There are a lot of roles in the entertainment industry, and most of them are not very glamorous. This is perhaps no more true than when it comes to the role of an agent assistant: the person responsible for managing the professional (and often personal) goings-on of the elusive and ever-in-demand agent.
Agent assistants are the gatekeepers to their employers and are the first points of access to those agents you are trying to reach. That means they hold a lot of power, including the ability to schedule (or not schedule) meetings between you and their agents.
In fact, one agent suggests that agent assistants may be a better contact to develop. Since agent assistants often aspire to become agents themselves, they're usually looking to make their marks and find talent -- meaning they may be more open to scoping out new clients than agents with an existing talent base.
Who knows when that person may become the very agent you're wishing to court?
How to get into an agent assistant's good books
Now that you know why an agent assistant is important, the question remains: How do you develop a professional working relationship with one?
Consider who you invite to an event.
In a guest post for Backstage, “Secret Agent Girl,” an agent assistant, says a good way to get an agent's attention is to get her assistant's attention first. A way to do this is to invite an agent's assistant -- rather than an agent -- to a play or showcase.
Agents are often too busy to attend events, but an assistant can go in his or her agent's place and flag prospective talent. Secret Agent Girl says the last time she was invited to see a play, the actor ended up signed with her agent.
This should be a given -- respect an agent's assistant, and respect will be given in return. No amount of stress, nerves or frustration justifies an actor who blows up on an agent's assistant. This is unprofessional behavior, and an agent will likely hear about your actions.
You should be nice to an assistant even after you're signed. Often, they're a close confidant to an agent and have a lot of sway over whether or not you keep getting work. It doesn't take much. Be civil. Say "hello," and understand an agent's assistant will get to you as soon as he or she is done with the other dozen tasks he or she has been asked to juggle.
A lot of agents get their starts as agent assistants and will appreciate you showing respect for their employees. As one agent says in the same column referenced earlier, “Everyone in this industry is on the move. Never disregard or mistreat someone because he or she is nothing more than a miserable assistant. If you do, that person will remember you.”
Acknowledge that they're busy.
Agent assistants don't sit around the entire day waiting for potential talent to call or walk through their door. They're often working around the clock, and their jobs are one of the most diverse in the industry. It's not unusual for agent assistants to go from reading scripts, to slinging coffees, to accompanying talent, to press scrums -- all while answering a constant deluge of phone calls.
That being said, agent assistants appreciate when you value their time. That means responding to their calls right away, listening carefully to what is discussed, reading your emails thoroughly and not asking superfluous questions that may have already been answered. This goes back to the general professionalism piece discussed earlier.
What not to do:
While this could simply be the inverse of the points listed above, there are a few additional actions to avoid.
1. Don't dodge the hierarchy.
No matter how much you need to get a hold of Agent X, have respect for the hierarchy of their office. An agent assistant is always the one who will make an introduction between an agent and a new client.
Don't call an office pretending to be someone else or pop by saying you have an appointment. The furthest interested clients should go is to have someone the agent respects call the assistant to make a referral.
2. Don't write bad emails.
This is something that annoys both agents and agent assistants alike. Don't waste precious time in your emails. If you say you have experience, you better mean it -- don't list anything in the body of an email that can't be backed up by a solid CV.
Good grammar is key, and ensure you know who you're addressing. No one likes to be called a manager or an office assistant if that's not really his or her role.
3. Don't be pretentious.
Even if you're an actor for a living, a call with an agent's assistant is not the time to demonstrate your flair for the dramatic. Don't be demanding and behave as though you're better than an agent assistant. Even if you're an award-winning actor, you're still just a person. No one appreciates gloating and rudeness.
So the next time you call an agent assistant or storm impatiently into his or her office, keep the following in mind: The agent assistant will certainly appreciate your understanding in the moment, and your career may benefit in the long run.