your agent, some kind of career development. If not, then find out why not. You want your agent to be focused on you and your career. If they’re not doing that, then alarm bells should ring. If they are doing that, but you’re distracted by other things, then your agent will have alarm bells ringing.
It’s a mutual understanding between you and your agent. I’ll do everything I can to make this work, as long as you do everything that you can.
If you’ve found any of this helpful then you’re very welcome to leave a 5* review or do whatever you can to share this with someone who might need it.
I’m Karl Davies from the Theatre Kid Podcast and My Theatre School where we offer incredible training, online, with industry professionals. If you’d like some help and support with your journey, then come and work with me at MyTheatreSchool.com
Have a great week, I’ll see you next time!