The Local Talent – An Interview with Serendipity Talent
The Local Agent – Serendipity Talent, Edmonton, Alberta
VO Chef Deb Interviews Sherry Packolyk
VO Chef Deb sits down with talent agent as they serve up an insightful interview on the daily life of an agent.
You will learn:
- What agents wish talent knew about agents
- How often to stay in touch with your agent
- What kind of work you need to do before an agent can be expected to go to work for you
- What kinds of red flags to look for when searching for an agent
How did your talent agency begin?
After years of working with other Agency’s I decided to open Serendipity Talent October 19, 2006. I was in Victoria having dinner with some good friends and was discussing opening up an agency and did not know what to call it. So we all toasted and said a prayer and I opened up the dictionary right to “Serendipity” this is how my company got its name.
Were you a talent before becoming an agent?
Years ago I was involved with theatre/school etc. However I was a parent with children who started in the industry in 1982/83.
Describe the day in the life of an agent – so talent can truly understand what you do.
My day begins with checking all my mail and going through and replying to talent/casting/and any professionals in the field awaiting a response. Next checking all the breakdowns reading through Character analysis scripts and submitting my talent if applicable whether it be film, tv, commercial, print, voice, web, and hiring talent for public events.
Making sure the admin work is done so that the talent can be paid when payment arrives from the production company.
Meeting with potential “New Clients”, calling some of the talent whose resumes, photos are not up to date.
Filling any local casting calls.
As an agent, what are some of your biggest pet peeves in regard to clients and talent?
First about Talent – There are quite a few talent who think an “Agent” is a babysitter – that we must do their headshots, resumes, demo reels, voice reels and we keep them up to date……….This is the Talent’s job – when they decide to become an “Actor” it takes TRAINING, hard work, dedication, education FIRST. If you are a serious actor you will know your rights, where you can work, where you cannot work, and they have to build their resumes up if they are “Green” meaning to pound the pavement, get involved with other actors, get to know casting directors, audition, audition, audition (whether it be Indies, shorts, etc. you network and gain experience at the same time.
Talent seem to think they can be submitted to “TV” series, leads, supporting roles, etc with no exp. demo reel and anywhere in North America. BE INFORMED of the industry and how it works this is why there is SAG and ACTRA and many other Unions in the Entertainment Industry. Loyalty of the talent, if the agent is working hard for you gets you work and then the talent sign in on set as being self represented so they don’t have to pay agency fees. HONESTY and Integrity play a big part in a good relationship with AGENT/TALENT.
When they think all “actors” should work for free or for crumbs, once in a while we like to do favors for “Clients” who may work with you in the future……..building a network per se, but after once or twice and they are making money at whatever project they are working on the talent should get paid accordingly……..
Clients who feel they don’t have to pay an agency fee that the agents work for free for them to get the talent requested to book the talent to call the talent etc……They cheap out at the expense of the talent and agent…..
When clients don’t post their projects for all agents to see for equal opportunities for all the talent who reside in Canada or the US.
What would you like talent to know about you and your company
About myself, I am a hard working agent, I don’t like competition within my agency so I try really hard not to have two “Suzies with blonde hair blue eyes and are similar looking and same age.” I strongly believe in a diverse “smaller” roster of talent who know themselves and what they can do and if a talent requests further training I referred them to the “Industry’s” best whether it be film/tv/voice and I ask the talent when they want to further their training to please check them out first or I will.
I now only run the agency but I am a fork driver by moonlight hours, and if there happens to be an emergency for the “Film Industry” I am always available via text/phone and I sign contracts on my breaks, fax them via my phone etc…..it has worked wonderfully for over 9 yrs now.
Is labeling important? Why?
Depending on what you are referring to “Genres” or the talent themselves…..I believe all talent should keep themselves open and diverse until such time they eventually get “Labeled/Branded” by the Industry. Talent keeping themselves open gives them a vast exp. in all fields and knowledge.
If you know exactly who you are what you want and can do, then yes I agree. Until then I would not want my talent to label themselves.
Do all auditions get sent to talent as you receive them?
When I receive the audition time, location and all necessary information for the talent I will send out immediately. However if a casting director sends me a breakdown to submit on and they (casting directors) have only provided me with a date I will wait a few hours until all info is together so I only email the talent once with all information.
Do some auditions get cast before deadlines? How often?
Yes this can happen and does happen especially if a director has worked with the talent before and wants to cast them in a specific role. I have not experienced this a whole lot – maybe a dozen times over 20-25 yrs.
What do you look for in a talent Package – demo, branding, personality, time investment, education etc?
I look for a clean headshot along with a full body shot, demo reel if they have an up to date resume that is accurate, what kind of training they have had and where they have trained and by who. I like to meet with the selected talent to see if it will be a good working relationship and what their goals and aspirations are. If they are a commercial talent/ Film, BG, or Voice the I look at what their education is, availability, and whether they can travel if they have a valid passport and if they are legal to work in Canada or the US.
How can a talent stand out?
Being diverse even if it means you volunteer on a project to be in “Prosthetics, costume, Film makeup” etc. Training and putting to use what you have learned, train in many different areas depending on the actor you want to become or what projects they are interested in. Weapons, combat, horsemanship, and training on how to breakdown a script properly know your “Character.” Do your homework and the casting director will remember you, leave a good impression DON’T blame your agent for lack of knowledge on the character it’s your audition OWN IT!
What is the best way for a talent to stay in touch with you – without being a bother?
As busy as I am I am usually available via text or email to drop a line at least once a month to check in if they have not heard from me. Every day or several times a week annoys most agents, but if you are a working actor, email once a week to keep yourself posted as well as your agent.
How has the internet changed your business for the better? For the worse?
I would say for the better most definitely as before I would receive numerous faxes and had to send faxes for submissions, photo copy sides galore tape actors and send tape via Purolator, FedEx, mail etc. There was a lot of expense and waiting for answers having the Internet has opened up a new world for Agents/Directors/Casting Directors/Talent.
Is your roster full? If so, how can a talent ever get onboard?
My roster if full, as talent grow up, retire, leave the agency I then meet with potential new talent. I review the information that the talent has and if they lack experience I have them work independent to gain the experience then seek an agent. If they have the experience and my roster is full I ask them to send me their information and to stay in touch – perhaps to drop an email once a month if they have not obtained an agent in the meantime.
I understand the industry has changed and it’s getting harder and harder for talent to book several projects as they once did. Do you agree? If so why? or Why Not?
Yes I totally agree as with time over the years the Industry has grown immensely and the training has taken off (e.g., training for film/theatre/voice) in every Genre. The directors want diversity and fresh faces. Years before it was ok for the same talent to book 2, 3 or more projects or commercials in one week and the “talent” would get know as the “Queen” “King” of commercials or voice or documentary. There are a lot of highly skilled actors now who take their profession seriously and obtain all kinds of education and training.
What are typical hours that an agent keeps? If I’m getting auditions into all hours of the night does this mean you work 24/7?
I try to keep normal hours form 9-6 but quite often this is hard for an agent as casting calls can come in at anytime depending on where the production company is or client wanting to book talent. Or, in a couple of cases on a “Feature” they had to recast and I had to call talent in the wee hours to see if they could fly out in the morning, this can and does happen not too often though. Yes it has been known for an agent to put in very long hours.
Are taking holidays difficult for you?
Sometimes it can be difficult but with technology and the Internet it has made an agents time open up as “I” can submit anywhere in the world where they have internet as I work from a home office and take my computer with me. With the technology and pricing of cell phones has made it easier for agents to travel.
Run us through a typical audition – e.g.: you receive the audition – do you go back and forth with client on rate, script, specs etc. Then how do you decide who gets to audition? Once the auditions are sent out is your job done at that point? Do the auditions just come in and you send out? Or is your system automated? Do you have to deal with several talent/audition issues – such as late auditions, questions about audition etc.
For the most part for what I do – when I receive the script I go through it carefully and look at the character breakdown to see if I have any talent that match that particular breakdown. Then I go to my roster and submit for example if the breakdown wants a spunky 20 yr old female, I like to give the director a variety: “a blonde, dark, red, ethnic.” Once the casting director reviews the submissions and feel they are right for the character they have been submitted on they send an audition time to me. From there I create and email with all the important information: Location, time, date, role, sides script if there is one, wardrobe requests etc. all the information the talent would need to confirm an audition. I ask for a confirmation asap from there I write another email to the casting director confirming the talent for the audition. Once the auditions are done and when the talent book the role I then create another email and send out to talent booking them, followed by a text and phone call to ensure availability. If it is a Union project and sometimes a non union project I have to do a “Deal” memo to the casting director on my requests for my talent while on set (hotel, meals, transportation, flights, etc) whatever it takes for sign the deal/contract for the talent. Most projects are pretty straight forward but time consuming with all the correspondence that must take place between the agent/casting director/ wardrobe/production office etc.
What kinds of warning signs should talent watch for when looking for an agent?
Talent should be informed first and foremost, go to a reputable site and look up reputable agents and if you do not have means of a computer and you are going for an interview – ASK questions……..DON’T PAY an upfront cost to have an agent. The agent gets paid when the talent gets paid. The only time a talent should have to pay if for a service like training, but be very careful you watch out for agencies that require you to take thousands of dollars in their training programs before they will represent you. Take notes, ask about agency fees, etc.
Anything else you can add to help make talent respect your work.
Respect your agent and their time – which does not mean you can call at midnight wondering if there are any upcoming auditions. And when your agent sends you an email PLEASE read it thoroughly before calling 10 times with questions when all the answers are in the email but you never read it.
Talent need to do their work as well by marketing themselves, websites, links etc to their demos or resumes which gives your agent tools to work for you.
What would you like to say when you hear statements like, “I can’t believe I have to pay 15-20% for an agents commission”
Do you expect to take your car to a mechanic and have him fix it and not pay for his services…….if you do work for someone don’t you expect to get paid? I worked for your “talent” should I not be treated equally and expect to be paid for my professional services?
Can you give us an idea of the ratio or percentage of bookings between men/women in the following categories:
From my experience as an agent it pretty much balances out. Perhaps certain times of the year it may be more males than females depending on the project and what a “Hit” on the market. Other times it can be female – this goes for all areas and genres.
If a talent wants to let you go as an agent, how should they handle it? Do you take it personally?
They should send me an email followed by a phone call or text which I am usually good with. I do take some of them personally especially when you have worked so hard for them and you took them on Green, developed them and trained them got them bookings and developed their demo reels and resumes, then you finally get a break and they land a “lead” or supporting role and they drop you just when you reached a new level.