As an actress turned producer my eyes have really been opened to the negative effect agents can have on their actors’ careers. And the scary thing is that the actor probably has no idea what is going on.
I produce indie films. So far both my films have sold to a large distribution company and have gone on to sell on the shelves of Walmart and Hastings, available on Amazon, iTunes and Netflix.
Our budgets are still micro, but we are building an audience and growing bigger each time. So you can imagine my shock when we go to hire a local actor (with maybe a couple of imdb credits) and their agent comes back with a list of demands that only a name actor that pulls in a large audience could ask for.
On one of our feature films we cast many roles locally. We really liked two of the actors we auditioned for the lead role in the film and it was a knife’s edge as to whom we would pick.
After a lot of debate we made our decision. I called this particular actor to offer the SAG New Media paid leading role in our film and was a little surprised by his attitude on the phone. He was not excited and had more questions than I expected of a kid who was ‘getting a break’. We called another actor to offer him a different role in the movie and his enthusiasm, excitement, and kind spirit was contagious.
A day later I got a call from the agent of the actor to whom we had offered the “lead” role. She went on to make crazy demands for her client like points in the back end (beyond SAG residuals), a trailer on set, per diem, 5 star accommodations . . . and she insulted my film in the process. I kept telling her, ‘your client has never made a movie, why would we give him all of these things?’
Listen people, when you hold no cards you can’t have a full house.
I was shocked she wasn’t ecstatic that her client was offered the lead role in a movie opposite a star name. I got off the phone thinking, ‘I don’t want to cast this kid anymore, because I know his agent is going to be difficult to work with. Set is full of enough stress; I don’t want to add any more troubles to my production.
We immediately retracted our offer to that actor and I called up the other actor to give him the good news. He was now the lead in the movie. He was excited, grateful, generous, and a blast to work with.
Want to know the fate of these two actors?
Garrett Westton who graciously accepted the lead role in the film, was portrayed on the cover of our DVD that graces the shelves of Walmart today.
He moved to Los Angeles, landed an agent and was recently seen in the Disney show, “Best Friends Whenever.” His performance in the film is viewable in five countries and counting. I have no doubt he has a bright and beautiful future ahead of him, not only because he is insanely talented and good-looking, but also because he is smart, kind, and easy to work with.
The actor who was too good for our little movie, and whose agent insulted our film, was most recently seen by one of our crew members, doing extra work in the hometown area.
I really want to shine a light on this issue and share what I have learned. Maybe it will save an actor out there from losing a part they really wanted, a role that could change their career and ultimately, their life.
You might not be aware of what your agent is doing behind your back. I have experienced this most recently on my new movie. And thank goodness we really liked the person and worked it out with them, because we were on the verge of moving on to a different actor without a second glance. Don’t forget there are hundreds of people right behind you.
If your agent seems difficult, I assume the actor might be too, and unless you are Brad Pitt or a star name that is going to sell your movie at the marketplace, a producer just doesn’t have the energy or time to deal with insane demands or unnecessary egos.
Did I mention we take direct submissions for our movies? These actors have submitted themselves, come in for the audition on their own, and then once cast, the agent materializes and begins to negotiate on the actor’s behalf. Most actors don’t know that these emails are even being sent or what they say.
If you submit yourself for a project and you’ve worked things out with the producers, do not allow your agent to get in there and start sabotaging a deal that you already put into place. It’s very frustrating for the producers and frankly a big waste of time.
My advice is to stay in close communication with your agent and the producer, so you are one hundred percent aware of what’s going on. Be wise enough to know when you need your agent to get involved and when you don’t. If you have been cast in a low budget indie movie, there is no room to negotiate, because low budget films have very little money and there are fifty people lined up behind you wanting that part.
Remember, the world owes you nothing, be grateful, don’t be a problem!
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