Last week we talked about why you might want to change agents or managers, and explored the more common reasons that actors—or actor’s parents—consider leaving their representation.

This week we’ll explore the implications and potential consequences of staying in or leaving a bad situation, as well as HOW to approach a breakup so it’s as clean as possible.

Staying in a bad situation (if it really is bad and not simply your dissatisfaction that more isn’t happening with your child’s career) is really only postponing the inevitable. If you have a genuine problem, and efforts to fix it have not improved the situation, it’s better to do the difficult work and make a change.

It’s a rare actor who never has to change someone on their team. Obviously, the better your team members are from the start, the less likely you will have to face much of this pain. And it can feel painful—these relationships often cross the line from professional into personal.

Sometimes parents (or actors) worry that leaving an agent or manager will damage their reputation—that they’ll never get one again. This scary thought can keep people stuck in a bad fit for years. But professionals know that change is part of this business. And the way you manage the change can have a lot to do with keeping your reputation in good shape. Keep it professional. Your new rep will want to know why you are making a change and how you left your old rep, as it may hold hints for how you conduct yourself in uncomfortable circumstances.

In some cases, the reason you want to change management will dictate how you make that change. In most of the below cases, a conversation is probably in order to determine if you really do have cause to leave, or if there are simple misunderstandings fueling your dissatisfaction. The four common reasons people leave their agents/managers listed below would warrant a conversation, in my eyes, before making any change.

  • Not getting enough auditions/work
  • Mismatched communication style
  • Difference in vision for career
  • Career shift

The fifth common reason people leave their agents/managers is over genuine problems/ bad behavior. This warrants a different approach.

If you are completely certain that your child’s rep has been engaging in behavior that has cost your trust in them, you can’t really go to them to discuss the issue, as you already may not feel safe with them. In this case, I would begin with a conversation with your entertainment attorney, who can guide you in how to best end the relationship.

In fact, even when you are dealing with one of the simpler triggers for leaving an agent or manager, once you have made the decision to definitely make the change—and have made sure that the issue is not one that is really yours to solve, or a misunderstanding– your next stop should be your attorney. Contracts must be ended properly to protect your child going forward. And in many cases, your child’s former agent or manager may continue to draw commissions for some time on projects where they were part of the deal.

Most contracts have a termination clause that spells out how, and under what circumstances the contract may be terminated. You should be very clear about the language in this part of the contract, as many have an automatic renewal with a small window of time to send written notice that you are ending the agreement. When you do give notice to a representative that you are ending the agreement, you should use certified mail to protect yourself from any possible future claim that notice was not given.

Sometimes an agent or manager will “hip-pocket” talent—that is, represent them without a formal contract, while they see if the relationship is one they want to actually commit to. If you are in this situation, leaving should be simpler, but it still requires a formal letter to be sent via certified mail, and a quick check with your attorney is still a good idea.

In all cases, remember that while the actor/agent or actor/manager relationship is a professional one, this is a people-based business, and a small world. So when you send that letter informing your child’s rep that you have decided to move on, keep any emotion out of it. Make sure to acknowledge them for everything they did to help you and your kid. Let them know you will stay in communication to pass along any commissions that may still be due to them, and that you expect they will forward any money that is due to your child as well.

You may be relieved to know that many reps will prefer that someone who is not happy with them DOES leave! It’s not a rewarding relationship for an agent or manager when their client is unhappy with them. Most reps work much harder for their clients than the talent will ever know, and they would rather work that hard for someone who appreciates them.

Moving forward, see what lessons you can take with you from this experience. What can you do to not repeat this? Can you research your child’s next rep more thoroughly before signing with them? Are there certain personality types that are a better match for your communication style? Do you need to hold out for someone whose client roster is a better scale for your child’s career—so they are neither the biggest star nor the smallest fish in that reps’ portfolio?

You can’t control how your child’s former rep will feel or react when you make the move—some will have hurt feelings no matter how you manage it—but you can do your best to act with integrity and professionalism. Which is of course a great lesson for your child as well.

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