Some years ago, I was asked to run a branch of a well-known Talent Agency in Arizona. That was a bit sticky as I was also a talent. A Member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). The two are combined today for the benefit of their membership.
Back then, the agency also had another company associated with it that taught “On-Camera” Acting for commercials and then, later, for film and television. It was a pretty good set-up at the time as it was easier to move to the teaching side than try to assist with the conflicts of handling talent. But what served to try me most was “running” the front office.
I was an actor. Sure, I had worked at a gas station, grocery store and collecting garbage after the weekend swap meet ended. But my only experience at management came from what I saw on television, and from those around me. Not the best start.
The agency then decided to give me some training. They taught me from Brian Popco’s “The Millionaires Club” manuals by Success Motivation Institute (Waco, Texas). Great course. Lots of information. But little as to the day-to-day application of management skills for a two and three person office.
Before the first week was out, it was made known that the Agency had a new Manager. Along with that came the infestation of salesmen, each vying for our business in the Tucson marketplace. Each offering to take me to lunch, dinner, and small excursions, in order to secure our agreement to radio spots, print ads and the like.
Well, who could refuse such kind offers of “free” meals. And, in the Hollywood (wanna-be) tradition, I plunged myself into a sea of luncheon engagements. My poor secretary remaining to watch the phone, sell acting classes, and screen talent.
It was at one such engagement that I received a call from the office. The Head of the Agency was in Phoenix. She wanted me to call right away. “Bobby” was blunt. She used to describe herself as “three feet high, three feet wide, with bifocals three feet thick.” She would say; “I’m not pretty, but I get the job done.” Ice water immediately went through my veins. I called her.
Her comments to me were short – and to the point. “Where are you? … What are you doing? …” I told her. She got quiet. That was a real bad sign. Then she gave me a piece of advice. She said; “Kirk, I want you to leave the restaurant and go back to the office, now. Being a manager means managing. Not telling everyone you are a manager.”
I went back to my office, apologized to my secretary, and sat down to look through the stack of potential students needed for the acting classes. In the back of my mind was an understanding that I needed just to do my job and let the luncheons be handled by the owners of the business. I needed to write out what my duties were, how I needed to accomplish them, and focus on doing just that. The rest would fall into place.
As it turned out, the next year I performed in 5 films and that took a lot away from the job of managing the agency. It also made me realize how much I enjoyed teaching. Although, time on the set and silver screen, no matter how small, remained the thrill that would forever capture my heart.
The stage offers the most exhilaration. But film and television have their charm, as well. As for commercials – That can give you a continuing paycheck, and insurance coverage. And “IF” you are lucky enough to move on both sides of the camera, then thank someone for introducing you to the real world of making “on screen” magic happen.
Regardless your place in the industry, you need to sit down and make a list. Actually two lists.
First, list what your responsibilities are and how you go about accomplishing them. Second, list your tools: headshots, resumes, showcases, on-going training (dance, riding, instruments, etc.); and, your daily check-sheet of contacts that include a solid support system. (Including dentists and hair stylists.) Because if your spouse, parents, significant other, or even boyfriend/girlfriend are not behind you – neither you nor your agent or manager will be able to adequately do their job.
Here’s the kicker. Be realistic. You are the boss of your own affairs. Decide what you want. Then, manager your personal affairs to get there. And if you don’t have someone pushing for you… get an agent.
Just so you know, the rule of thumb at our agency was this: Send out a newbie’s resume three of four times. If they get an audition, send it out some more. If they get three to four auditions and no job, then stop sending the resumes. Use those that are constantly getting work.
You see, the agency is a business, too. They have to eat and pay the bills. Just make sure that you are on their check-sheet of “solid support systems.”