I just passed on an offer for representation from an on-camera commercial agent. A lot of actors would call this ludicrous. But it was the right call for me for several reasons.
First and foremost, the contract was excessively limiting. They wanted to prohibit me from posting on any social media without their prior consent. The exact line: “refrain from posting to any social media platform without AGENCY’s prior consent.” I post on Instagram daily-ish, YouTube occasionally-ish, and Facebook never [because it’s a trashfarm].
I wasn’t really interested in running every post by them for approval. Besides the fact that that’s completely laughable, it raises an interesting question: what kind of clients do they deal with where they need to approve every social media post? If mom and dad have to approval every minute detail of their child’s life, maybe they got a bad child. [That’s how kids work, right?]
Second, they wanted the right to use my likeness for all agency advertising IN PERPETUITY. That means that even after we part ways they wanted the right to use my image, voice, video, audio, for their agency advertising. I asked if we could remove “in perpetuity”—because those two words are an actor’s nightmare—and replace with “Subject to Talent approval; approval not to be unreasonably withheld.”
I thought that was reasonable. To me it says, “you can use my beautiful face for your giant billboards, but you gotta ask me first and, btw, I won’t be a dick about it.” And, god forbid our relationship burns in a fiery blaze of glory, I have the right to say “no, dickheads, you can’t use my beautiful face.”
Three: The contract includes an exclusivity clause whereby they’d be my only representation. This alone isn’t a deal breaker because everyone asks for it and it’s not that unreasonable in my opinion. If they’re gonna bust their hump getting me in front of casting directors, the least I could do is say that I won’t canoodle with other agents behind their back.
What I didn’t like is that they’re based in another city— let’s call it Omaha—and they were primarily going to book me in that city, and they were unwilling to write in an exclusion to the exclusivity clause that would make it okay to work with my NYC representation (Abrams), whose contract, by the way, is nowhere near as long or as restricting. As it was written, I would have been in breach of contract the moment I signed.
Four: When I asked about these points, their response was that it was “non-negotiable.” Whenever I see that, I know it’s time to run for the hills. If you’re unwilling to have a conversation about our working arrangement, then I don’t want to work with you. Even if you’re unwilling to amend your contract, I want someone who’s willing to explain why. Even if they’d said, “Sorry, it’s not our practice to adjust the contract because we like to keep our legal stuff simple” I would have totally understood! I still would have passed, but at least it wouldn’t have left a sour taste.
So, to all the new actors out there clamoring to find an agent: Be okay saying no. Be okay passing. Because hitching yourself to an agent who’s not a good fit could be worse than not having an agent at all.