Linda Stopfer

Are you playing by the rules?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 4 Comments

Agents are angels.

Well, most of them are.

Some agents work miracles.

They open doors that were previously closed. They negotiate fees you could only dream of. They do the legwork so you can concentrate on your craft. And sometimes, they have to lay down the law.

Since 1990, agents Beth Allen and Linda Stopfer have been at the helm of The Take One Company. They have a nose for great talent, and that’s why they’re representing the author of this blog.

Of course Beth and Linda want their talent to be successful, but some of the folks they represent don’t make it easy. In fact, gifted (voice) actors are blowing their chances by ignoring the basics of a healthy agent-talent relationship.

As in any relationship, it is give and take. 

You give and they take.

Correction. That was a joke. I didn’t really mean that. As far as I’m concerned, my agents are worth every penny and I do my very best to make their life a little easier by playing by their book.

If you want to play the game, you better learn the rules before you enter the field. 

So, what’s rule number one for dealing with your agent? According to The Take One Team, it is: 

RESPOND PROMPTLY

Take One: “Producers and Casting Directors who are perpetually in a time crunch often contact us after hours with bookings, avails and auditions. It’s no longer an anomaly that our work day starts very early and ends very late. Therefore, it’s imperative that you check your devices and if you haven’t traded up to a smart phone, do it now.

We have very detailed info that you are required to confirm in writing, usually during business hours. If you have questions regarding job stats, please inquire BEFORE auditioning as it is assumed your attendance confirms acceptance unless the terms are changed. And about those terms, we always endeavor to get the very best deal available because we make money only when you do!”

This brings us to rule number two:

BE ACCESSIBLE

Never leave only one number where an agent can reach you. Always give them a backup number.

Take One: “Cell phone signals are not always reliable. Some days, your carriers go off-line with technical email glitches which are very frustrating when we need you. One other thing about cell phones: if you are situated in a place (audition/recording booth, etc.) where the ring tone is inappropriate, keep your phone on vibrate.

One client almost lost out on an audition for a $15K job because he went to the movies and turned off his phone. Also, please delete messages from your voice mail when you no longer need them. It’s frustrating when we need you pronto, and your voice mail tells us it’s full and not accepting any more messages and we can’t reach you.

Please return our phone calls and/or emails within the hour. To make it easy, please enter your agent’s numbers into your cell phone so it’s handy. Email them when you are not available or out of town.”

Here’s the third rule:

BE SPECIFIC

Don’t assume you are the only person your agent is working with. Usually, they’re balancing quite a few plates in the air at the same time. 

Take One: “We have many schedules to keep track of, and you only have yours, so be specific when contacting your agent about “that audition” or “that booking.” Refer to them by product name, date/time, etc. And it’s become apparent that some of you don’t travel with your day planners.

Lately, when we ask about your availability, a few are not sure and can’t confirm until they go home and look at them. Those of you need to take a copy with you when you leave the house. Again, there’s a growing insistence from the industry to confirm avails and bookings quickly, or they move on to the next person of their list. Why lose a job over something so simple?”

Number four:

KNOW THE LINGO

Take One noticed that some terminology can be confusing. I asked them to give some examples:

Availability” (a.k.a “avail”) to record a job, means just that. It doesn’t mean you are automatically booked. Being placed “on hold” or “on avail” means you are reserving that time for that particular job.

Being placed “on first refusal” is an even stronger reservation of your time. It actually means that you agree NOT to book a different job during that time without first consulting your agent. It then becomes his or her responsibility to contact the casting director or producer, giving them the option to book or release you FIRST, before any one else. They then must book you or REFUSE to book you. Only then are you free to accept the other booking.

This availability also impacts your “other career” or survival job. After confirming, you can’t turn around and tell your agent that you’re no longer available because you have scheduled a massage/PT/exercise or business meeting. Casting directors and producers usually go ballistic when this occurs. Disregarding the established protocols usually results in serious repercussions.”

The fifth rule:

BE CAREFUL

Take One: “Please bring to all bookings the information that your agent has provided you with about payment and terms, and make sure that it matches the information on the contract should there be one for you to sign. If there are any discrepancies, DON’T SIGN IT. Once you’ve signed it, should it be incorrect, it is almost impossible to get it changed after the fact. There are three ways to handle the situation:

  • call your agent immediately
  • take it with you  
  • tell the producer to send it to your agent

Make sure you always have the check sent to your agent first, not you, so your agent can verify the correct amount. Once you’ve cashed it, you’ve acknowledged your agreement to accept that payment as correct. “

And here’s rule number six:

RESPECT CONFIDENTIALITY

Take One: “Whenever you are given a script and asked to record an audition, given a script to record at an audition, or given a script to record at a booking, this material is never to be shared with anyone due to confidentiality, especially if it’s a new product. More often now, talent are required to sign an NDA form (non disclosure agreement). This requires you to not reveal the contents of scripts.” More on confidentiality in my story “Winning an audition. Losing the job.

STATING THE OBVIOUS?

Not every casting agency has the same policies and preferences. Nevertheless, some of you might be wondering: Why does Take One have to spell everything out? Isn’t this just plain old common sense? Are the people they represent and who call themselves professional really that oblivious?

YES they are, and increasingly so.

So, before you go on with your day, think about some simple things you can do to strengthen your connection with your agent, or even with the client you are currently working with. These relationships are the cornerstones of your business and the foundation of your success.

Be an angel. Treat them like gold.

When you look good, they look good.

And that’s what it’s all about!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

In the following article, I get personal and take you to my moment of truth, after I took a good look in the mirror.