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Adamby Adam Lieblein

Red Flags


How To Lose An Agent In One Easy Step

During the sixteen years I owned a talent agency, I had the sad responsibility of releasing many clients who displayed behavior that can be characterized as a “red flag.”  In this context, a red flag refers to any action that causes great stress to the staff of the agency, or shows signs that the actor is becoming overly needy or “high-maintenance.”

There are times when some agents will grant a bit of leeway and flexibility to some clients. They may put up with bad behavior from actors who may be high earners or someone who may have other value to the agency. But generally speaking, which is all I can do in a short article, there are certain behaviors that are unacceptable, and will cause an agency to cut ties with an actor in short order. Maybe it will take a few of these to push them over the cliff, but during a stressful day, red flags will have drastic repercussions. Also, when agents review their client list from time to time, the first people to be dropped are the ones who annoy them. Here are some examples of behavior that will do more than just ruffle an agent’s feathers:

Call the agent every day and ask, “What’s up? Is there anything for me today? Has it been slow? Are you submitting me on anything?”

When an actor says these things, he implies that the agent isn’t doing his job. If you just need to talk to your agent, there are other more creative and less insulting ways to do it.

Frequently ask to reschedule your audition times for series regular roles during pilot season.

These are the most potentially lucrative bookings for any actor. The auditions are tough to get, so when you get them, you really need to go. What is more important? If you aren’t performing emergency brain surgery on the President of the United States, then you should make yourself available, and get the proper coaching before you go in.

Forget to show up for an audition and hope nobody notices.

If you are running late to an audition for any reason, you need to call the agency and let them know. If you made a huge mistake, and forgot to show up for an audition, you need to call your agent and confess your sins. You should know that the casting director will realize that you didn’t show up, and they will call and talk to your agent about it. It embarrasses the agent, and may cause the casting director to call in fewer actors from that agency in the future. That’s bad for everyone.

Complain about your agency on social networks.

Seriously? You just tweeted that your agent hasn’t gotten you an audition in a month? You blogged about your search for a new agent? And you thought your current agent wouldn’t notice or care that you shared that on the web? Wrong. Keep your eyes open for a tweet that you’ve been dropped from their roster.

Be difficult to work with on the set. Whine and complain a lot. 

When you are fortunate enough to book a job, you need to make lasting friendships on the set. People need to like you, and enjoy working with you. If they don’t, and if you piss people off, guess who gets the phone call? That’s right. Your agent. If an agent gets that call, it tells them that you don’t value your career as much as you should. They will tend to release actors who give the agency a bad reputation. Don’t be that person. Be professional. Be nice. Be fun to work with.

Be late for your early morning call time on any production. 

Oh, boy. It’s 6:20AM and your call time was 6:15. You’re late. Nobody can reach you on your cell. The production team will call your agent and wake him up. He will frantically try to reach you using every contact method the agency has on file. Every minute you are late costs the producers extra money. The casting director will hear about this. Your agent will be more than a little upset. Unless you’ve been pinned under a train and the jaws of life are being used to free your legs, there isn’t an excuse that will placate the people who have depended on you. You should have planned ahead to be early. Traffic isn’t an excuse. A power failure causing you to miss your alarm isn’t an excuse. Use two alarm clocks, place one of them on the other side of the room, and make sure one clock runs on batteries in case of a power failure.

Leave drunken messages on your agency’s voicemail after hours.

After a night of drinking with friends, that great idea you just had to share with your agent can wait until the next day. Nothing good can come of a late night drunk-dial to your agent’s office. The first time a client of mine called me at 1AM, slurring his speech while thanking me for doing such a great job for them. I was flattered, but slightly annoyed. The next time it happened, I was a bit less flattered, and much more irritated. The third time… well, you get the point.

I could continue listing issues like this for pages upon pages. The bottom line is that if you think a specific behavior is questionable, and might be considered a red flag by your agent, you are probably right. Don’t do it.

Now, when I share these thoughts with my students, many of them have asked me why I focus on these issues rather than on the behavior of an agent that might be considered a red flag to the actor. That’s a good question.  There are agent behaviors that an actor should watch out for, and I will review those in another article. But those issues are less frequent, and less important in the overall process.

For every actor who has an agent, there are dozens of actors seeking representation. Actors are relatively easy for an agency to replace. This is not true in reverse. There are a limited number of agencies, and it’s much more difficult for an actor to find a new agent than for an agency to find a new actor. It’s just the way it is. And that’s the deal.


Adam Lieblein is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theatre Film and Television, and spent eight years as a producer of films, commercials and television projects until 1993 when he opened a talent agency. Adam was the president of Acme Talent & Literary for sixteen years, and together with his eighteen agents represented actors for film, television, commercials, print modeling and voiceover work, and writers for film and novels. At the end of 2008, Acme’s several divisions were sold to other agencies, and Adam returned to the business of producing and teaching at UCLA. In 2011 Adam was recruited by Casting Networks to work in Business and Product Development.