10 Signs of a Shady Agent

By Tracey Finklestein

You wake up early in the morning to make sure you look your best for your interview with the agency. You head out, grab a coffee and check to make sure you’re still looking your best for walking in to the office. A man wearing a suit enters, takes one look as you and says, “I have a job for you.” You sign the contract and leave thinking this is your big break. So far, it has been a month since you got a job. Read this list to help you recognize the signs of a bad agent.

Be Wary if Agent

Asks you for money up front
“If someone asks you for money you should run,” says Jack Naveh, a talent
agent from Gersh Agency in Beverly Hills. When an agent finds you work, they
receive 10 per cent commission. “The agent is working for the actor, not the other
way around,” says Joe Silvaggio, an actor on the CBC television series M.V.P.

Guarantees you work
An agent can only bring you access and make sure you get in front of the right
people. An agent has to have the ability to know what the studios need and have
the right actor or writer to fulfill it. However, the rest is up to the client. “If you
have nothing to bring to the table then there is nothing an agent can do,” says
Naveh. “I can’t keep pushing something that is not there.”

Pressures you to sign a contract
Some agencies will have their clients sign a contract stating that for a certain
number of years the agency will represent you, that you will not be represented by
anyone else and that you agree to give the agency commission. “Never sign a contract
without reading it. There is no set time limit, so take your time,” says Naveh.

Signs everyone who approaches them
An agent should not have an abundance of people who look exactly the same
because they will always be competing for the same audition. “Casting directors
will only ask for two or three girls and you will never be that girl unless the other
ones reject the offer,” says Julie Cohn, an actor in Vancouver.

Pressures you to sign a contract
Some agencies will have their clients sign a contract stating that for a certain
number of years the agency will represent you, that you will not be represented by
anyone else and that you agree to give the agency commission. “Never sign a contract
without reading it. There is no set time limit, so take your time,” says Naveh.

Isn’t part of the union
Agency unions, such as the Talent Agency and Managers Association of Canada
(TAMAC), list all the agents with whom they are affiliated. “You want to
make sure the agency is a part of TAMAC because those agents agree to follow
union rules,” says Jennifer Bernardo, a spokesperson for ACTRA.

Isn’t part of the union
Agency unions, such as the Talent Agency and Managers Association of Canada
(TAMAC), list all the agents with whom they are affiliated. “You want to
make sure the agency is a part of TAMAC because those agents agree to follow
union rules,” says Jennifer Bernardo, a spokesperson for ACTRA.

Holds a cheque
Usually, the agent receives the cheque from the production company and
gives you money back. “As soon as the agent has the money, you should have
the money,” says Silvaggio. The production company will tell you when to expect
a cheque, although payment usually takes about a month depending on the
project.

Pressures you to go to an audition
An agent should respect an actor’s decision, whether it’s to accept or reject
an audition. You should probably tell your agent why you do not want to go to
the audition, but the agent should not pressure you,” says Cohn. You should tell
your agent the types of roles you want to play. A good agent will listen to what
the actor wants. “For example, if an actor does not want to do nudity the agent
should respect that,” says Silvaggio.

Takes no for an answer too soon
If the actor is not going to get the job, then the agent should get a rejection
from every person involved in the production. “In every given project there are
10 different people you can call from the producer, to a director, to the guy who
finances the film, the studio person,” says Naveh.


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