Young Performers Consultant, Ellie Samuels, talks about whether it is ever beneficial to have more than one agent.
Young Performers need an agent to sign up for Spotlight, but what could having more than one agent offer, if anything? What are the pros and cons? Spotlight’s Ellie Samuels talks us through it.
19 minute listen or full transcript can be found below.
Christina Carè: Hello, and welcome to this episode of The Spotlight Podcast. In today’s mini-episode, we’re going to talk all about whether or not young performers should have more than one agent. To help us answer this question, we have Ellie Samuels from Spotlight.
Ellie Samuels: Hi, Christina.
Christina Carè: Ellie, we’ve had you on the podcast before, but if no one’s heard that episode, which you should go back and listen to it, but if they haven’t heard it, can you give us a quick reminder of what you do at Spotlight?
Ellie Samuels: Absolutely, yeah. So, I look after the young performer membership group, which are aged from four years old. And I look after the agents who represent them, and the parents, kind of the whole thing, in a way. I sort of commandeer that. I’ve worked at Spotlight for 16 years now.
Christina Carè: Wow.
Ellie Samuels: In the early stages, it was more in customer support, looking after the actors and taking enquiries. And then about three years ago, I moved into this role, when this role was created here about sort of moving this membership group forward, increasing their benefits, etc. So yeah, really heavily involved with the children now and the agents who represent them.
Christina Carè: And just before we get into answering our question, I wondered if you could kind of give us a little bit more of a sense about how young performers interact with Spotlight. If you can sort of talk us through that relationship because the agent is obviously quite important.
Ellie Samuels: Yes, the agent is the key person, so they are the one that probably will introduce the parent to Spotlight. Most of the agents who represent children on Spotlight will be linked to a stage school, whether it be full-time or part-time. So, those children will perhaps attend classes, and the ones that they feel that maybe could take it a step further into something professional, they will encourage the parent, probably to think about that, and therefore to join Spotlight. Having a profile on Spotlight means that the agent can then suggest the child for jobs in a much quicker and smoother way than they can if they are just a part of the school, and maybe linked to the agency without the Spotlight platform. So, it’s a way of a child being able to be seen by casting directors on a professional level.
Christina Carè: Right.
Ellie Samuels: And to get auditions, ideally.
Christina Carè: Yeah, of course. That’s the ultimate goal. So then, how is it exactly that agents interact with Spotlight? I know there are obviously different kinds of agents. Is there a particular reason, do you think, why someone might have more than one agent, given that there are different types? How do agents work with us basically?
Ellie Samuels: Each child will have a primary agent and that’s the only way they can join Spotlight is by being invited by their agent. That agent will normally be looking after them in all areas of the industry. Particularly given what we just said, they might be at a stage school or doing classes in singing, dancing, and acting. So, the agent will want to… Generally, the primary agent, as we call it here, will want to be representing them for all of those three things.
What we do see and are seeing more and more at Spotlight, I think, with adults as well, there always have been agents that represent different areas of the business. But I think generally with children, there would always be one.
Christina Carè: Yeah.
Ellie Samuels: And that is the norm. That still is the norm actually, so they represent them in all different fields. But with the increase of voice over work and anime, and particularly for kids as well, we are seeing some children’s voice over agents establishing themselves and joining or registering with Spotlight.
We also have more and more overseas agents. And that now is tipping into children as well. So, people contacting us from overseas, whether it be the States or Australia, other parts of Europe, and they are wanting to represent children too, and they’re sort of getting to know about Spotlight. We’re becoming much more international, which is great. So, we are seeing different agents sort of come up for children, representing different areas of the business. I think the key ones are overseas and voice over.
Christina Carè: Right.
Ellie Samuels: And then the other one, the third one, alternative one, will be more of the sort of commercial model type agency. We’re also seeing quite an increase in those types of agencies for children.
So, I think therefore what’s happening is because we’re engaging more with these kinds of agents, and they exist, then obviously, parents are coming across them more, so we’re getting more queries about it. And hence, coming together and talking about the pros and cons or there’s sort of that the things that may come up when you think about having more than one agent.
Christina Carè: Right. Well, I think that’s a perfect opportunity to go into it then. Why would you consider having more than one? And what do you think the main, I guess, pros, but also there are obviously some drawbacks. Maybe we should start with the positive.
Ellie Samuels: Yeah, positives. So, definitely a voice over agent, I think, because they really do look at a different area of the market. And I think voice over contracts and things like that work in different ways. It’s not to say that a primary agent who looks after a child for singing, acting, and dancing, stage and screen work, wouldn’t know how to negotiate or handle a voice over enquiry. But I think sometimes they know that it’s a different field of work, so they may well be happy for the parents who engage with an alternative agent because it’s a different field of work.
I think sometimes with voice over agents as well, although we are seeing an increase in voice over breakdowns coming through Spotlight. It also, a bit like model agencies, they kind of have their own contacts, and casting directors or people, production companies, may contact them directly as opposed to using a casting platform like us.
Christina Carè: It’s probably worth mentioning there before we go any further, that obviously that would then relate to what it is the child actually wants to do in the industry.
Ellie Samuels: Yes. Absolutely.
Christina Carè: The first consideration might just be, does your child actually want to do some other particular kind of work, be it modelling or voice over or something like that?
Ellie Samuels: Definitely. It has to come from the child and we should never forget this. You’re absolutely right to mention that. And so hopefully, as a parent and also the main agent will say, “Well, that might be too much.” Or think about what the child wants.
Ideally, I suppose if an alternative agent came a parent’s way, it would be through some journey that made sense rather than sort of plucked out or suddenly an idea, or why don’t we do this because other people are doing it or… So, ideally, it will have come through perhaps just a gig happening, a voice over gig happening. Then the child sort of seems to have quite a talent for it. And then they might be approached or the main agent might be approached.
The other one I would say would be an overseas agent. Overseas agent would probably, again, don’t try and find one. There’s no need for one. And again, everything should really go through the primary agent, if you’re thinking of that to have the conversation. But sometimes, a child might do quite well, and so they travel overseas. I think an overseas agent in America is probably what you think of first because work over there is so different. And if they do something that then has exposure in the States, they might then require an agent. Or the primary agent over here might need to find someone, or a manager over there, obviously they’re chaperoned, but it just obviously exposes the child to things and opportunities. And so, agents might start coming the parent’s way and saying, “Oh, we’d like to.” So, that can arise, and there can be opportunities with that.
As long as the agents work well together, this has to be the case with all scenarios like this, when there’s a secondary agent that the agents are aware of each other and understand the relationship and work well together. And there should be communication between the parent and both agents.
The key thing, which I should have said straightaway with any secondary agent is that you should always check your contractual obligations with the primary agent.
Christina Carè: Absolutely, yeah.
Ellie Samuels: And make sure that, because many of them will have a sole representation policy only, which we can talk a bit more about. But if that is the case, then you definitely need to talk to the agent about it before making any decisions. And they may well make an exception given the fact that that secondary agent will be doing something completely different, but those things should always be checked.
Then I think, as I said earlier, the third pro or situation that where there would be some positives is if it was a model agency. Again, that agency was in agreement with the primary agent that this was all fine, and they were going to sort of look after a different area of work. Maybe the child does some catalogue work or some photo idents, things that maybe aren’t so featured on Spotlight, or areas of work that are separate.
But I think for children, I would always drive to parents if they’re sort of worried or thinking, “Should I have another one” or “how many agents should I have” that just having one agent is absolutely sufficient for a child. And I think… I was recently actually doing a Q&A with a casting director, and she was in total agreement with me. It isn’t to say that there aren’t positives, and in the right circumstances, it can work. But I think just know the choice that you’re making and why you’re making that choice.
Christina Carè: Absolutely. So, I mean, you kind of hit upon the fact that there are some key questions you would need to figure out as a parent before if you are approached by another agent before you took on another agent for your child. For instance, asking about sole representation.
Ellie Samuels: Definitely. Yes, that would be the first thing to check.
Christina Carè: Yes.
Ellie Samuels: And some people might not be aware of that, of that term. So, sole representation obviously is exactly what it says, but it would have been in the contract that you would sign as a parent. I always encourage agents to communicate it verbally to parents as well, because it’s such a new world for many of them. Some of them that I meet have been actors themselves. And so, they’re at an advantage because they understand the way things work. But so many, I think, out there don’t know anything about the industry. So, it’s sort of, they don’t really know the questions to ask or the things to look for.
But sole representation, I see as a positive thing. I think if an agent is, that’s the way they operate, then that’s a positive thing. If they don’t operate that way, then as long as they’re clear about it, again, that can be positive, but just to be clear what their terms and conditions are.
Christina Carè: Yes. Before going any further.
Ellie Samuels: Yeah.
Christina Carè: I want to ask you then, in terms of drawbacks or potentially, I think one of the key questions that comes out of everything we’ve been talking about so far is whether or not having more agents would mean actually having more auditions. So, I kind of wonder, what do you think of that?
Ellie Samuels: Yeah. I think this comes up, and when I chat to parents at some of our workshops, it will be something that they will say. They kind of think, well, the more the merrier, and well, hopefully, if their face is seen more, like five times, then the casting director will bring them in because that literally will be what happens there if there were three agents and each agent suggested them for the same job on Spotlight. The photo would appear on the suggestion list three times. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re definitely going to get called in or they’re more likely to.
I don’t, I mean, yeah, I don’t think there’s anything to support that, as I think if anything, it could sometimes be a bit of a warning sign for the casting director potentially that, okay, well, that’s okay that this child has got three agents, but the agents clearly aren’t maybe communicating with each other because they’re all putting them forward for the same job. And if they were looking at different areas of the industry for this child, then surely only one of them should be suggesting them for that job.
Christina Carè: Absolutely.
Ellie Samuels: I think also, if every single child was suggested multiple times, then it would… Yeah. It’s not going to be a good thing.
Christina Carè: Might drive the casting directors a little batty.
Ellie Samuels: Yeah, yeah. But I mean, I think it’s just something to think about. And I think because again, parents won’t necessarily know how it looks or when an agent makes a suggestion, how it then appears on the casting director’s screen.
So, they’ve got lots of thumbnails of all of the suggestions, and they need to surf through those obviously and decide who to bring in. That isn’t something that a parent will necessarily be able to appreciate or visualise or know. Why would they?
But I think if you sit down and think about it, I mean, we see how it works here, don’t we, so we know, and we could make an informed decision. So, if I was to put my child on Spotlight, I could think, well, actually, and I know all of this, I know. And I think, well, no, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. I’d probably rather just have one agent doing one thing.
Christina Carè: Absolutely. Because you’ve touched upon another sort of, not drawback, but a thing to consider, I suppose, which is the communication aspect of it. If you do have more than one agent, you’ve got to take into consideration that there has to be communication between them. And if they’re not communicating with each other, then it’s also your responsibility really as well, isn’t it, as a parent to manage that?
Ellie Samuels: Yeah. Absolutely. And it takes time. I mean, I think, I’ve only got one child, and I think there’s so much to do all the time, with working. But if I was… Yeah, if you’ve got more than one child, and then you’ve got one of your children, maybe two of them are on Spotlight. And then if one of them, or two of them have more than one agent, it’s a lot of communicating to do. It’s a lot of responsibility. There are the head teachers at the schools to communicate with as well about audition time and if they get a job. So, if you’ve got, I don’t know for me anyway, if you’ve got more than one agent, you put that into the equation, then you’ve just got more conversations going on, more trying to, sort of more scheduling going on or trying to.
Christina Carè: You’ve doubled your admin, basically.
Ellie Samuels: Yeah, exactly. And potentially just things getting a bit confused. One thing that I really feel for the child as well is when they come to an audition, sometimes when they go into the space, just as a bit of chit chat, the costume director might say, “So, who’s your agent?” now, the child needs to know which agent…
Christina Carè: Is their agent.
Ellie Samuels: Is their agent for that particular job. Now, again, it’s just confusion that maybe you want to avoid, and I think particularly if the child isn’t sure. So, A, the parent needs to be certain which agent they got that audition through, ideally. That should they need to fill in a form or anything there on the day that they know why they’re there and who got them there. I think, yeah, with communication, which is how we sort of started that little bit is, then it can all be fine.
Christina Carè: Yes.
Ellie Samuels: But just be aware that therefore there’s more communication that needs to happen and just sort of understanding of the processes.
Christina Carè: Absolutely. I think one thing I kind of wanted to ask you as well about that is, do you think maybe having more than one agent is partially the kind of process of a parent trying to find the right agent, that right primary agent? Do you think it’s a kind of a matter of just trying on agents for size?
Ellie Samuels: I think sometimes that is the case. Definitely. And I get that. I think that the relationship with the agent is so important. Ideally, they will already have a good relationship with the one that invited them to join in the first place. But if things, sometimes things don’t work or sometimes parents hear about other agents and they’re just interested, and it’s their child. So, absolutely, it’s their prerogative too… Obviously again, always firing back to check the contractual obligations with the primary agent, but if they don’t operate sole representation only, then there’s no reason why the parents shouldn’t try other agents and work on those relationships and then decide which one works best. Absolutely. Which one the communication with is better, which ones sometimes they feel they get more auditions through.
Christina Carè: Yeah, it can be a matter of lots of different factors.
Ellie Samuels: Yeah, lots of different things. So, I think it’s their right to do that. As long as they know why they’re doing it. I think as long as parents know why they’re adding other agents, and that is… Certainly, conversations I’ve had with some parents that sometimes does ring true. That they’re just trying to suss out what works best.
But on the whole, and I think we’ve already said it, but I think one can’t say it enough,. generally, an agent, whether it’s for an adult or a child, an agent, and particularly with children because they’re the one that has invited the child or the parent to join because obviously, they can’t join without an agent. They generally will be sole representation only, generally as a rule, or certainly, even if they don’t operate, that policy should be communicated with before adding any other agents.
Christina Carè: Right. So, to summarise everything we’ve talked about today, should young performers have more than one agent? What are the key things to keep in mind?
Ellie Samuels: So, I do feel that my advice would be that one agent is absolutely sufficient for a child on Spotlight. And I think everything ideally operates much more smoothly in all areas, whether it be the agent and the casting director, the agent and the parent, the child and the parent, the school, etc.
However, as we spoke earlier, there can be some benefits from having a secondary agent, for example, if they’re covering a different area of the industry. So, that would sort of be the short answer, I think. And that would be my advice. Definitely. And should any parents be thinking about adding other agents? We are here to answer any questions.
Christina Carè: Perfect. And if people wanted to ask more questions, Ellie, what should they do?
Ellie Samuels: Come to me. I’m here.
Christina Carè: They can drop you an email?
Ellie Samuels: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. They can drop me an email.
Christina Carè: And that’s Ellie.Samuels?
Ellie Samuels: Ellie.Samuels@spotlight.com. The email@example.com for the attention of Ellie as well. Also, there’s also the one-to-ones that I do every Tuesday and sometimes Mel as well, who works here and looks after the kids too. So, we both are happy to actually speak or Skype, or if people can come into the office for a one-to-one session, we can talk these things through as well. Anytime.
Christina Carè: Perfect. Amazing. Thank you so much, Ellie.
Ellie Samuels: My pleasure.
Christina Carè: We hope that that question is now firmly answered for you today. If you do have any other questions, as Ellie said, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, there is also the other podcast we mentioned with Mel and Ellie talking about young performer agents. That’s all for now from the home of casting.
If you have questions about today’s podcast, send them over to email@example.com or contact Ellie on firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more great advice for young performers on our website. Anything else? Ask us on Twitter!
Published in September 2019.