A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from one of the junior agents at my acting agency who informed me that the agent who had originally invited me into the company had left. However, a terrific "new guy" had been brought in to head the legit department and I was asked to come in and meet him. I felt bad that my original agent was gone since I had really liked him. Since we were Facebook friends, I dropped him a note to wish him well in whatever his new endeavors might be. He sent me back a very short "thank you" reply and promised he would keep me posted.
Historically, my relationships with agents have always been weird. I rarely know what to say to them or how to say it. When I do call, I always feel like I’m taking up their time and often hang up the phone wishing I’d said something other than what I said. So, how I generally handle these relationships is that I simply don’t call. Period. I’m the very model of a low-maintenance client.
When the appointed day and time rolled around, I went into meet “The New Guy.” The meeting didn’t get off to a great start since I called him by the wrong name. In fact, I called him by my former agent’s name. I don’t know why it happened, but it just came out of my mouth. I tried to laugh it off, but it’s a little hard to get past a rough start like that. In an effort to redeem myself (and show what a nice thoughtful guy I am) I offered him my sympathy since I was sure he’d had probably had quite a few clients parading through his office in the last week.
The New Guy sort of, but not quite, smirked as he shifted in his chair. “Well, as a result of my coming in, we’ve actually let over a hundred clients go.” On hearing this, two thoughts collided in my brain. The first one was “Why hadn’t I been one of them?” I’d barely worked at all this year. In fact, I’d only had a handful of auditions. The second idea, however, made my heart swell with pride. I had made the cut! The New Guy continued, telling me that the agency's revised strategy would now be to have a smaller roster of very strong clients and really focus on getting them all well-established and working. Apparently, I was one of the chosen few!!
Now, feeling safe and secure, I began to open up a bit. I told him about how I had only recently returned to acting after a 13-year hiatus. How I’d accidentally wound up on “Boston Legal” with a popular reoccurring role. How I had a dual career as a writer. I even felt comfortable enough to talk about how as much as I love acting, I'm basically philosophical about booking jobs because it’s such a crap shoot. As I was driving home, I began to replay the meeting in my mind and wondered if I’d been too cavalier when talking about my career. The next day, I sent him an email reiterating how much I’d enjoyed meeting him and that I looked forward to working with him in the New Year. Within the hour, the agency called with a last minute audition for a casting director I’d been wanting to meet for some time. Clearly, the New Guy was on the job!
The following morning, as I was waiting to pick up a prescription at the Rite Aid, I got a call from the junior agent. For a hot minute, I entertained the happy idea that maybe I had booked yesterday's audition! Instead, Junior was calling to tell me I was being cut from the agency. The official story was that The New Guy was bringing over a couple of heavy-hitting clients from his former agency and that my presence created some sort of “conflict.” For those of you who don’t speak “Agentese,” this translates to “The New Guy hated you and doesn’t think you’ll ever book another job as long as you live.” Junior then offered to make some calls on my behalf to try to set me up with another agency. Reeling from shock, I actually said I’d think about it.
As I mentioned, I took this call while waiting for my prescription to be filled at the Rite-Aid. I’m not going to tell you what it was for, other than to say it was one of those embarrassing medications that remind you that you’re not twenty-two anymore. Because if you were twenty-two, then your agency wouldn’t be cutting you. They would keep you and send you out on a zillion meetings in the hope that you might hit it big and become a fat cash cow for years to come. You, however, are a character actor and your chances of “hitting it big” are now statistically about the same as being struck by a meteorite. Odd, since you are probably more skilled now than you have ever been in your entire career. But are you are being cut loose because, let’s face it; there are only so many “Judge” roles to go around.
When I got home, I took my slightly embarrassing middle-age medication and flopped down on my sofa for a while. As I lay there, I allowed myself to entertain a few happy fantasies of my former agency burning to the ground with no survivors. Finally, I got up and emailed Junior to say that I was going to pass on his offer to introduce me to other agencies. The whole idea creeped me out. It felt like the equivalent of saying, “Hey want to marry my ex-wife? I don’t want her anymore, but you might!”
At day’s end, I got one final email from my former representatives apologizing and saying how tough the decision had been and how much everyone there (except maybe The New Guy) respected me as an artist and as a person. I appreciated the sentiment, but on that particular evening, I didn’t really want to be a respected artist. I wanted to be a whore; a popular, well-paid whore with an enthusiastic pimp calling me day and night with multiple offers to do increasingly disgusting things for larger and larger sums of cash. In short, a whore with a decent retirement account.
Before you despair dear readers, there is a happy ending to this story. My original agent (the one whose departure started all this) contacted me the following day and invited me to join him at a new agency where he is now heading up the theatrical department. Having always adored him, I was delighted and tomorrow, I'll be going in to meet with him and his new colleagues.
Show business runs on high hopes and it’s difficult not to invest a bit of yourself in your professional relationships. When things go sour, for whatever reason, we’re oddly admired if we take it on the chin without flinching. It's a ridiculous expectation. The final email I got from the agency that dumped me said that it was nothing personal and they hoped our paths would cross again. Personally, I hope not.
Copyright 2009 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment, Inc.
David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being strangely middle-class in Hollywood at http://www.partsandlabor.tv/