Thursday, September 20, 2007

Narrowing the field

It was right around this time four years ago that I first sought commercial representation. I did a mailing to, I think, 19 different agencies and got signed by 7, which was a lot, and probably too many. But nobody told me. If somebody wanted me, who was I to say no?

Over the years, through sort of a process of natural selection, they've winnowed themselves down:
  • One agency, after booking me for my very first gig, an industrial for Kraft, went out of business.
  • Another one specialized in trade shows. I applied to them because the person who was helping me with the process did a lot of work with them. Of course, she's a cute girl. Anyway, I would dutifully check in with them every month as asked, and they'd request another 30 headshots/resumes (at about a buck a pop). After 4 or 5 months of this I realized it was probably going nowhere. And most of the trade show work is pretty weird anyway, so I stopped calling.
  • A third agent is in Milwaukee. They sent me on tons of auditions when I first signed up and even booked me on a number of gigs, mostly industrials and a couple of small, local commercial spots. There was a time I was going to Milwaukee 7 or 8 times a month. Which is a lot, even if you own a car, which I did not. Which was a tremendous pain. As work-work heated up over the past year, I stopped calling them. I simply couldn't justify taking 4-6 hours out of my day for an audition for a gig that IF I got it, ultimately would pay less than I could make staying in the office for 3 hours. It would be different if it was the kind of gig where you could develop a relationship that might lead to something bigger, but it usually isn't.
  • A fourth one has just a terrible reputation in Chicago. Though they seem to get a few people some good work, for the most part they sign just about anybody who walks through their door. In two years I think they sent me on maybe 4 auditions -- compared to another agent who would send me on twice that many in a month. They have a lot of turnover, and every 6 months someone new comes on board with a lot of enthusiasm (and a strange tendency to call me Bob, when my headshot very clearly says Rob) and asks me to these giant cattlecalls, where 300+ actors are vying for a handful of roles. Yesterday I did something crazy. They called me for one of these and ... I didn't return the call. I just didn't. Even if I got a gig through them I have very little confidence, based on their reputation, that I'd actually get paid, or paid in a reasonable amount of time. So I'm officially breaking up with them.
  • So that leaves three agents. One that's been consistently sending me out for four years and is really great.
  • Another that sent me out a bunch when I first started but dropped off significantly when they had a major turnover of staff. (My fault for not going in there aggressively and making myself better known to the new people.) They still go up and down in terms of their attention to me.
  • And a third that was really slow coming out of the box and barely sent me on anything for a couple of years but has been much more active in the past year or so. They'd actually like me to go exclusive with them. Which concerns me. Putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket, as it were. I have until the end of the year to figure this out.
So I don't know. This fall should be interesting. I'm thinking about getting new headshots (the black-and-whites are embarrassing -- I think less than 20% of commercial actors are still using B&W), maybe a comp card (a composite of several looks, used for modeling gigs) and maybe even a reel of some of my on-camera work.

Then again, the casting agents know me. They're the ones who dole out the work, not the talent agents. I've been to the major casting agencies hundreds of times over the years. I'm not sure how much difference these cosmetic changes might make, other than indicating a certain level of seriousness and commitment to the work.

So that's a lot to think about. But right now I can't because I have to interview a doctor about what makes his hospital such a great place to work. Then I have to draft a brochure introducing a law firm's new China office. And then ... lots of other stuff ...

1 comment:

Dianna said...

Brownlee is doing headshots these days and they are looking AWESOME. 100$ and he's doing color....
give him a call
or brownleemichael@hotmail.com