WRITTEN BY ANNA LEWKOWSKA
It’s coming closer to a time of year when things are finally slowing down and some tough decisions have to be made. Pilot season was hectic, fact-paced, and jam-packed with long hours, and now agents and managers are looking at their rosters to decide which actors aren’t making the cut. Should I call it drop season? I hear it being referenced that way more and more. Whether it’s March (on the early side), April, or May (after upfronts happen and it’s announced which shows will be picked up), this annual practice of letting actors go is something most agents and managers do. It’s not fun but it’s reality.
All of the actors I sign are talented artists who are great people. There’s no doubt about it. So why drop them? Well, you already know this answer. It’s business. All of us agents and managers are businesspeople first and, in order to keep growing in an upwards trend, rosters have to constantly evolve. This is just like companies with physical products that have to do quarterly or annual reviews of which of their products sell best and which products sell less but take up a similar amount of shelf space and employee time.
So what are some reasons actors get dropped?
1. Money– The biggest reason actors get dropped is simply because they’re in the bottom percentage of income-producing clients. Nothing personal, just numbers. Many agencies follow a strict percentage guideline to keep emotions out of these decisions.
2. Progress– Not only is the actor not booking projects, but callbacks or pins aren’t happening either. This can lower excitement around an actor.
3. Marketplace– I saw potential in an actor, but after presenting them to the marketplace, the marketplace doesn’t respond enthusiastically, or at all.
4. Professionalism– I put my reputation in the hands of my actors, but if an actor arrives late to appointments, isn’t prepared, isn’t put together, or isn’t behaving appropriately, then I need to remove my name from their resume ASAP.
5. Work Ethic– If an actor has convinced me that acting is their one and only dream, but then I don’t see much (or enough) hustle from them, I lose interest. Perhaps that actor is sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring. Perhaps they aren’t in acting classes, aren’t updating their marketing materials, or aren’t creating their own opportunities. I should never want this dream more than the actor.
6. Schedule– If an actor is repeatedly unavailable for auditions or leaves town too often, then it means the product I’m trying to sell, isn’t actually available for me to sell.
7. Unrealistic Expectations– Aiming high is great, but an actor repeatedly expecting auditions or meetings that currently aren’t realistic will let me know that we aren’t on the same page.
8. Time Sucker– Sometimes an actor goes completely overboard on demanding attention from their agent or manager with multiple emails/calls/texts checking in, asking about auditions, wanting information on projects, etc.
9. Bad Energy– Just like any relationship, sometimes it’s not the representative or the actor, but the combination of the two. Some energies just don’t line up.
10. Shady with Money– The quickest way off most rosters is showing a hint of shadiness with money/commissions. If you have a problem paying your $200 commission now, I don’t want to find out how you’ll handle giving me a $20,000 check later. No, thank you.
11. Ignores Advice– Actors sign with agents and managers because they supposedly trust their expertise. When an actor ignores advice from their reps, and instead keeps doing what their actor friends, acting coach, or others tell them, there’s obviously a lack of trust.
12. Appearance Change– The actor’s appearance changed in a way that seems less marketable.
How do I make my decisions?
As much as I like to stick to the numbers to keep my emotions out of it, it’s hard not to consider more when I’ve spent so much time developing an actor. Yes, I consider an actor’s time on my roster versus incoming commissions but also the progress an actor has been making, their work ethic, and how well we work together as a team. But the most difficult and persistent conundrum I have to battle is: Is something big just around the corner? In an industry that has no clear path to success, this particular question can really drive me into indecision for longer than I should probably allow. So ultimately, I just follow my gut.
Other times, I know the actor will be successful but will it match up with my timeline? I’ve dropped many actors that I knew would one day be successful but I couldn’t give them the time and attention they needed now.
So, although it usually comes down to the money, there isn’t one formula that agents and managers use to drop clients. If you’re an actor that is hustling and training and running a solid actor’s business plus you listen to your reps’ advice, you’re diligent with auditions, and you communicate well—that’s ALL you can really do. The rest is out of your hands.
What if you get dropped?
Well, it’s a shitty feeling. Of course it is. Give yourself a day to feel bad but then you must keep going. This industry is full of unexpected twists and turns, each one making you stronger and wiser and probably a better actor (as long as you’re paying attention). Some of the biggest actors today have been dropped multiple times before becoming the household name you know. Do your best to leave on good terms with your agent or manager and remember that they are probably feeling some pain, too.
And if your agents and managers are keeping you around (and you’re keeping them around because it’s a two-way street), then don’t forget to be thankful! It’s so easy to focus on the “no’s” and the things you don’t have in this industry, that you can forget just how blessed you are to even have an agent or manager, or to go to that audition on the Paramount lot. There are people who would kill for that opportunity! So whatever happens this season, let’s all remember how fortunate we are to have the chance to be a part of such an unpredictably beautiful and wondrous machine we call show business.