5 Bad Questions To Ask Agents and What To Ask Instead

1As mentioned in the related article on questions to ask agents, one of the biggest mistakes actors make in interviews with talent agents is not preparing properly and then asking the wrong questions. When you ask bad questions, it can turn the agents off, be annoying, or simply emphasize how new you are.

There’s nothing wrong with being new, but if you’re new and also ask bad questions, it’s a reminder to the agent that you may need a lot of hand-holding or simply be more difficult to work with because of the kinds of questions your asking. At that point, they may feel it’s just not worth the time to work with you.

And on the other hand, there may be a few things that you legitimately want to know even though it would be ill-mannered or off-putting to come right and ask directly. For that reason in addition to telling you what the bad question is, I will tell you what to do instead to get the information you might be seeking.

Here we go:

Don’t ask Talent Agents these questions!

1.  Don’t Ask Talent Agents:  How many clients do you have?

Actors always want to ask agents this question, but the bottom-line is that it’s basically pointless for you to ask.

A great commercial agency can have so many systems and structures in place that they could handle 2000 commercial clients better than a disorganized agency with 50 commercial clients.  The big agency might have more clients because they get calls from all of the commercial casting directors first. If they have a great reputation, the casting directors know they can trust them to send in great clients who can do the work.

How well the talent agency or even individual talent agents perform overall is much more relevant than how many clients they have.

On the other side, if you are dealing with a small agency with fewer clients, they may not want to look really small and may not wish to reveal how many clients. Ultimately, this question is just not going to do you any good.  So instead….

Focus on what results they can get for you.  Instead you might ask, “Where do you see me fitting in your roster?” 

They will then tell you what category they would submit you for or where they have a spot to fill. This is much more relevant than how many clients they have.

2.   Don’t Ask Talent Agents:  Why should I sign with you?

This question can put the talent agent on the defensive as if they have to sell themselves to you.  If you’re making good money as an actor, you won’t have to ask — that agent will already be telling you what they can do for you.  If you’re not a star, then it’s pointless to ask this question and basically sounds pretentious.

Instead, start with:  “I know your agency has a very good reputation with casting directors and is known for xyz [whatever your research shows],” and then ask a question like this:

  • “I’m just curious…. What do you feel sets your agency apart in the eyes of the casting directors?”
  • “What do you feel your agency is known for?”
  • “What do you believe makes your agency stand out?”

If you start with the phrase, “I’m just curious,” you move it out of your personal evaluation zone, and it lets them tell you more about what they think about their agency.  It gives them an opportunity to talk about themselves or their agency, without making it seem like you are asking them to prove themselves to you.

3.   Don’t Ask Talent Agents:  Have you made anyone a star?

Same as above.  This question serves no purpose.  They can’t MAKE someone a star.  They can contribute to their career and help an actor, but there are many factors that have someone become a star, including the type and appeal of the actor themselves.

If your conversation is on a roll and they seem to have time to chat, instead you might ask something like:  “I know it’s challenging being an agent  just like most things in this business… do you have an actor that you are particularly proud of what you helped them accomplish?”

This leaves it very open-ended for them to share a great accomplishment about one of their clients. You will leave them feeling good because they will get to pick something they’re proud of — whatever that might be.

By their answer, you still get information to help you determine whether they’re a good fit for you.

4.   Don’t Ask Talent Agents:  Who is your biggest success story?

See my  comment in number three.  There is no one person – agent, manager, actor, producer or otherwise — who is solely responsible for one actor’s success.  Becoming a movie star or major TV star is a dynamic machine with lots of players.

Of course, you may be curious to know whether any of the actors they worked with reach stardom, but this is not the best question to ask.  Ask the question mentioned on number three instead:  “I know it’s challenging being an agent  just like most things in this business, do you have an actor that you are particularly proud of what you helped them accomplish?”

When you’re in the early stages of your career and you’re meeting with a smaller agency, it’s basically irrelevant whether they helped someone become a superstar. They may have helped Brad Pitt get the one-liner on his first TV show, and he could be their biggest success story.  But what does that have to do with what they will do for you?  Nothing.  You’re not Brad Pitt.  You’re you.

Do you look like Brad Pitt. Do you have his drive? Do you know who Brad Pitt knows? These are things that also contribute to a career. It’s not just the agent.

Also… if by chance that agent did help someone early on in their career but that actor moved on to a big agency later leaving them in the dirt, it could be a sore point to bring it up.  For these reasons, it’s better to stick with the question mentioned in #3 to get the information that’s actually relevant to you.

5.   Don’t Ask Talent Agents:  Who can you introduce me to?

If you start asking too much about what that agent can do for you and you don’t have many credits, you’re putting the cart before the horse in their eyes.

Of course, you want to know whether they can help you and what they can do, but don’t ask them. Research the talent agency (or management company) ahead of time to see who they have connections with. If you are a Smart Girls clients and you used our Agent Mailing or Manager Mailing Service, we will give you direct feedback on the agents or managers you get calls from.

You can also look on IMDBpro.com to see the agent’s client list and their client’s credits. If several of their clients have credits for the same shows or with the same Casting Directors, that tells you that the agent has connections with them. That means they can introduce you or get you auditions with them, too.

By doing your homework, you can avoid a potentially AWK-WARD moment at the agent’s office.

Summary

With most questions, the important thing is to couch them in a way that puts the responsibility on you instead of putting the agent on the spot. Agents and managers don’t want to be confronted on things any more than anyone else – especially by actors who have not yet earned serious money in their careers.

I’m not saying that you should cower down and be grateful to meet with just any agent. But I am saying, don’t pretend that you’re the most “obviously fabulous” thing Hollywood is seen in the last decade.  If you’re all that and more, they will discover it on their own. It will not happen by you acting like you’re something you’re not.  And, I’m sure you would NEVER do that if you’re reading this post anyway…. but it is a warning or really a clarification that you don’t need to act overly confident by asking a question of a certain type.

Your main objective should be to be real or authentic — without being too serious — and speak with the agent on an equal footing.  The agent and you both want YOU to be successful!

For 2 more Don’t Ask questions, and more in-depth ideas on the having your best interviews with agents, check out my 29-page guidebook Top Secrets of Great Interviews With Agents. To go even a step further, you may want to consider a private coaching session on an Agent Meeting Role Play.

If you missed Part 1, it tells you the Five Questions you CAN ask when meeting with an agent!

I hope that you have found these articles on agent interviews to be helpful in your marketing and your agent pursuit!