Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mailbag: Agents and the "get out of jail free" card

Grape,

Are agents -- even the ones a little more reputable than others -- a waste of money? Would a big market ND really toss aside my tape in favor of someone else who was represented by an agent... even if my talent level was the same or better?



Well, I hate to answer the question this way, but it depends on the agent. Some are wonderful people who will truly take an interest in your career and try to get you a good fit rather than just collect a commission. Some simply send your tape out with every single client they've got and hope you get hired.

As for NDs dealing with agents, that also depends. I've had two NDs who flat out refused to talk with agents. Personally I didn't mind doing it, but I will say that some were so totally obnoxious that I passed on their clients because I didn't want to deal with them. I remember two agents who were so polite that it was a pleasure to deal with them.

Are there some NDs who won't look at tapes unless they're from an agent? Yeah, but most are smart enough to look at every tape that comes through the door. You never know how your next star will arrive. If you're equally talented with someone represented by an agent, that doesn't make a bit of difference. The ND is going to hire the person who is the best fit.


Dear Grape,

To get out of a contract early, is it best to come to the ND with a sob story (not necessarily false) and ask if I can get out soon? Or should I come to the ND already with a job opportunity in hand that would better my life, and explain things that way?


Well, it helps to have a good relationship with the ND. If you two have been on bad terms, fuhgeddaboudit. NDs can be the most vindictive species on the planet.

In these situations it pays to be truthful. I once hired a reporter who told me she didn't have a contract. When she turned in her notice, her ND called me and told me she was under contract. I called her back and she admitted she had lied. End of job offer.

If you have another offer you have to do two things: you must tell the ND that wants to hire you your contract status, and you must tell your current ND about your offer. In once case I wanted to hire someone who had two months left on her contract. I called her ND, who turned out to be a nice guy and he split the difference, letting her out a month early. Has she sneaked around, that wouldn't have happened.

Here's something else you can do when looking to get out early. Sweeten the pot. By that I mean make it easy for the ND to replace you. Give a very long notice (one month or more) offer to work a few holidays, weekends, etc.


Grape,

I've decided its time for me to leave my station and move on to better (hopefully) things. Many have suggested using an agent, so I've sent tapes to a few. I saw your post on what questions to ask ND's when interviewing for a new job. Any advice on what to ask an agent?


Ah, back to agents again. Some fair questions are to ask about the number of clients (too many and you'll get lost in the shuffle), some names of previous clients (if the agent won't give them to you, then move on), and if the fee is negotiable. You'll also want this in writing: is the fee the same if you find a job on your own? Let's say you happen to meet a ND who offers you a job and the agent has had nothing to do with it... do you still owe the agent a full commission? And is the commission for the full length of your contract or just the first year?

You'll also want to be very careful with agent contracts. Can you easily get out of the contract? Sometimes you get stuck with an agent who is doing nothing for you.

Check the agent's website and call up a few clients who might be listed. Are they happy with the service? Or has the agent done nothing at all?


Grape,

How has this year compared with last as far as your clients finding jobs?


The first part of this year wasn't good. The last half was. Amazingly I had four people find jobs during November sweeps. Hopefully that's an indication that the worst is over and the business bottomed out this year.


Grape,

For my Christmas wish I want the Grape to start twittering.


Would you settle for a snuggie?

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