Marsha Hervey is a veteran of this business if there ever was one. Marsha and Pam Grimes started in entertainment as mothers of wonderful actors. Marsha and Pam were managers for 5 year and then founded the Hervey/Grimes Agency in 1991.
Once a Mom, Always a Mom
More than anything, you can tell that Marsha not only cares about this business, but also her clients. Hervey/Grimes remains a boutique agency for that very reason. The amount of effort spent on each individual client is substantial, and Marsha likes working with people she enjoys spending time with. She prides herself on maintaining strong relationships with her clients, and treating them with the respect, and expectations, of a mother.
“Managers are great if they’re really looking out for you,” Marsha said. However, because of the legal restrictions on mangers (e.g. they can’t negotiate contracts), they must bring something to the table your agent is not. Ideally, a manager should have relationships with casting directors, producers, and other industry players, which the agent does not have. Moreover, agents are in their office all day going through breakdowns, pitching clients, and working out logistics. It is thus up to the manager to keep the actor in line, making sure they are confirming times, checking their emails, and just in general being on top of their $hit.
The Agent’s Job
Marsha made it very clear that she holds herself and the rest of her agency to an extremely high standard. They are working countless hours getting clients auditions. They are submitting on 100 – 200 commercials per day, in addition to 50 or 75 theatrical jobs. Their agency has a number of assistants both in and out of the office (yay interwebs!) all working to get the clients on their roster into “the room.” The number of actors vying for any given audition spot is tremendous, so it often takes a team with decades worth of relationships to keep a roster of actors working.
The Actor’s Job
In a town as competitive as Los Angeles, even an audition is a huge win. An agent is often cashing in on the aforementioned relationships just to get a client the audition. An actor, then, needs to do everything in their power to help the agent. This means not only keeping your acting chops sharp in class, but also working on your attitude to, as Marsha said, “become a warm and fuzzy person if you’re not already.”
Actors should also maintain the industry relationships established by the agent, by sending post cards, for example. Marsha warned, though, to only send postcards when you actually have something to say (e.g. to share a recent booking on a show), or better yet, to compliment the person you’re sending the post card to on one of their recent accomplishments (e.g. an award they were recently nominated for or received). Oh, and don’t forget the assistants. Just like the assistants in Marsha’s office are consulted when deciding on a potential addition to the agency’s roster, so too are casting assistants often asked for their experiences with an actor. And before you send that bouquet of a dozen long-stem roses, remember that a simple hand-written thank you note goes a long way.
Due to the electronic nature of the business these days, people are often introduced to an actor with nothing more than a postage-stamp size thumbnail picture. As such, meeting—and making a positive impression on—casting directors and other industry players in person is crucial. This means doing workshops, or finding other ways to develop these relationships.
Finally, you need to be easy to contact, and return any phone calls or emails from your agent within half an hour. This business moves extraordinarily fast, and it is embarrassing for an agent to have to tell casting that they can’t get a hold of their client. It’s 2010. Get a smart phone. Stay in contact. “We’re like your mother,” Marsha said. “The kind of mother who needs to know everything. We need to know where you are and when you’re going out of town.”
Getting an Agent’s Attention
Hervey/Grimes opens all pictures, many of which come through casting directors and current clients. More than anything, Marsha is looking at each actor as an entire package. She pays special attention to training and the credits on the resume, noting that the older you are the more an agent is likely going to expect on a resume. If you don’t have larger TV or film credits, Marsha wants to see that you have experience on a set, whether that’s doing short films, student films, or the like. Echoing Tracy Curtis, Marsha also noted that ethnicity is in. If you’re gorgeous and ethnic you have a very good chance of getting lots of agent meetings. But at the end of the day, like most agents, Marsha is always looking for the best actor. However, remember that agents don’t want to have their own clients competing against each other. If an agent decides not to sign you or call you in, they might think you’re great but already have someone like you on their roster. Don’t take it personally. Follow up in a few months.
If you are fortunate enough to get an interview in Marsha’s office, you will perform a cold read, no matter how good your credits are. The audition is what gets you the job, so she needs to know how well you can do in the room. Yet again, Marsha reiterated how important it is to have a good attitude and be likeable: “Maybe it’s because I’m a mom, but I can spot a bullshit artist very quickly.” You don’t need to be a sycophant, just be the kind of person people want to have over for dinner. This may very well be the one thing that gets you an agent…and the job.
On Booking the Role
Marsha noted how difficult it can be to actually book a role, but also said that she expects her clients to get call backs. There is so much outside of your control in terms of actually getting the job, but if you’re consistently getting called back you’re 90% of the way there. These days even name actors are reading for co-star and guest-star spots, but Marsha had some phenomenal advice when you find yourself sitting across from your favorite star. Rather than freaking out, let the star be unhappy that they are there with you. If you have an audition, you have just as much chance to get the job. Commit to the choices you made, then go into the room and be an affable person. Confidence is everything.
If you haven’t noticed from the other interviews, there seems to be a trend here: passion, hard work, and a positive attitude are absolutely crucial. The people who already have success in this industry demonstrate these qualities, and that’s what they’re looking for in you.