These words changed the entire perspective of my acting career. Here’s the set up: It’s 1978 (yeah, I know a century ago) and I’m a young actor in New York City. Like every other actor in the city I’m hustling, trying to get an agent. I’d been cast in a couple off-Broadway shows but hadn’t broken through the “actor without representation to actor with representation” conundrum.
I was so poor I didn’t even have a typewriter (it’s 1978 – the only computers around were those floor to ceiling jobs that took up entire rooms) and my handwriting sucked. So I asked my girlfriend to hand write letters to a few agents I wanted to meet. One of them was J. Michael Bloom, who in the 1970’s thru the 1990’s was the head of the hottest commercial agency in town.
His office called, told me J. Michael wanted to meet me and set up an appointment. Up to this point I had been in one other agent’s office – a ten by ten foot room with three desks crammed together and a somnolent agent seated behind each one. The Bloom Agency’s offices were at 400 Madison Avenue and as I rode up in the elevator I realized he not only occupied the entire 19th floor but the 20th floor as well.
There was a vibrancy I could feel the moment I stepped off the elevator; the office buzzed with activity. While J. Michael and I were talking other agents barged into the room peppering him with questions: “They’re offering him $75,000.00, should we ask for $100,000.00?” “They want her to sign a two-year exclusive deal, they’re desperate to get her, I think we should ask for a quarter million, is that okay?”
With each interruption I felt myself getting smaller and smaller. J. Michael was asking me these long leading questions and I’m answering them with a quick nod or shake of my head. He’s trying to find out more about me but I’m so overwhelmed I can barely speak.
Realizing my opportunity is circling the drain I blurt out, “You know, being here, talking to you, this is pretty intimidating.” And like the climactic moment in a movie everything gets quiet, nobody barges into his office, the buzz of activity ceases. J. Michael looks at me and says, “Oh, John don’t be. We need you a lot more than you need us.”
“What?” I said.
“A casting director doesn’t need us in order to see you, they can call you in to an audition directly. But in order for us to do what we do we need to have you on our team. Without actors, we haven’t got a business.”
And just like that the dynamic of the actor/agent relationship changed completely for me. Instead of being at the mercy of an agent – which had been my position to that point – I realized the connection between agent and actor was really a partnership, one in which both parties worked together to achieve the most desirable outcome.
Michael didn’t sign me that day; I wasn’t ready – he knew it and I realized it. But I had a new insight into the business that has served me to this day. Two years later, after winning a lot of jobs away from his clients, J. Michael once again invited me in for a talk. This time I did sign with him and we began a partnership that gave me the financial security I needed so I could pursue other aspects of my acting career.
Every good agent knows this is true –every good actor needs to learn it.
Tommy Day – booked a co-starring role on Law and Order SVU
Daniel Sovich is starring in the off-Broadway play Downtown Race Riots.
Sumalee Montano guested starred in NCIS.
Susan Santiago starred in Byrd and the Bees and The Anchor – two TV shows currently in production.
On-camera Scene Study class 5 Dec – 6 Feb (off 26 Dec and 2 Jan) 1 Spot left Commercial Level 1 class: 22 Jan. – 26 Feb. Now open for registration. Commercial Level 2 Class: 25 Jan. – 22 Feb. Open for registration. Commercial Level 1 is a prerequisite for this class.
For more information on all these classes click here.
That’s all for now.