Does S.A.M. Even Like Actors?

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
Kyla
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)
C/O BACKSTAGE

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.

Respectfully,

Kyla Wise
Actor and Human

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20 thoughts on “Does S.A.M. Even Like Actors?

  1. Kyla;

    Hooray!

    Your letter speaks volumes and I hope that every actor I know will get a chance to read it.

    As an advocate for actors for over 30 years I have seen unimaginable abuse of the community, often in ways that make me ill. SAM is at the top of my list.

    If you’re not familiar with SAM, if you haven’t followed him for a period of time, you wouldn’t know this, but his a narcissist and his arrogance and sense of entitlement is terrifying. But as most who have followed the man’s twaddle in the pages of Backstage over the years understand this: no matter how actors will let him off the hook for being an asshole – by ascribing his vitriol and disdain of the actors in Hollywood as “a joke” or “satire” – most actors recognize exactly what you have outlined in your letter. SAM is mean, he is ill-informed and his advice is subjective and often based solely on his overwhelming penchant for making a joke at the actors’ expense – actors without whom he would be unemployed.

    Yes, he’s a real agent. He has about 130 clients at a mid-level theatrical agency. Yet he has never picked up the phone once to pitch a client for any one of the dozens of films I have cast in the past few years, including many actors who are my friends. So much for his genius counsel in Backstage. How about concentrating on his own clients rather than giving snark-infested and often fact-free “advice” in the pages of the #1 actor periodical on the planet.

    Add to this, the fact that he attends tons of agent showcases where actors pay as much a $300 to read a scene for him, yet tells actors – in the pages of Backstage – that he doesn’t think showcases are an effective way to find an agent.

    Here what he says.

    “Over the last two years, I’ve been a guest at 19 workshops and I’ve only signed one actor. She was 22 and gorgeous. Get the picture? Nine out of 10 times, agents are looking for hot, young talent. Another issue is that most actors who participate in workshops don’t have a lot of credits. So even if they’re talented, I only see someone who’s going to need a lot of attention before I start to see a return. That’s why I’ve always felt workshops aren’t a very effective way to find representation.”

    Yes, SAM…we get the picture.

    I hope your letter wakes up a few of the suits over at Backstage. Although, I must say that in my experience, they have never been the most proactive publication when it comes to actors.

    Thanks again for a great rant.

    Best,

    Billy DaMota CSA

    • Billy, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Thanks for thinking that other actors should read the post. It would be excellent if you share this letter with actors! Backstage does have my letter and it was sent to the editorial department and if they decide to publish they will let me know. I do wonder if there will be a change either to what SAM writes or any consideration given by Backstage to make an adjustment around posting negative things about actors. That’s the hope, right? That somehow the world will be a little kinder.

  2. Dea Vise CSA says:

    Tony hates actors and apparently his job, too. That’s why he never pitches on anyone’s projects and the theatrical department of his agency sucks.

  3. gollysunshine says:

    First of all, Kyla, thanks for taking the time to write and send the letter. What I was thinking throughout reading your letter, since I have read many, not all, of SAM’s recent stuff, actor/CD comments, is why is he still writing for Backstage? I always thought that Backstage was a prestigious resource for actors. Do they want to stay relevant to actors? Or do they want actors pissed off and refusing to pay attention to them? There are other ways to get casting notices.

    • Hey thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that what we need and want, as actors, is not the kind of shaming that was going on in that post by S.A.M. I do hope that Backstage decides to go ahead and publish my response and then maybe we can keep the dialogue going. And move things in the direction of kindness and respect. It is hard for me to admit that I was so angry…but I am glad I did. Can’t really be a good actor and deny those feelings, right?? THANKS AGAIN!

    • I’ve lived here a dozen years, and in that time I’ve noticed a weird dynamic – actors snarking on other actors. For example, I’d be in a class and someone sitting next to me would lean over and say, “Good Lord, that guy sucks!” while someone was doing a scene (I’ve even heard certain acting TEACHERS say this about one of their students!) or on actor message boards (like Backstage’s, but there have been others) you’d have a core of regulars who would gang up on some poor schmuck who maybe asked a question that had been asked a million times before, or made a comment that’s been made a million times before (ie “I’ve been here six months and I haven’t gotten any auditions yet”), and then be excoriated for merely saying that by the core of regulars, as if this feeling is so stupid and ridiculous, it isn’t worth even mentioning, and as if the core of regulars were never in that position before themselves.

      Basically, I think Cowardly Asshole Man feeds on this, and his columns probably get a lot of clicks, which means more advertising revenue for Backstage, which is why he has a job there. So if he pisses you off, write to Backstage and give them a piece of your mind.

      And then stop reading his column. Stop giving him traffic. If enough people do both of these thing, Backstage will take heed.

      Good luck, and be nice to your fellow actor. Karma will be kind to you. 🙂

    • Interesting thought. I do hope that some consideration is given by Backstage about what they choose to publish moving forward. It is a challenge when the individual is anonymous, hey?

  4. Tim says:

    I’m a working actor in LA, and have been for the last 4 years, and have been acting for 10 years.

    After reading this open letter, I have only one thing to say: grow up, Kyla.

    Nobody’s referring to you specifically. You must not have a clue how the industry works, and how many whiny wannabes are in this town. SAM is a character, and he embodies this persona to get the most honest advice and look at the industry for YOUR OWN BENEFIT.

    I can see green actors supporting you here. Now take this letter to experienced LA-based actors, and watch them shoot a pity smile at you. Again, grow up.

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