In a recent post I mentioned that I hired a new talent agent. Some quick history: I signed with my very first talent agent in Portland, OR, many years ago, mainly for on-camera work (that’s what I was pursuing at the time). I hired my first San Francisco talent agent 3 years ago. I was new to doing voiceover in this region and while I’d gotten a few jobs on my own, I was looking forward to the credibility and opportunities a talent agent would provide. At the time that I signed on, I only had a commercial demo but I had a specific goal to work in video games and animation which I communicated to my agent. She told me that she would include me in auditions for those jobs but that I should record an animation demo.
Over the years, I developed a good relationship with my agent. One of the benefits of her agency is that she is a smaller, boutique agency. Whenever I went in for an audition, we’d chat about her grandkids or exchange recipes. But over time, I began to feel that I’d outgrown my agent. I no longer felt challenged by the audition material and I wasn’t booking the kinds of jobs I was interested in. Maybe it was time to look for a new agent. What to do? First step: research how to shop for a new agent. Does that surprise you? I’d already gotten two agents in my career so far, why would I need to research how to get another one? Many reasons–times and trends change and I wanted to stay current but most importantly, in both previous instances, I signed agents without really researching who they were and whether they were a good fit for me. When you’re hungry for work, it’s not easy to believe that no agent is better than an agent who is not a good fit. I no longer felt that way and I wanted to make the best possible decision when choosing my next agent.
I attended two webinars about getting an agent. The first came from Ben Hopkin, author of the blog Acting without the Drama. In addition to the how-to’s of shopping for a new agent, he suggested I speak with my current agent about why I was unhappy rather than leave her without an explanation. It’s sort of like your annual job performance evaluation. There should be no surprises at that yearly meeting. Any problem areas should have been discussed beforehand. Ben recommended I speak with my agent about what I’m looking for (and not getting) in our relationship and in my career. By speaking with her, not only does she become aware of my concerns, she has the opportunity to address them. If she addresses them to my satisfaction, then I don’t have to bother finding a new agent! What could be better than that? If she doesn’t address my concerns, well then, I know it’s time to find a new agent and it won’t be a surprise to her when I do. I thought Ben’s advice was excellent and I took it.
About a year ago, I recorded my animation demo. I gave it to my agent and repeated my desire to do more video game and animation work. She assured me that my new demo would bring in more opportunities in those fields. I made sure she knew that character work was a priority for me in my career. Almost a year went by. I saw a few character auditions, but not nearly as many as I would like. And I didn’t book any of them. Was it me? Or was it my agent?
The next webinar I attended happened in the spring of this year. Dallas Travers is an acting and marketing coach out of LA. I get the feeling she focuses more on on-camera actors but her advice works for voiceover too. In her webinar, she described how to research the right talent agent for you and where you want to go in your career. Basically, the idea is to find actors who are doing the work you want to do, then find out who represents them. So simple and yet so brilliant! You work backwards by finding the work you want to do then follow the breadcrumbs to the agents who can get that work!
After hearing this advice, I felt so empowered! I used the tools that Ben and Dallas had given me and I hired a new talent agent. In our first meeting, I clearly laid out my career goals and what I was looking for in an agent. We had a great conversation and by the end of it I was absolutely assured that they would help me achieve the goals I set for myself and that we would have a good working relationship. Now, I had a hard conversation ahead of me. I had to speak to my former agent and let her know that I was moving on. Thank goodness I had made her aware of my concerns! I knew she wouldn’t be happy with my decision, but hopefully she would understand my motivation. I met with her in person and our conversation went as well as I could have hoped. I expressed how grateful I was for the opportunities she had given me and the work she had done on my behalf. I made sure she knew my decision was not personal but motivated by my own career development and that I wished her well; we left on friendly terms.
It’s been nearly a month and I am thrilled with my new agent. I’m auditioning more and I’ve booked two new clients, one of them for a video game! I want to make it clear, this is by no means an indictment of my former agent. She’s a good agent who knows the business. I think that at the time I signed with her, she was perfect for me. I was able to develop my skills and grow my career. I think I just grew in a different direction than the opportunities she had to offer and it was time to move on. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I had to make the best choice for my career, and for me. Growing pains are never easy, but I am so happy that I’m growing!