I have written an open letter (letter of protest) to Secret Agent Man (SAM) who appears to be an agent and a columnist for the widely read BACKSTAGE. The article I am protesting starts by comparing actors to puppies who “could end up pissing all over the carpet”. SAM’s piece does not get better and it includes “advice” for actors that is careless and unprincipled. If you care about PUPPIES and ACTORS (even if you are not in showbiz) read my letter. Comment and share. Thank You
PS The article posted by Secret Agent Man for Backstage February 29, 2016 is here: http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/secret-agent-man/sams-essential-list-agent-donts/
March 13, 2016
OPEN LETTER TO:
Secret Agent Man (SAM)
I read your article posted online February 29, 2016 in Backstage. It looks like you write a regular column for Backstage which is likely read worldwide. There is “advice” for actors in your column that is mean and unhealthy. I don’t like it. I kind of (actually really a lot) want to be mean back at you. Make you feel insecure and shamed the way that you tried to do with your words, but that would take too much effort. Instead, I would like to take this time to educate you. Please read on.
1. It is not okay to compare actors to puppies who may end up “pissing on the carpet”. It’s not even okay to talk about puppies “pissing on the carpet” as if they are doing something shameful or bad. When puppies are learning to use the potty they will make “mistakes” because they are learning. Actors are business people and puppies are puppies. Be respectful. In what other business would it be okay speak to your employers in this manner? Actors are your employers. And some of us bite.
2. What are you saying when you say you “want to save actors from the embarrassment of having (y)our nose wiped in (y)our “accidents.” It’s 2016 and most people know, or are learning, that anything that looks like a mistake or an accident is an opportunity. Success and being right is an opportunity, too. Actors don’t want you to “save” them. They want you to be nice.
3. Did you write that you would laugh at a person who called themselves a “triple threat”? Are you saying that you would make fun of/humiliate someone who came into your office, owned their skills and put all of those skills on the table for you to look at? If meeting with an actor who can sing, dance, and act means, as you write, “nothing” to you, I kind of think you are in the wrong business. Let me repeat this…you say in your column that an actor who can sing, dance and act means nothing to you. You are agent, for Moses’ sake, if the talents and skills of your clients don’t mean anything to you- what does?
4. This is where I start to get angry, SAM. You write in your column “DON’T throw out nonsensical statements like, “I’m in the middle of a paradigm shift so I can build my brand.” If you have an actor on your roster who is willing to grow and change their perspective or paradigm and they are willing to share that growth and change with you- you need to count your blessings. We are human. We change. Life changes around us and within us. Here are a few things that happen that can cause a paradigm shift: having a baby, getting cancer or any serious illness, death of a loved one, divorce, moving etc. As humans we grow and as artists this growth informs our work.
5. Another quote from your “advice” column is “DON’T approach me in a public setting. If I’m with people, I don’t want to talk to you.” Now this is just plain mean. Without actors, SAM, agents don’t have an income. If an actor is being vulnerable enough to open up about needing an agent, be compassionate. If you feel uncomfortable with actors approaching you, then you need to cultivate a skill that allows you to deal with that in a healthy and kind way. I suggest having a handful of business cards on you. When an actor approaches you and you are not prepared to “talk shop” you can pull out a business card and politely say “I am not able to talk about this now, but here is my card feel free to call or email during business hours”. This is, after all, a business. So, maybe you could, like, treat it like one. I am guessing, though, if Juliette Lewis is looking for new representation you would be okay with her approaching you in public. It’s just the people who read your column who better steer clear.
6. When you say “I have a life that doesn’t involve actors”…well, duh. Just, duh. We all do. We just don’t all have to go and shout it from Mount Sinai.
7. You write: “Please DON’T invite me to see you in a mediocre play where you have one good scene in the second act. Trust me. By the time we get there, I’ll be in a pretty foul mood.” SAM, I getting pretty confused here. Do you not like actors? Or acting? Or plays? Why would seeing a play put you in a foul mood? If your intention in going to the play is to SUPPORT YOUR CLIENT then you will put the experience into perspective and be there to SUPPORT YOUR CLIENT.
8. You give some advice about headshots and managers. Actors get to decide what headshots to use. Not you. If an actor trusts you and knows you to have the actor’s best interest at heart, then they may let you in on the process. But it’s their process. Actors get to decide who their manager will be. And if you are concerned about your clients hiring someone that you have “bad blood” with- that has nothing to do with the actor. That one’s on you.
Actor and Human