Much like Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage” speech (also known as the “Seven Ages of Man”), being an actor involves various growth stages as well (no pun intended). From theatre camps to educational theatre to non-union work to AEA, the next step always feels terrifying and invigorating.
Getting an agent or manager in NYC is one of those steps, and is often a huge deal for a young performer. I get it. But just as we continue growing as people throughout our life, we also continue growing as professional performers—and this can lead to some tough choices.
It can be difficult to think about letting go of the people who helped get you started. But as you move forward in your career, things change. If you are unsure whether or not your agent or manager is still the right fit for you, it’s time for some serious soul-searching.
Here’s my advice.
Assess your Situation
The most important thing you can do is be honest with yourself. Analyze your situation.
Where are you at in your career? Where do you want to go? Who’s going to help you get there?
There are plenty of scenarios where you would be smart to move on from your agent. A few good questions to start asking yourself are:
- Is my agent a good fit?
Sometimes you need to move on because you just don’t fit each other. It’s not that you aren’t both talented professionals—you’re just not a good match.
Maybe your representation doesn’t see you the way you want to be seen. Maybe they’re sending you auditions that don’t feel right. If they don’t understand your dream trajectory, they’re not going to be able to help you get there. Schedule a discussion about your goals. If it’s not productive, consider parting ways.
- Are they doing what they said they would do?
There’s another scenario where your agent isn’t doing what they said they would do. If they’re not doing their job for you, the best thing you can do for yourself (and for an agent who you respect and you like) is to be open with them from the beginning. Again, start an honest dialogue about what you need, and if they stay unhelpful, move on.
- Have you outgrown your agent?
Sometimes you just outgrow a space. If someone built your career up with you, that can be a really hard situation. I had a manager who built me up and really believed in me and it was hard to move on from a person I had such a connection with.
In that situation, I had to have some very honest conversations with other managers and friends whose careers I admire. Ultimately, I realized I had outgrown this manager. If a manager simply doesn’t have the connections, or is unable to get on the phone with the right people and have the conversations you need them to have for your career, then it’s time to move on.
It’s a Business Decision
At the end of the day, who represents you is a business decision. You’re a loyal person, you connect with the people you work with — it’s going to be hard to let someone go. But you’re your own business and you have to put yourself first.
In my last situation, I spent six months too long with my manager. There was a bigger manager who was interested in me, someone really elevating new stars who could help move me forward in my career. I was honest with them and said, “I still have a manager. I’m considering moving on but I haven’t yet. Could we have a meeting to discuss?”
But they wouldn’t give me a meeting while I was with my previous manager. I should have dropped my manager then.
When I finally did move on from my manager, I contacted that management agency. They had taken on new clients and there wasn’t room for me anymore. I missed that opportunity because of my loyalty and my emotions. My advice is, when the opportunity comes? You take it.
How to Move On
Here are some strategies for how to do the hard thing:
- Don’t put it off
Things only get harder when you put them off, and missed opportunities might pile up. You want to start an open communication with your agent or manager as soon as you have an issue. Say: “I haven’t gotten an appointment in a bunch of weeks. I know I should have been in for such-and-such thing that so-and-so was in for; why didn’t I get in for that and what can we do about it moving forward?”
Open communication is respect, and setting expectations is key. If things haven’t improved, you now have the prerogative to say: “You said it would get better and it didn’t. So now it’s time for us to part ways.”
- Be ready for a hard conversation
The tough truth is that these conversations rarely go well. I’ve done it three times — two agents and one manager. It’s never gone well. Sometimes they get upset, sometimes they try to hold on, sometimes you might feel guilty or like you owe them something. But this is a business decision: you’re doing what’s best for you.
- Bet on yourself
Ultimately, you’ve got to bet on yourself. If you’ve assessed your situation and know it’s time to move on, take that chance. It’s because I moved on that I’m with an agency now that I love. When you’re ready, take the leap.
While you’re building up your skills to get to the place where you can take that next step, you need a great side hustle. Check out Worthwhile Event Services today to explore well-paying, flexible opportunities for actors in NYC.
Roderick Lawrence is an actor, filmmaker, and Blacktivist whose long resume includes Simba in The Lion King, Ramses in The Prince of Egypt, Guy in ONCE, and an appearance on Comedy Central’s Broad City. He also created, produced, and starred in the multi-award-winning short film Silent Partner, which premiered in August at the Oscar-qualifying RSF Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival (www.silentpartner-film.com).