Monday 28 March 2011

Agency issues

So, let me explain my agency issues. When I first started looking for an agent I had the choice between established Wellington agents and Auckland agents with Wellington offices or even just a Wellington division on their books. 

I didn't have a whole lot of confidence in my marketability back then and so I thought seeking an established local agent, even if I got on their books, meant that their would be many trained and experienced actresses in my age group who would get audition slots over me every time. No chance for an audition, might not have an agent in the first place, was my thinking.

I had similar issues with the Auckland agencies with the added trouble that it would be even harder to build a relationship with them, being half a country apart and all.

Enter Agency X, the agent I eventually signed with. They were Auckland based but just opening a Wellington branch. They were looking for local talent to add to their books and the Wellington booker worked really hard and was lovely. When I met with the booker and she was excited and informative and I was, quite frankly, clueless. I felt that the booker and I vibed really well and she made me feel great about coming to Agency X. I was also under the impression that she'd be the person that would send me out for auditions and so didn't have many reservations about the actual agent being up in Auckland.

So I signed.

I struggled but found myself auditions and some unpaid work. I worked hard in my classes and re-learned to speak a general American accent. And I kept in touch, sent updates, tried to stay positive and proactive, and show the agency my commitment and drive. It seems I have faild.

In in the past year, I had a grand total of three audition through the agency and one paid background extra job. Even though it was my understanding that they put me on their books as an actor, on their website I am listed only as 'talent' and (because I had voice lessons when I was like 16, I guess) 'singer'. I repeatedly asked the agency to change this obvious mistake... to no avail.

One year later, Agency X still doesn't have an actual office in Wellington, my actual booker sits in Auckland and is single-handedly juggling several divisions within the agency (actors, dancers, singers and creatives). There is the agent as well of course but I have never once had any communication with the agent, except following some of my updates and one group meeting when the agent came down to Wellington. I started feeling more and more uneasy and the regular emails that I received from Auckland were not making me feel any better. 90% of them were for Auckland actors and the rest of them notified me of Wellington workshops and the like that I had already found out about myself, sometimes up to a couple of weeks prior.
I was loosing all trust in my representation. So, a while ago I made up my mind that I at least needed to find out if there was anyone out there who was actually excited about representing me, someone who believed in my potential.

About two months ago I submitted my CV to three agents (for starters). One of them didn't respond despite follow-ups and another gave me no right away. Fair enough. The one agent left was actually my number one choice and an agent I knew I did not have a chance in hell to sign with. The agency is based in Auckland but because I had heard so many great things about them, they were top of my list. nonetheless. But the agent replied saying that I had a very interesting CV, that she would love to hear more about me and asked did I have a reel. I about had a heart attack, I was so flattered and excited.

Over the past two months I have had regular email correspondence with the agent. Her advice has been priceless and I am really very grateful. She said right off that she doesn't take new Wellington talent but she'd be happy to view my work if I wanted to shoot a couple of scenes. She even gave me advice on what type of scripts to choose and offered to sent some scripts through should I need them. How awesomely generous is that?! I had already chosen a scene from Crash and a lighter, more commercial one minute play. After a whirlwind of a February, I finally got around to shooting my scenes and sent them off.

The bad news is she didn't sign me. Here is what she had to say though:

'Thanks very much for all the effort you have gone to. After viewing the tapes I must recommend that you speak to [Agency A] in Wgtn and see if they can act as agent and mentor to you over the next few years.

I don't feel that [my agency] is the right agent at this point in your career and it would disadvantage you when you need to be building up your resume and working alongside an agent who is 'on the ground' in Wgtn.

Although I do sometimes take local actors on board most of them are Toi Whakaari graduates or in a younger or older age bracket.

If you look at the women in your age group that are already represented by [my agency] you'll see my problem. Too many listed for the amount of work in the market place and all of them would audition for the same work.

All the best of luck to you. If you would like me to forward these files along with your photos and resume I'm happy to introduce you to [Agent A].'

Despite knowing in my heart of hearts that I didn't stand a chance in the first place, I must admit that I was disappointed. The generousness that the agent had shown me with her time, advice, and encouragement just made me want her to be my agent really really badly.

On second thought (or second read) however, I realised that not only was she absolutely right but she did believe in my potential enough to want to recommend me to the best agency in Wellington. Pretty unreal!

That agent is actually my partner's agent and because I knew them personally, they were the first agency I ever talked to. Back then, I didn't stand a chance to get signed but had I worked hard enough over the past two years to deserve a chance now? I told the Auckland agent that I would love her endorsement and she got in touch with Agency A. When I sent her a thank you note, I got an email back saying Agent A

'was genuinely excited about speaking to you so I'm really pleased that you will be with someone who values you. Hard to find an agent these days who actually gives a toss about their actors and [Agent A] is a gem.'

A week later I met with Agent A and after ten minutes of small talk, I got sent home with two copies of a contract to look over. Wow!

I am under no illusion that auditions are still going to be few and far in between. I am hoping it'll be better though and that my new agent believes enough in me to value, support and reward the progress that I myself make happen over the next few years. And when I do get work, I will have an agent who I trust to negotiate hard for me.

So, here's to working hard, having gumption and stickability, and being with an agent who gives a toss!

Fingers crossed.

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