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The Essentials

Three actors give their advice on how to build and maintain a successful working relationship with your agent

Your working relationship with your agent is built on trust and loyalty and, if managed correctly, can be very fruitful. After all, your agent will help find you work and ‘sell’ you and your skills as a performer to their network of casting directors and project makers to secure you auditions.

A good agent will represent you and advise you. They look after the business side of things, negotiating contacts, fees and arranging interviews on your behalf. It’s a professional relationship with mutual benefits, so it’s important your agent is someone who you feel best represents you and your career.

How do you go about building and nurturing a healthy actor/agent relationship? At the Spotlight Prize, we asked actors Amit Shah (Happy ValleyCrashing), Tracy Ifeachor (The Originals, Treason) and Rosalind Eleazar (The Personal History of David CopperfieldSlow Horses) for their advice about how to build a successful relationship with an agent.

1. Pick the Right Agent for You

It can sometimes be difficult to find an agent, and when any offers of representation come in, it might be even more of a struggle to determine if an agent is right for you.

Actor Tracy Ifeachor says, “It’s a really important decision who you go with and you have to think about what you want.”

She advises actors to consider, “How do you see yourself […] and what are your values? When you meet an agent, you have to look at them and see if your values match up. They represent you, they’re an extension of you. And when it’s only them, it’s your name that people are going to associate that person with.”

Your agent will probably suggest you for lots of jobs you’ll never hear about and make decisions on your behalf, so you need to choose an agent who you trust to represent your best interests. They need to be someone you feel comfortable working with and someone with whom you can have open and honest conversations.

2. Know What Kind of Actor You Want to be

Agents aren’t mind readers, so giving them a clear idea of the kind of actor you are or want to be and the career you envision for yourself can be helpful. Rosalind Eleazar says, “It’s important that you start to form a relationship where you know where you are heading as an actor.”

Being honest about the kind of work you’re open to will help your agent put you forward for the right roles. There’s no point in telling them you’re open to any offer when in reality you’d love to be working in commercials, but the idea of treading the boards as ‘Iago’ leaves you in a cold sweat.

Let your agent know about your strengths, skills and passions so they can help guide you towards the right kind of work. Helping your agent understand the kind of actor you want to be will only benefit your career in the long run.

3. Be Honest and Open with Your Agent

Good, open communication is essential in any relationship, but particularly when it comes to nurturing your agent/actor relationship. You want to be able to respect each other and that often comes from building a foundation of honesty.

“What’s really important in building a relationship with your agent is honesty and transparency.” says Rosalind Eleazar. “You should always be able to talk to your agent about things that bother you, and also celebrate the successes.”

You and your agent both want the same thing – to get you work. If you have a question about your career or if there’s a problem in your life that may affect how you show up to auditions, it’s essential you speak to your agent – this includes letting them know your availability. If you’ve booked a holiday or know you’ll be unavailable for whatever reason, tell them with as much notice as possible.

While you should communicate openly with your agent, it’s important to remember it’s a professional relationship, so respect boundaries when it comes to how much of your life you share with them. If something is going on that may affect your ability to work then it’s essential to speak to them – but keep in mind that they’re not your therapist.

4. Stay in Touch with Your Agent

Every actor/agent relationship is different and there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to contacting your agent. Rosalind Eleazar advises that you, “Maintain contact with them. Be around.”

Have a conversation with them about what style of communication works for you both. Do you prefer phone, email or face-to-face meetings? How often should you be checking in with them? Some agents may prefer a regular call to stay on top of what you’re doing, whereas others will only contact you by email when they have an audition or booking for you. It’s good to know any preferences so you both have the same expectations.

If you haven’t heard from your agent in a while, you should be able to feel like you can pick up the phone or send an email to them. You may want to tell them if you’ve learnt a new skill or accent, if you’ve attended an acting workshop or have an update about anything career related.

However, be careful not to pester them. After all, the more time they spend talking to you, the less time they’ll be spending looking for work on your behalf.

5. Trust Your Agent to Do Their Job

When you sign up with an agent, you need to be able to trust that they’re doing their job and suggesting you for roles that you want and that you can bring something to.

Amit Shah says, “What I respect about my agent [is that] whenever they suggest me for something, it’s something that they feel that I can really give an interesting interpretation to. And they’re excited about seeing me in that role.” He continues, “Have that trust. Respect how they work. Give them space and time and have a good rapport with them.”

If you have a question for your agent, by all means, ask but try not to second-guess everything they do or take up too much of their time.

With luck, your agent will be with you for years to come, supporting you through the lows and celebrating with you through the highs. Remember that you’re equals, so spend time building a relationship on mutual respect and trust. Respond to their emails, let them know when you’re away, attend auditions and keep working on your craft.

Whether you have an agent or not, we have plenty of tips for you. Read more agent advicefind out about cooperative agencies or get some tips about being a self-represented performer.

Photo credit: Joanna Nicole Photography