Frank Hansen of Hansen Creative Management is a force to be reckoned with. Strong, intelligent and incredibly knowledgable in all areas of the arts – his is most certainly one of the bright lights in our industry. And his star is now shining brighter than ever.
After training and working as an actor, Hansen made the transition to working as an artists’ agent several years ago. He knows the ins and outs of dealing with agents from an actor’s perspective and he knows how to handle actors as a top notch agent. Branching out and launching his own agency business (Hansen Creative Management) this year was a necessary step, he says, and he spoke with AussieTheatre recently about his new business, his thoughts on the industry and the all-important actor/client relationship.
What prompted you to set up Hansen Creative Management?
I saw a need for better representation of actors in this country. Most agents do not know the fundamentals of an actors life – what compels them to do what they do and what the art of acting is all about. My training as an actor and subsequent professional career in performing has given me an edge over many other agents/managers in that I can talk to an actor in a language they can understand, I have an excellent understanding of the craft and I know what it feels like for an actor to be well managed (because I had an agent of my own).
What is the main focus of your agency?
I would say career development. Taking an actors or creatives career and by using my knowledge, contacts and networks to develop new and diverse opportunities across the whole industry. Also our focus is on breaking the categorisation of performers. Too often we are told by the industry what we should be and what work we should do. A big passion of mine is to represent broad range of performers that can enjoy a diverse career in all areas of the performing arts and not be pigeon holed too much. As a result, all my clients need to have the skills to work in all areas of the performance industry.
What is important to know about the agent/client relationship?
That you (the actor/client) are the boss. Some agents can make you feel like they are doing you a favour by taking you on. Any agent that makes you feel like you are working for them is, in my opinion, representing a dysfunctional relationship. Also, beware of “spin”. It is so easy for an agent to tell you they are the best in the business It is only when you have been with them for a few years and not landed the opportunities you thought you would that you realise your agent is not as good as you thought. Do your homework. Ask other actors (and in particular, other clients with that agency) what they are like. Ask casting directors who they like dealing with, who is proactive for their clients and who is responsive, organised and professional – you want to know the answers here – after all, it is your career we are dealing with.
You’ve worked in many facets of the arts industry over the last 15 years, what do you think has changed about the industry in that time?
Certainly the level of ability. With so much access to overseas training the level of skills needed to gain employment is increasing. In stage, an actor needs to not only be competent now at all skills, they need to excel. Similarly with screen work, all actors need to keep these skills red hot. Too many actors are nailing auditions now for you to go in and do a satisfactory test. Self testing means that any actor from any corner of the world is now in contention for overseas work and competition is as always, tough. The best thing to come out of the last 15 years is the rise of the television revolution. The US has made television watchable again with great writing, acting and directing from Netflix and HBO for example. I am certain this will have a flow on effect for the Australian market and we will see increasingly great television being made locally. In stage, we now have more demand for the “spectacle”. Millions of dollars are being spent by companies such as Global to recreate dinosaurs and transcend our beliefs of what is possible in a theatre. I am certain that this trend will continue to (hopefully) provide more work for actors, directors and producers of theatre.
How does knowing the industry from the ‘other side’ inform your work as an agent?
Hugely. Like I said, I come from an acting background so I understand the fundamentals of script analysis, beats, audition technique, research and of course, the demands of performance. I have managed over the years to use that knowledge to an advantage by preparing the actors with a more hands on and informed approach so when it comes to the crunch – my clients are well prepared, professional and will have the best chance they can of getting the job
How long was the process of setting up the agency?
It took a while. I wanted to make sure I had everything ready to go so that I could effectively manage working actors immediately. Also having a presence in both Sydney and Melbourne requires a lot of travel and meetings and to be your own boss is equally exciting as it is challenging.
What are the key things you think are most important in a management agency?
Trust, honesty and professionalism. You want your agent/manager to be representing you as you would represent yourself and you need to trust that they are doing so in an organised, professional and timely manner. Approachability is also a big one. When I was an actor I wanted an agent/manager I could talk to confidentially and honestly and know that the feedback I would receive was honest (whether I liked it or not!). They have to be a friend as well as a business partner. Always try to think of the relationship as a partnership. You both rely on each other because you have opposing strengths but if working well, harmonise to produce great results.
How would you describe the ‘feel’ of your company/brand?
It is creative, approachable, trustworthy and professional. It is unique because of my connection to the industry in a very personal way.
You represent clients in both Melbourne and Sydney – is that a lot of work for you as a Melbourne based business?
I am living in Melbourne but my business comes from a combination of Melbourne, Sydney and overseas. Because my whole professional life was spent in Sydney, my contacts are all very well established there and I thought it best to live in Melbourne for the foreseeable future to develop the same personal connections. I travel a lot between the two cities (about half the time in each) but for me, Melbourne is an amazing city to live. The culture and vibe is great so I think it is important for any agent to have a presence equally balanced in both cities and similarly represent clients and generate work from both cities as well.
How many clients is too many for an agent?
It is my belief that you should manage as many as you can effectively without putting too much strain on yourself or taking away from the management of the other clients. There are no numbers here as I will surely grow and will invariably hire amazing agents to work with to ensure the same level of service is maintained.
For more information on Hansen Creative Management, visit their official website hansencreative.com.au