This evening I have for the fourth time in two years stuffed 93 A4 envelopes with: 10x8 black and white headshot of my face, a flyer for the one woman show I am appearing for charity, a flyer for the rep season in which I am playing three leading roles, a CV listing the several and varied parts I have performed since graduating from one of the best drama schools in Great Britain and finally, and crucially a letter begging the recipient of the stuffed envelope to represent me as my theatrical agent.
You see despite being a continuously employed actress with good notices for every role I’ve performed and being part of an award winning ensemble (alright we only won the award yesterday, but still…) since my agent decided to stop being an agent in 2008 (he is now a casting director apparently. Still proving himself fairly useless to me in terms of career development) I have been one of the great many unrepresented actresses in London. Yes, I haven’t stopped working. Yes, it gives me freedom to dictate my own career and focus on my own projects. No, I am not OK with it.
If I can ‘do so well’ why would I want an agent? You may ask. Aren’t they parasites? Aren’t you putting your destiny into another’s hands? Well, I suppose it would be easy say yes to those questions and make myself feel better about being agentless. But, unfortunately, much like the recently dumped woman who claims to be ‘better off without’ their ex, I would be lying and after thinking about it seriously and fairly continuously since about August 2008 I can tell you exactly why I want an agent:
I want a champion for my work.
I do good work. I can go around telling people ‘Hey you, give me a job! I do good work’ but it works much better when someone-else goes ‘Hey you, I hear you’ve got a job going. I know this great gal, she does really good work. You should give her the job. You won’t regret it’. Having someone who people regard as having good taste, believe in you not makes others believe in you but makes you believe in yourself to. We could all do with a little more self-belief from time to time, especially in this business.
I don’t know the big boys and I don’t have time to stalk them.
Stage work doesn’t pay very well. In fact, sometimes, it doesn’t pay any money at all. Sure you reap rewards artistically and developmentally but financially? Not so much. This means you’ve got to have another source of income or you become destitute. This source of income has to fit around the crazy hours you have to keep as an actor from needing an hour off for a casting at 20 minutes notice to being able to duck out of your work for a three-mount period while you go on tour. I have nailed it as far as this is concerned. I am my own boss. But being my own boss means a lot of work when I’m not acting to make sure I can do those ad hoc castings and crazy long-periods of not appearing on the shop-floor. So I really don’t have time to run around town waiting outside the Groucho Club to accost the right directors and casting directors. Sure I write my letters and send catch-up emails and attend every networking event I can gain admittance too. But it won’t get me seen for that 10K commercial or the next HBO series. I need an agent who can introduce me to these people at the Groucho rather than me hanging around outside like a two dime hooker. I need an agent to arrange coffee with that CD I’ve been chatting to on Twitter. Yes I am pro-active but there are only so many hours in the day and I need to eat. I need a person who is driven to make money out of me. I’m not squeamish about it. Introduce me to the big boys so I make money and you make it too.
Looking at those reasons I realise they sound almost exclusively avaricious and I’ve got to be honest. I struggle to balance all of my plates financially. The acting I do is long-hours and demanding, I don’t want that to change but I do want to live without being hand to mouth and there are jobs out there which could either subsidise the work that satisfies me artistically or even, the Holy Grail the jobs that do both, pay well and exercise your acting muscles. I want an agent who can give me access to those.
So that is why I am stuffing envelopes at midnight as the clock ticks into my Birthday because I really want one of those 93 people to see my work and want to represent me. I have written letters and followed the letters up with emails and phone calls for the last 6 shows I’ve done. I’ve had only one agent come and see me perform and she said; ‘I’d love to represent you, but I only need guys, I’m desperate for guys’. Well, here’s hoping that these forthcoming shows are my time as, after all, Viola pretends to be a man for a good quantity of Twelfth Night!