The first question to ask when you want to change your child’s agent or manager is WHY do you want to make this change? There are probably a hundred different reasons someone might want to change representation, but they tend to fall into a few basic categories:
• Not getting enough auditions/work
• Mismatched communication style
• Genuine problems/ bad behavior
• Difference in vision for career
• Career shift
Let’s take a look at these most common reasons for wanting to leave a rep.
Not getting enough auditions/work
Wanting to leave an agent because you are unhappy with how few audition opportunities your child has had is probably the most common issue. The problem with leaving a rep over this is that you may have unrealistic expectations, and your rep may be actually submitting your kid for many more roles than you know—but the casting directors aren’t biting and accepting them for audition slots.
Some seasons have a lot of opportunities for young actors, and some have few. Talk to other people you know in the industry—what is their take on this season? If everyone is complaining about the lack of roles in the current season for child actors, your rep may not be the issue. If however lots of kids are currently being cast in film and TV roles and your kid hasn’t gone out for months, you may have a legitimate issue.
Or is it possible that your child is in a category that is difficult to cast right now? Are they very tall for their age? Do they look older than they really are? Are their teeth at an awkward stage, or is their skin breaking out? Any and all of these things can make it more challenging to cast kids for film or TV, or even get them audition appointments. Luckily these issues tend to disappear over time.
Actors of any age who are just starting out frequently have a harder time getting auditions for better roles just because they lack the experience. Yes, this is a Catch-22. But if a casting director has lots of good choices to see for a limited number of audition slots, they are typically going to prefer to spend their time seeing actors with more experience, just because they are better bets. Getting the first few roles on your child’s IMDb page can definitely be made more challenging by this issue, and there is only so much an agent can do about it.
Have you done everything on your side to make it easy for the agent to get your child auditions? Do they have great, up to date headshots? A decent reel? Has your kid been working to become a better actor by attending classes or working with a coach? An agent in many ways can only be as good as the tools they are given.
On the other hand, you may be right—your child’s agent may really just not be making the best effort to get them out there. Your child may be one of several in the same category that the agent represents, and it could be that the other young actors are getting sent out more because they are more experienced or better trained, or the agent believes in them more.
If you genuinely feel your agent is not sending your child out on as many auditions as they should, schedule a meeting and find out what their side of the story is.
Mismatched communication style
Communication is critical between agents/managers and parents of young actors, but the players may have different ideas of what that should look like.
Many agents prefer minimal contact so they can be free to pitch their clients, which is their primary work. They can’t submit your child for auditions if they are busy holding the parents’ hands every day! Frequent communication and more personal questions are more the work of a manager.
On the other hand, if your agent never takes your calls, or rarely gets back to your emails in a reasonable time frame, you may have a real problem. And if you can’t manage to schedule a meeting to talk, (unless it’s pilot season, when meetings are truly difficult) then you definitely have an issue.
Genuine problems/ bad behavior
Sometimes an agent or manager engages in genuinely bad behavior that makes it impossible for you to continue a relationship. It may not fall into outright illegal behavior—more likely it’s an issue of ethics or trust that is breached. If your child’s rep is so aggressive that they fall into bullying executives and casting directors, this can hurt your child’s reputation and career. If producers and casting offices stop taking calls from your reps because they are so obnoxious or difficult to work with, your child’s work can dry up. And if the rep engages in questionable or sleazy tactics of any kind, it will reflect badly on your kid.
These kinds of issues can’t really be fixed with a conversation, and if this is what you are facing, you definitely need to leave and find better representation. Trust is a critical part of any relationship, and especially one where your child is concerned.
Difference in vision for career
Sometimes an agent or manager simply has a different vision for your child’s career than you and your child do. This issue is best addressed at the beginning of a relationship—when you are looking for a rep that is on the same page to begin with—but in fact people can change their vision over time. Maybe your child started out looking for dramatic leads but all the work they have gotten was in comedy as the best friend, so now your rep has them pigeon-holed in that category. Or maybe you signed up with an agent that said they do both theatrical and commercial work, but your child has only ever been sent out on commercial auditions.
It’s a good idea to sit down periodically with your child’s reps to make sure everyone is still operating under the same vision, and explore the differences if there are any. If you and your child’s agent or manager have very different ideas about where their career should be headed, it is possible that you might be being unrealistic about their type, or that your child’s reps really don’t understand their capabilities. If you can’t find a common ground, you should probably look for someone who shares your vision.
Finally, sometimes an actor’s career makes a shift that makes finding a new agent or manager a good idea. Moving to a new location is a simple example of this—it’s actually illegal for an agent to represent an actor in a different state, as agents are licensed to work only in the state in which they are franchised. And while managers are not licensed by the state, it is unrealistic for a manager to expect they can properly manage talent in a different state.
A more complex reason to change agents or managers can be when the actor outgrows the capabilities of their reps, if the reps mostly handle beginning actors and the young actor’s career truly grows to the point where the agent or manager is over their head. This is a delicate issue because the rep was likely an important contributing factor to the actor’s success, and you may also have a personal relationship at this point.
When an actor’s star begins to rise, they may be courted, sometimes aggressively, by bigger reps. This interest can be flattering, but it’s not always the case that bigger, more powerful agencies will do a better job representing your kid. Sometimes a rep who knows and loves your kid will represent them and fight for them more effectively than an agent who has no real relationship with them but works for a big name agency.
On the other hand, if your kid’s agent or manager truly is out of their league dealing with issues they have no real experience negotiating or handling, it may be time to transition to one whose capabilities and experience are a better match for the career your kid actually has, rather than the one they had a few years ago.
Much of this difficult situation can be avoided by signing with a good agent or manager to begin with. A good boutique agency can frequently hold its own against even the biggest competitors if its agents are experienced and passionate about your kid.
Next 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.
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
If your young actor is 12 or older, they will enjoy reading my second book, Young Hollywood Actors, which shares inspirational stories and advice from some of their favorite performers.
You can book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
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