Hey J! Ask the Agent: Hold please. . .

Hey J,

I signed with an agent in November 2019, just before the world fell apart, and things were really good to begin with but now, whenever I call up, they’re too busy to talk to me, they don’t return my emails and I always feel like I’m bothering them. I call up once a week – is that too much?

Thank you for your help, Lachlan.

Hi Lachlan,

It’s interesting how things change. Back in the 1970’s when Dad was a struggling actor, I remember every day at 5pm he’d call his agent, Alan, to ask “anything for me?” This was a time before the internet, before mobile phones, and even before answerphones. Your agent had no way of getting hold of you at short notice so you had to call just in case a last minute casting had come in for the next day. It was not only expected that actors would ring up, it was a necessity.

Those days are long gone and any actor calling their agent every day at 5pm to ask “anything for me?” is likely to get short shrift! These days actors are more likely to wait until their agent calls them. Most auditions are sent out via email which often means that actually talking to your agent is quite rare. Personally, I think that’s a shame. When I sign someone I suggest they drop me an email once a week telling me what they’ve been up to, what they’re watching, what they’re reading, who they’ve met, what they’re working on, etc. For me, once a week is about right.

I think it’s a good idea to ask during the initial interview how much contact time the agent likes. Or, if not in the first interview, bring it up when you agree to sign. It will vary from agent to agent though and, of course, it’s important to remember that time spent chatting to you is time away from trying to find you, and all the other clients, work.

A really good rule of thumb is to always have something to say when you call up. If it’s quiet for you then your agent will already be aware of it, and remember, it’s not in their interest for you to be out of work – we don’t earn money if you’re not earning money. It is really frustrating for us as agents when we struggle to get talented clients into the audition room. We sign you because we believe in you and your talent, but also because we believe in our ability to build a great career for you. It’s really annoying for us if we’re not able to get you seen for the type of work you want to be doing. A call once a week to ask why it’s so quiet, or a call that reminds us that we haven’t been able to get you seen, can feel a bit like a reminder that we’re not doing our job! Remember we have feelings too and we want to be a good agent. We are always working for you, as I said a few weeks ago, but the stuff you get to see – the actual auditions – is just the tip of the iceberg.

Instead of asking if there’s anything coming up, I’d suggest getting in touch to offer some help – it reinforces the idea that we’re working together. Asking how you can improve your chances of getting seen is a great question and getting in touch to tell us what you’ve been doing to get yourself out there is also great. If you’ve done a workshop with a casting director then we want to hear about that. Maybe you took a short course in something that interested you or added a new skill to your cv. We need to know this! Having something to say is a really good reason to get in touch. Sometimes though, it is just quiet – this industry can be full-on for weeks and then, for no apparent reason, just stops.

If it’s been a while since your agent took your call or replied to an email then perhaps give it a couple of weeks break and then email asking for an appointment to see them or speak to them. Explain you are feeling a bit lost and you’d like a quick chat to give you some ideas on things you could be working on to help improve your opportunities. Remember though that right now, as the industry gets going again, your agent is probably incredibly busy as people return to work and projects are suddenly getting greenlit again.

I know the last thing you want to feel is like you’re being a bother – but remember your agent wants to maximise your opportunities so if you think of ways in which you can help them do that then you’ll be an asset, not a bother.

Stay connected. Stay creative.


Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]


JBR is a UK Talent Agent based in London. He began his career as a child performer in the 1980’s and has spent more than three decades in the industry exploring creativity and working across a number of fields. He has been an actor, a director, a writer, a designer, a drag queen, a producer, a dramaturg, a teacher, a comedy booker, a publican, a marketing manager and an agent. He runs JBR Creative Management working with a small group of multi-platform creatives. JBR's first book, Getting, Keeping And Working With Your Acting Agent will be published by Nick Hern Books on May 27th 2021 and is now available to preorder.


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