51 days here and quite a lot of my focus is having to shift to what happens when I get back. This morning was rather schizophrenic in that I was mixing emails to managers out here with emails to agents back at home. I’ve been put into an interesting situation.
Over here, actors tend to have three business relationships. An agent, a manager and a publicist. In the UK, more frequently, there is just the one, under the umbrella of “agent.”
Fiction has brought us many examples of dysfunctional relationships between actors and their agents. Frequently my friends outside the industry have these as touch points for what it must be like for us. Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty says “I remember my first agent. Raymond Duck … Four floors up on the Charing Cross road and never a job at the top of them.” It’s important to note that Withnail and I is not a documentary. I do know some actors who seem to think it’s the manual. And I have some friends who seem to assume it’s how I live. But it’s nothing to aspire to. I think of it as a beautifully told cautionary tale.
Stephen Merchant’s Darren Lamb in Extras is another painfully observed fictional agent, where all of the worst experiences of a pool of actors have been honed into this blithe venal cheerful incompetent dead weight. The reality is scarcely as extreme as these examples. Oh, I could tell you some stories. But I won’t.
It’s a business relationship. A professional one. I’ve been unfortunate in that a lot of my previous agents have retired, due to age, kids or pressure. I’ve not had time to develop a strong understanding with anyone, and the best actor/agent relationships are forged by time. I am lucky to have a manager who has had nothing but time, in that she knew me when I was 12 and has seen me change and grow. My most recent agent, though, never saw me work outside of my showreel. He was working hard on my behalf, doubtless, but juggling alongside that his work as a producer, actor and musical theatre jack of all trades. We have both admitted it wasn’t working for either of us. I will be leaving his books at the end of the month.
So now when I get back to London I’m going to need a new agent. This is a brilliant position to be in, as I can try to shop around and see if there is somebody that I get on with that gets what I’m about. A blank canvas, if you will. It’s an opportunity for a really positive change. I’ve fallen into the last two relationships I’ve had, so this time I’m trying to paraglide. Maybe I can find someone who operates on both sides of the Atlantic. More than that, maybe I can find someone who understands what they’re selling and wants to run alongside me. I’d love my next agent to be the one who, in twenty years time, we go on holiday together and laugh, because we actually really like each other. I might need to be in something visible in London, but that should be easy enough to make happen if I keep my ear to the ground.
Today I’ve found a rhythm that I can handle. I hate selling myself so I send emails until I can’t bear it anymore. Then I stop and meditate in the sunshine for a while, and pet the dogs. Then I send more. Then meditate and dogs. It’s slower than doing a generic mailshot, but the dogs love it, and at least every email is personal. Past experience of this sort of exercise has taught me that it will probably yield nothing but a couple of generic autoreject emails from an assistant. But despite saying that I feel strangely positive. Probably because of the sunlight and the dogs. If I can yield a few meetings when I get back then it’s all good. All I need is one click. I suppose it’s like internet dating, which is the other thing that I utterly hate loathe and detest. But some people swear by it. Never fear though, I am not sending cock shots to agents.
Or am I?