Growing Pains

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!

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5 Responses to Growing Pains

  1. Excellent and insightful post!!! And we still need to do lunch/tekken battle. I’ll dust off my Qanba stick.

  2. Thanks for sharing the specs of your process, Cia. I’ve employed some of your tactics researching my [first] agency options, but as someone who’s newer to the biz, I wrestle with whether I should try and secure ANY agent or focus on landing the one my research tells me I actually want! I’d like the latter to work out but certainly wouldn’t complain if the former prevailed.

    • Cia says:

      Meghan, I certainly understand your hunger for an agent, ANY agent, but now that I have a few years experience under my belt, I can honestly say that I believe having NO agent is better than having the WRONG agent. The wrong agent can take your career in a direction you don’t want to go or can drive your career to a halt. Waiting for the right agent may take some patience, but in the long run, I think it’s better for one’s career.
      There are a lot of factors that go into having the right agent too. It’s not just about the work opportunities an agent can send your way. It’s about the relationship you have with them and whether you have a partnership that will grow BOTH your businesses. Do your research and find out which agent is best for you, both at this point in your career and at the next level that you want to grow to. Getting an agent is just the beginning; there’s still a lot of work that YOU have to do.
      While it’s not easy to get vo/acting work without an agent, it’s not impossible. (In fact, I have an on-camera actor friend who does very well in SF without an agent and is working on a consistent basis.) And while you’re hustling on your own behalf, you’re also building a reputation and networking with new clients. When the right agent does come along, you’ll take all of that work with you and be that much further along for it.

  3. Cia says:

    Hey Bobbin, thanks for sharing yours! I hoped that this post would benefit those who have gone through the same thing or WILL go through this at some point in their career. 🙂 I hope things continue to go well with the new agent!

  4. Bobbin Beam says:

    I just changed one of my agents and completely related to this post. While it’s still early in the process, I feel confident about my decision. Excellent advice and well articulated experiences. Thanks for sharing this.

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