Beginner’s Guide: Talent agencies

ballet dancer yellow

Almost every year of my career (35+) someone  asks me if they should get an agent.

No kidding.

I shudder each time, because I know they are not going to like the answer I give them.

My answer is a resounding–NO!

My emphatic answer is a bit misleading, however.

Here is my beginner’s guide to choosing a talent agency.

If you want to pursue acting work in the professional realm, then you need an agent.

There are many costs to the avocation and they are yours to pay–headshots, auditions clothes, dance and acting classes, etc.

If a “talent agency” is crazy about you the minute they meet you and are very quick to offer to represent you, be very wary of them. 

More importantly, if the agency thinks you need more training and requires you take their “classes” at YOUR expense, run away.  Run very far away from them.

Hollywood

Here’s a little story:

Several summers ago, I asked a talented girl (we’ll call her Barbie) to choreograph for a youth theatre camp production of mine.  She wasn’t a professional yet, but I could see she had the potential to be one someday if she so chose.   I like to give young people an opportunity to staff my shows–how else are they going to learn?

Barbie and I agreed on the musical numbers she would stage or choreograph, splitting them between us.  It was a solid agreement.

ballet dancer yellow

Or so I thought.

Two months later, Barbie arrives for the camp displaying an air of superiority. Her nose was held, honestly, up in the air.  Hmmm.  My director intuition knew something had changed.

Oh boy, had it!

Seems in the two months since I made the agreement with her, Barbie was “discovered” by a talent agency.

“Discovered”–that was my first red flag.

I have never seen someone so star struck in my life and honey, I’ve been around novice actors for years.

Her mother (equally gullible) and she had attended auditions for a talent agency who traveled to their metropolis seeking “exceptional talent”.

Barbie auditioned for them and they were crazy for her talent–IMMEDIATELY.

Now granted, the girl is great dancer, but she was coming out of eighth grade and had no performing experience other than dance recitals.  She was a beginning acting student of mine–note, BEGINNING.  At that point, she had performed in one show which I directed and she was a chorus member. Chorus, people!

What Barbie lacked in experience and training her parents made up for with money. An example–the girl owned a full size harp. Weekly her mother drove her to harp lessons in a major city about an hour away. Get the picture?

harpist

“It’s only $2,000 for their training,” she shared “and then I’m in a showcase with real agents (from like Disney and Nicklodeon) in attendance and they offer you jobs from there.They said I was a shoe-in.”

Oh dear…

After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I reminded Barbie she made a commitment to my production.  I’ll give her mother some credit, she expect Barbie to fulfill the commitment but gee, Barbie wouldn’t be able to attend the dress rehearsals or actual productions.

I knew what occurred before Barbie even admitted it.

handsome guy

“There’s this really hunky college guy with the agency who has been on the Disney Channel and he begged me to take the training so I can be in the showcase.” Barbie mooned.

Aha!

“This all conflicts with the production dates, so I need to be at the training. That is, if my parents will pay for it.” At this point, Barbie gave her mother a sweet little girl pout. (Sounds like the mother was wary about the deal, hence the daughter’s pout.)

Barbie’s mother asked me for my opinion and of course I spewed forth the reasons against the idea.

You can see where this is going, right?

“Hollywood here I come!” Barbie’s Facebook profile posted soon after.

Hollywood

My negative opinion fell on deaf ears.

Don’t you love it when people ask for your opinion and then try to argue you out of it?

I released Barbie from the responsibility after her initial work was completed in the first week of rehearsal. It didn’t help her case when Barbie told my AD, “My work is done here.”

Uh, no?

There is nothing worse than having a volunteer who doesn’t want to volunteer…

About two months later, my AD messaged me about Barbie.  We both were curious how Barbie fared at the showcase. According to Facebook, it  seems her “training then showcase” didn’t impress the agents (haha–agents, oh please) and all Barbie got from the experience was–nothing.

Barbie never mentioned her  “Hollywood here I come!” post again.

$2,000 of nothing.

I think Barbie moved on to beauty contests. I saw her at a deli one lunch time and she was clothes in a bright pink dress with a white and silver sash across it. It was emblazoned with something like “Miss 100th Junior Miss of _________.”

Oy…

My advice:  If you want to secure an agent, that’s great. There are many reputable ones. Look around, research, contact other professionals for their opinions.  Keep your ego out of the decision making. There are unsavory people everywhere. Just because someone throws around words to compliment you does not mean they are honest.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, but honey, get real.

 Be cautious and pay heed to the people who have your best interests at heart.

Good luck!

 

 

 

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