There comes a time in everyone's career in Hollywood when you look at the sum total of your pathetic existence and think: "I've got to fire my agent!"
It may not even be your agent's fault.
But whether the urge to purge your tiny "talent representative" is prompted by reasonable concerns -- like never having won an Academy Award -- or more personal ones -- like never having been invited to the Academy Awards -- once you decide, there is no turning back.
It's time to commit tenpercenticide.
You know your agent's time on Planet You is growing shorter after completing this simple quiz:
1. The last time my agent called, it was to inform me...
a. I had just sold a big project to the studio.
b. I had just received an offer from a top producer.
c. I owed the agency money for postage.
2. When my agent calls to tell me she's set up a meeting with "one of the Reiners," I assume she means...
3. My agent represents me because of...
a. my years of experience.
b. my multi-faceted talent.
c. my incriminating photos from the Disney retreat.
4. My agent is feared by....
a. all of show business.
b. most of show business.
c. the entire deli counter at Greenblatt's.
5. The last big star my agent got me a confab with was...
a. Julia Roberts.
b. Demi Moore.
c. The lady from the Monistat-7 commercial.
If you answered (c) to most of the above it's time to do what you must. But how will you go about this painful task?
In the "real world" when one decides on such a change, you simply call the person and fire them. But in Hollywood, kamikaze behavior like this is not advised. In the eat or be eaten world of these movers and/or shakers, each step must be planned out as carefully as Superman making sure he knows where all the phone booths are. Thus Rule Number One:
NEVER EVER FIRE YOUR AGENT
WITHOUT HAVING YOUR NEXT ONE
PRIMED TO SIGN YOU!
As sneaky as it sounds, this is the kind of scenario that everyone involved lives for. Word that a particular chunk o' talent is "in play" causes a stir of excitement along Wilshire Canyon. Everybody wants in on something that no one's allowed to talk about -- especially if there's a chance of screwing another agent. You are about to embark upon skullduggery that's been raised to an art form by Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and, to a lesser degree, Tonya Harding.
The problem for... you... however is that news of your availability may not be met with the same trill of glee that would surround that of Hilary Swank or even Tom Sizemore. One of the ironies of having to switch agents is that the very reason you need a new one is the same reason no one wants you. And if you're a screenwriter... well, you're used to this. No matter who you are, there is nothing more embarrassing than the yawning, echoing silence greeting news of your "in play-ness." Which brings us to Rule Number Two:
HOWEVER DESPERATE YOU MAY BE FEELING
NEVER APPEAR NEEDY!!
For those on the prowl for new representation who may not be "hot" at the moment, there is still a course of action: L-I-E. Yup. Start a rumor about yourself that, if not factual, or even physically possible, makes you sound more attractive. You are "close" to being offered a deal at Dreamworks; you have a hot spec; you are the father of Jodie Foster's love child. Tell this information to someone with the biggest mouth you know and precede it with these words: "This is top secret, you must promise you won't tell anyone!" Before you know it, word will be out all over town. And even if the facts are fuzzy, you now have the "heat" you need.
News of your rise in temperature spreads fast at Spago. Soon you will find yourself being secretly "felt out" by the competition. Agents will be curious about you or, even better, contact you out of the blue to see how you are. "We haven't talked for a while," an agent will phone to say, a total stranger to whom you've never talked. But whether their call is desirable or not, soon it's time to hook up. And since being seen in public could lead to lawsuits, it's arranged to meet somewhere out of the way "to have lunch."
There is nothing so delightful, especially to the house-bound screenwriter, than to be whisked away for a series of discreet meals with prospective agents. But your performance at these greet'n'eats is crucial. Thus Rule Number Three:
ALWAYS ORDER THE CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD!!!
Luncheon meetings with agents are, in fact, the reason Chinese Chicken Salad was invented. And since shellacking your shirt front with marinara sauce while discussing your primal need to direct tends to kill the mood, why not take advantage of the most popular meal in Beverly Hills adjacent?
Meetings will not always include lunch. You might even be called in to the agency that's courting you and introduced to a popular concept in agentdom these days -- the "agent team." No, it's not enough to have one tiny tenpercenter. Now you need a squad, linked like mountaineers to scale the slopes of Hollywood together. Not only do you need an agent for movies and one for TV, but someone to handle you with video game manufacturers, the "dotcoms," the post office. At one meeting you shake hands with six people, all of whom are the cleanest, best-dressed humans you've seen outside of the men's suit department at Neiman-Marcus. You collect six business cards and walk out the door more confused than ever.
After a blurry dozen of these meetings, it all starts to sound the same. And soon, oddly, it begins to dawn on you that maybe you don't want to change agents, after all. Maybe it isn't your current agent's fault that your career is in disarray? Maybe you made a mistake getting this whole, changing-agent-thing started? Maybe you're just a Chinese Chicken Salad slut? Or, more likely, maybe the problem isn't your representation, maybe it's you, and maybe you should go ahead and finish that re-write you hate, the task avoidance that started this game of musical chairs in the first place. Thank God you were smart enough to stick to Rule Number Four:
NEVER COMMIT TO ANY AGENT AFTER ONLY ONE MEETING
OR IF THEY HAVEN'T BOUGHT YOU LUNCH!!!!
It is about this time that your current agent, Helmut, calls. After the battery of Zegna-suited slicksters you've been meeting, Helmut suddenly seems like an old friend. She wasn't so bad after all, you think, while you listen to her regale you about her pedicure. And she does know your work. And whether her call was prompted by the fact that she heard rumors of your imminent departure, or mere coincidence, either way it shows she cares. You decide then and there to keep her. And she, being amazingly social today, decides to invite you over to her house for that long-promised dinner she always talks about -- to really discuss your career. You feel great. You are home again! You have been through the wringer and are ready to start afresh. And (best of all) when you come to dinner, Helmut tells you cheerily, she will even make you her specialty -- Chinese Chicken Salad!