Ep. 3 - IT'S A PARTNERSHIP: Commercial Agent Kenneth Suarez
Hey-ho you swashbucklers! I had a chance to sit down with the ever-gracious Kenneth Suarez of Brick Entertainment. Kenneth is an actor’s-agent who took a good deal of time to share his agency perspective on working with actors, the industry and much much more.
Buckle up for an in-depth conversation about all things commercial acting!
Toby: Buccaneers, what's up? This is Toby lawless with the lawless crowd where we have thoughtful discussions with industry professionals on the crazy business and craft of commercial acting. This podcast is all about leveraging my experience to share insight, information, and perspectives that may help you on your path to success. I'm a strong believer that information is power, the power to get better at what you do to forward your career and ultimately, to book more. Simply stated, my goal at the lawless crowd is to help actor succeed by sharing inside perspectives of commercial industry professionals. This week, we're back with another killer industry interview with Kenneth Suares of Brickhouse Talent. Kenneth is a super smart and insightful commercial Talent Agent here in LA.
In this interview, we discuss things like the best way to get an agent, how to work with your agent to generate more opportunities, when and how do you move on from your agent when you feel like it's time? The State of the Union, and of course what you can do to get more auditions? So buckle up, get your sodas, grab your popcorn, here we go. Kenny thanks for joining, man.
Kenneth: No problem, happy to be here.
Toby: We've had so many good conversations one on one that I was very excited to kind of chat with you on the record or for others to hear. So much of what I do, it feels like it's just sharing perspective and I'm in the unique position of sort of having access to information and people that others don't. And I think there's so much good information in there that people aren't able to see, so I'm all about sharing that out. And I feel like you're sort of like-minded, which is why I thought that was a good call.
Kenneth: Nice of you to think so. I like to think so.
Toby: Yes. So can you tell me a little bit about you just some context for this but you're an agent, where are you an agent? How did you get started?
Kenneth: Yes, I'm one of two owners at Brick Entertainment; we're a boutique commercial talent agency. We do only commercials, we do some print. The other owner is Nelson Henderson, just the two of us, we purchased the business from the previous owner, his name was Barry Rick, hence the name Brick. Barry owned the agency for approximately 10 years, eight to 10 years. And I was actually a client of the agency many, many moons ago and Barry and I had developed a good bond and friendship over the years. And at one point, he had two junior agents who left the agency and he was looking for a new agent, he asked me to put my ear to the ground. And at some point, I called him and said I would be interested in being an apprentice and learning the business and possibly doing this myself and he thankfully was open to that idea.
And he thought I would be good at it and so I started working at the agency and very quickly found that I had a knack for this and the rest is kind of history. Barry, unfortunately, passed away rather suddenly and his family and he wished for the agency to continue if I wanted to. And so at that point, I brought on Nelson as a partner, and we bought the business from the Rick family.
Toby: So how long ago was it when you first came on?
Kenneth: It was about 10 and a half years ago and we bought the business nine and a half years ago.
Toby: And how long were you acting for?
Kenneth: I was active as an actor for about 15 years.
Toby: So do you feel like that gives you some perspective when you're working with your clients? How do you feel it impacts your work with your clients because I feel like that's relatively rare?
Kenneth: I think so I mean, I know a decent number of reps who, at one time or another were performers. In most cases, it was for a very short period of time, I don't meet a lot of reps who are performers for many years. So it certainly provides us with a certain understanding of the journey and the obstacles and the difficulties involved. We always like to joke we know how to give directions to casting offices since we've been through all of them, but there's a certain, I think empathy that we approach the business with that I think has suited us well, I feel like our clients feel well taken care of because of it. And it also provides us with, you know, on the flip side of that it also provides us with a certain upper hand when there is an issue and you know, we're addressing it with a client.
And they know that we're addressing it from the point of view of we understand, we understand that it's difficult. I mean, it most often comes up with availability issues, and we'll probably get into later. But, we sort of know some of the behind the scenes tricks of the trade as a performer and so that stuff doesn't sit well with us at times.
Toby: Got it. Got it. You know the tricks?
Toby: So what is, from your perspective, I kind of want to talk a little bit about how you see your job, what do you feel like is an agent's primary responsibility?
Kenneth: Access to put it simply, access to opportunity is primary, and then that's sort of one A and then one B would be to advocate on the actor's behalf. Whether that means by pitching them into rooms, or by negotiating for them when they're hired on the job. You know, I'd put as a third important responsibility would be, advice and counsel to help make decisions about projects, to advice and counsel as it relates to materials and to gaining more opportunity, which again, we'll get into.
Toby: That seems like an added bonus that is maybe available due to the boutique nature and empathetic owners of this agency in particular, because it almost feels like a management function in a lot of ways.
Kenneth: Well, it's interesting that you say that because my partner Nelson often refers to it that way, he said that we have a managerial style of agent thing. I would stop short of saying that we're because we certainly don't take on as much as a real good thorough manager does. I mean, really good managers is on top of a lot of aspects of the performer's career. So I think it's sort of a hybrid, maybe.
Toby: And you guys are strictly commercial.
Kenneth: That's right, we decided early on. First of all, that's where I knew that business much better than the theatrical business in terms of the ins and outs, the transactions, the lingo, just how the whole business works. I have a background in advertising for many, many years ago. And so that combined with many years of taking commercial classes, but with an instructor who incorporated the business of the business into the class, I sort of picked up the other side of our business really well, I guess. So we just understood it, it's much more [inaudible 06:54], it's much more transactional. And to be quite frank, there seems to be a little less at stake for performers and for everyone involved.
Toby: What do you mean, less at stake?
Kenneth: Well, this is one person's view but when I see a theatrical project, particularly a film or a TV series, for that matter, you have somebody who's worked on this project for years.
Toby: I see what you're saying. Yes.
Kenneth: And they have a lot at stake. This is their--
Toby: More personal,
Kenneth: Yes, it becomes more personal, and then a performers involvement in that project becomes more personal.
Toby: That's a good point. It's an interesting point. I never thought of it like that.
Kenneth: Yes. And so with commercials, it's sort of wash, rinse, repeat, there's little less attached to it.
Toby: Yes. And I can say, with some authority, that there's not too much personal going on in terms of the agency and directors engagement and attachment to their work. I think that, of course, they're proud of it and they're trying to make it great and good and fun and funny, but it's not very often where it's personal. That it's like, their personal story, and in the same sense, and also, there's not as much depth clearly. So, I think there's less of an opportunity for it to be quite as personal. I think, more, so they're just attached to sort of, like feeling good about the ability to create 30 seconds stories with some clarity and some punch, and that's a real skill set. So there's a pride involved in that but it's never like, I would reach the same peaks of like pride of a personal project, that's an hour and a half and five years in the making.
Kenneth: Yes, plus, there's an ulterior motive there, which is to sell products.
Toby: Correct? It's always infused.
Kenneth: Right. Whereas, film or TV project is to tell a story that will garner interest in an audience. So there are two different motives plus, the ad agencies are somewhat detached from Hollywood, so it's a little less, excuse the word, incestuous. It's these people are typically outside of the so the Hollywood machine. So that appealed to us and appealed to me in particular, because there was an opportunity to transact business and help our client move their career forward, but without the emotional attachment, per se. So that's one of the main reasons. The other reason is that the theatrical world is comprised of, I don't know how many casting directors and show runners and executives and the list goes on and on and on.
And to tackle that giant mountain as a small operation, there's just not enough time in the day. So you know this commercial casting, there are about 40 casting directors in town that do most of the jobs, and then there's possibly another 20 that do a few jobs a year, that's a manageable number to keep in touch with and maintain relationships with.
Toby: So if your chief responsibilities or access opportunity and advocating how does it like, in your estimation, how does an agent do their job very well?
Kenneth: Well, borrowing those two items you just mentioned, I mean, providing a channel to or access to auditions and getting in front of casting directors who are casting jobs is primary, if your actors aren't auditioning, they're not booking. So and what does that look like is that what you're-[inaudible 10:28].
Toby: Yes, sort of like, so if that's the definition of the what I guess the question is, what's the how for you guys? Because I think is really, myself as an actor, and even in casting because I really haven't had much behind the scenes experience with agents. And I think it's good for actors to know, the work that their agents are doing, and like how much work it is, how they do it, what they need to do their job well? So if you're talking about like, well, we're providing opportunity, because we have relationships, we're managing our relationships with these 40 casting directors, who are the primary bread earners for the industry. What does that look like? Are we just sort of just the way that we interact with them and submitting on their jobs and making sure we're on point in terms of our actors showing up? And like, what does it mean?
Kenneth: Yes, it's funny, some casting directors use the term, it's a little bit of a buzz word that I'm not a big fan of, but I understand it, it's called policing your actors. And, we've heard that from casting before, and what that means to just grab one slice of what you just discussed. That means, being on top of our actors, in terms of schedules, availability, do they look like their picture? Can't they take [inaudible 11:40]?
Toby: Making everyone's job easier, so to say?
Kenneth: Yes. Can they deliver the sensibility, the vibe, the comedic style, the accent, the skill that the casting director is looking for? So being really specific about our submissions, that's been a trend in commercial casting for many, many years now. And part of that is the digital platform is driven by the digital platform, casting is being asked to do more with less. And so they're in turn asking the agents to be a lot more specific about their submissions. And so what we try to do is we try to present our actors in a light that suits the role that's being requested and that also suits what they bring to the room. And so, really trying to draw clean lines between casting and our performers, that happens through profiles, it happens through pictures, it happens through notes that we write in submissions to help bolster the submission. And then it also happens when we pitch and we'll pitch every day.
Toby: Every day, I was going to ask how often that is for you, how big of a part is that?
Kenneth: It's a big part, it's an important part, it's only natural that sometimes out of sight, out of mind. An actor might be in front of a CD for a while, and then not be in front of that CD for a little while. A lot of casting directors need to show their ad agency clients new talent over time, so--
Toby: Or they simply forget,
Kenneth: Or they simply forget, I mean, we've had numerous examples of clients who maybe go on the road for some kind of tour or a job. They take some time off, or they'll do a regional theater gig and come back and it's like starting the engine all over again. So that's where pitching can come in handy when you have new clients come on board who had been with different agencies before, it's helpful to especially if they have fans to let the casting people, those fans know where this person is now.
Toby: So to be clear, we're talking about that you see a breakdown, maybe you've even submitted likely your actors and you're not getting any bites, meaning the casting director maybe sort of left what you think is a good match for this project on the table. You'll call them--
Kenneth: Call them on the phone or email.
Toby: --on the phone or email them and say, hey, like, what would an email look like?
Kenneth: An email would look like a short introduction. And we wanted to highlight this submission for this spot and this role, so everything very specific, so it's easy to track for casting. We'd include a picture or pictures of our client or clients. And then under each name, their name and a short description of what they're about and what their strengths are and how it suits the role.
Toby: That's pretty thorough.
Kenneth: Yes, I mean, it helps, again, everything, you know, because so much of it, and you've worked on the casting side, you know that so much of this is built on speed and accuracy.
Toby: More and more.
Kenneth: Yes. So any way that we can make it seamless for casting to see that this is a good fit, the better.
Toby: And path, I mean, I guess it depends on your relationship with the casting director but do you feel like that makes a difference those pitches? Because I know there are offices that don't pitch at all.
Kenneth: It makes a difference to us. I mean, every agency is different. Every agency has different relationships. Every agency has different modus operandi if you will like everybody does things differently. So I can only speak on our behalf but we have made that a part of our DNA from the beginning. And it's not something that we do to an individual cast director over and over and over again, we don't bombard them, but we are sending email or calling and pitching every day. Because especially when there's a really good match, and this person is not on that casting directors radar, it can be the difference between a booking [inaudible 15:38]. And if it doesn't end up in a booking, but that actor gets a callback impresses along the way. Now, it's a new [inaudible 15:47] for that actor.
Toby: Exactly. So let me ask you this, if hypothetically here, I'm an actor that is reps by you, what's the best way that I can help you help me?
Kenneth: Well, that's a real open-ended question I'll try to answer as best as I can, first and foremost is to view our partnership as a business partnership. That's something that we talked to our performers about and I talked to actors about in general. And many times, I get a curious look, because it's a slightly different way of looking at it. A lot of times there are more actors than agents so there's a certain supply and demand there but we are in a partnership. We're deciding together that we're going to book commercials and we go at this together and we're going to figure this out together. So there are responsibilities on both sides of the spectrum. So for a performer, that is a few primary things that we sort of expect at our end, flexibility, availability, and I say availability with an asterisk. Obviously, if you're a busy actor, your availability is limited to when you can make auditions but we'd all be so lucky.
So availability and flexibility are really important because commercials move so quickly, we see more and more same-day auditions. If you can't make the audition you can't book the job, we can't earn money, that's the necessary component. So that's first and foremost, and then we experience and I'm sure this my colleagues in the agent community would agree. One of the more frustrating things for us is to have somebody really talented who just can't make it to enough auditions. And then that performer gets frustrated that their career isn't going in the direction that they want it to go, those are two. The age-old obvious one is, and take it with a grain of salt, but pictures, we--
Kenneth: Yes. And pictures that are of a quality, that a casting director is going to be able to see them clearly and view a professional being submitted to them as opposed to somebody who's doing this part-time.
Toby: Got it.
Kenneth: And you know, perception is everything. So just like if I receive a handwritten note on a nice piece of stationery, it's impressive. If I receive a handwritten note on a post-it it says something, it doesn't mean that the note is a nice, it just there's an impression that we take away from it.
Toby: Sure, it tells the story.
Kenneth: It does. It tells us something about the person writing it too.
Toby: So what's your take, what do you talk to your actors about in terms of sending postcards?
Kenneth: I don't have a hard line, either way, I think everything is worth trying. I think there are different ways to attack our business and it depends on who you are, and where your skill set lies. I'm sure through your travels, you've met performers who are really great at working a room and meeting people in person and making them feel important and aligning themselves with people who can move their career forward. Other people are just technicians, really good actors who are really good in the room, who are that's all they're about and then they go home and they live a quiet life, and they don't really like to be around people. And then you have everything in between you have people who are really good at taking classes and picking up skills and covering ground by meeting casting directors through those avenues.
Toby: So you say sort of play to your strengths.
Kenneth: That's exactly it. And I know I've heard actors say oh, the postcards just get thrown in the trash. And for the most part, that might be true but if somebody is casting something, and it comes through at the right time then-
Toby: Yes, I used to kind of take a hard line on it from the casting perspective, I'm like, don't send it but don't send postcards. But then I realized that was really more my own personal take meaning and that's not my style. Because I do work in castings and I do see that 80 to 90% go directly in the trash without a casting director look at them. However, I had people push back against me and be like, dude, I booked jobs off of that, I booked jobs off of postcards. And I'm like, okay, so my like addended or amended position is now as long as you know, that 80% of them are going into the trash, but 20% may not. And it may help you but if you go into it expecting like, oh, everyone's going to look at my postcard and this is it, for me was never worth the time and energy and money.
I was like, ah, it's not that those odds aren't worth it and I don't enjoy doing it ever. There are people you know who it is for, the two and they'll say I'll do anything I can to help myself. I think sometimes when they just see my face, if they happen to see it, I could trigger something and that is true it may just, you know, just like you were saying, like, out of sight out of mind. That might be one thing where it's like, oh, yes, Eric, he's perfect for this job but there's no guarantee.
Kenneth: No, of course. And plus, it's just another way to remind somebody and it's how you do it too. Everything's in the doing. So if you send a postcard, and you have a skill for I don't know, maybe it's funny, or it looks funny, or it's interesting or unique or maybe there's this tiny gift attached that's really interesting, who knows, I mean, some people just really skilled at doing that. I know an actor, a good friend of mine who he works quite a bit in TV. He sends a handwritten note to the director and producer after each time, he works on a film and he said that he's gotten more phone calls about that. He said, it really impacts them because they usually tell him I never get anything handwritten anymore, it's always emails and texts and real quick one-offs. It's just so nice to receive a genuine thank you note about the experience.
Toby: Yes, I used to do a note on typewriters, I use to typewriter notes on like vintage postcards. I guess I should have just gone handwritten. I was one step removed, man.
Kenneth: But yes, so again, there's no one size fits all right. And there's a certain, individual nature to this journey, that and I try not to take too many hard lines on things because what works for one person may not work for another.
Toby: Yes. So it sounds like the way you work with your clients is very sort of based on who they are and playing to their strengths. And I feel and we've had conversations in the past with on how you've helped sort of navigate clients through changes and looks or I forget, like kind of gray areas between age ranges and types. And I think that's such a useful skill. I'm sort of talking about like, feel like you told me once you had a client who was sort of like, too young to be the young dad, but too old to be the college guy. And you kind of looking like, let's grow a beard and you're going to be like the UPS delivery guy for a few years.
Kenneth: That's correct. We did have a guy like that and that's great memory. Yes, you are who you are and you can't change who you are for the most--
Toby: I'm not a six-foot black dude, unfortunately for me.
Kenneth: Exactly. And so, where do you fit under the guise of advertising? Where do you currently fit?
Toby: Where do you go to find those types? So if someone's like, thinking about their look like, where do I fit? Do you just sort of rack your brain for what you see and like they seem like--
Kenneth: Watch commercials. I mean, really a lot of what I draw is from commercials. I mean, if you watch enough commercials, you'll know, you'll see the consistent archetypes and that's a word that I use a lot, that are used in commercials. I stopped--
Toby: Hit me with a few archetypes.
Kenneth: Okay, so this particular guy that we were just talking about, we had in this period of his life where he was kind of at that tweener ground, we put him more in the blue-collar range. He was a blue-collar guy, he was proud of a hard day's work. Maybe he drove a UPS truck, or maybe he was a local farmer
Toby: Worked at a Bud Light factory.
Kenneth: He worked at a Bud Light factory, he worked at a auto factory, something in that vein for a period of time. So another one might be, one that I like to use, especially for somebody that has like, a unique style about them, and maybe unique hair or unique look, or something that screams artistic, usually like to get a creative executive. So a creative employee, rather than your typical corporate employment. I mean, if somebody who has jet black hair, and, [inaudible 24:46] and tattoos, they're not looking at IBM So we tend to steer towards something in the professional realm, but not corporate, something that would be acceptable in a work environment, in terms of dress, but would fit more in a creative agency or an ad agency or a digital agency.
Toby: Yes, so interesting. We talked about this a little earlier, but I kind of want to circle back to it, which is you're talking about actors availability. And I know, I kind of want to talk about a couple of things. One is like, what do you feel like is the best way for you guys to communicate with your actors? And how do you navigate those availability issues where it's work and your hustle and your work and trying to make that all happen? And--
Kenneth: Yes, well, I think our job is, as we've discussed already, is to identify opportunity and to get our clients auditions. And our client's job is to make them so we understand that most people are here to be TV film actors and we honor that, we respect that. But short of that, or emergencies, of course, we expect that our clients are going to make a lion's share, have very high percentage of the opportunities, that's their job. And so the hustle is an interesting point, I mean, coming from an empathetic point of view, I do understand how difficult it is to manage, especially when you're starting out. Or if you're not in a position where you're earning a decent living in commercials, there's a sort of catch 22. You have to pay your rent, you have to pay for your car and gas and food but you also have to make time to make auditions, well if it was easy, everyone would do it.
So it really is a balance and there are many, many, many people who make it work. I think the common thread, and this is just dipping into another area, but I think it's relevant is our most successful actors, even from the time that they were not successful. The common thread is they have personalities where things roll off their back. We call them a good time people. They're just always and they're always available. It doesn't matter, we call they're there.
Toby: Great. Yes, I was going to ask you that question about what are some of the habits of your most successful slash booking actors?
Kenneth: There's something about the person who can sit in two hours of traffic going to Santa Monica, show up and be in a good mood.
Toby: Oh my god, not only that show up, look for parking, find parking get there, they're an hour and a half behind. They change your role and still walk in and kill the room.
Kenneth: Yes. And aside from killing the room, I would make the argument just being present and cool and easygoing about it all.
Toby: Yes. And that is what I mean by killing the room. It's maintaining your presence, being relaxed and confident and just like, hey, what's going on, as if none of that happened?
Kenneth: Exactly. I mean, that is a common thread, and someone who is holding on really tight, squeezing really tight, it typically shows in the room.
Toby: Yes. And in the lobby and their life.
Kenneth: Right. So, and that speaks to a whole other topic that we could talk about for hours, which is we find that another common thread is that actors who are really comfortable in their own skin, who've done whatever work is necessary to be really confident in social situations, and in audition situations. Because our business is a little bit more of a social atmosphere than maybe TV and film, you can kind of--
Kenneth: [inaudible 28:28] yourself off. But if you're on set in a commercial, and you're dealing with business people who don't really understand actors, you know,
Toby: Or in the callback room--
Kenneth: Or in the callback room, for instance.
Toby: --eight people who are just sort of sitting back there in the darkness, yes, that's interesting.
Kenneth: So, that's a common thread, you know, nowadays, especially being flexible in the room, in terms of--
Toby: The last-minute changes.
Kenneth: --being able to adapt to last-minute changes, be light on your feet, it doesn't necessarily mean funny, it just means the ability to be adaptable and present and go with the flow that we find. And that's a personality trait that some people have that is just apparent and obvious and we see that as a common thread in our performers to do well.
Toby: That's great. Let me ask you this, let's assume you have someone who is making all their additions are 90%, or whatever, that's not an issue. But they're just not getting callbacks and or maybe they've been getting callbacks every now and then. But they're not booking and I'd like to sort delineate between those two, what matters more. At what point are you like this isn't working?
Kenneth: Well, it's a great question. We use the term a lot, at least in our office, we say if someone's tracking well. And what we mean by that is, from the moment we formed our business partnership, and they started attending auditions, there was positive feedback. There was a response either by a casting director calling them in repeated times over what's the period of time, that's always a good sign when an actor will go into a particular casting office and then that casting calls them in for their next five jobs. We know that they've found somebody that they really find interesting and viable in the room.
Toby: They're fan.
Kenneth: They're fan. So then, from that you graduate to callbacks, is this person getting callbacks consistently, anybody who's getting callbacks consistently, we feel is in a position to book. So then it becomes a question of if someone is the callback, king or queen, and they're not booking, what tweaks need to be made. That's what someone like yourself comes in really handy. So we might talk to our performer about, doing a refresher with a commercial instructor, maybe there's something you're doing that you're not aware of, that's just the difference between get [inaudible 30:54].
Toby: Yes, I mean, and in my experience, that's always situational, because really, you're trying to achieve the same thing in the room. And you've achieved it once, at the first call, most likely, they saw something they liked, someone did that's why you're there. But then what happens is the situation changes, which is, now you're closer to the money, there are people in the room and so in one hand, it requires a separate skill set, which speaks to sort of the social atmosphere, you were talking about. And your ability to flourish in that setting, but also it's mental toughness of the pressure of one being close to something that you want that's highly competitive, and how do you deal with it? Are you able to still do what you did the first time under those conditions? And I think a lot of the times, that's what it is, it's like, basically what actors talk about, like getting in their head because of the nerves, etc, and being able to find tweaks for it that way.
Kenneth: Let me speak to that, I think part of what can help a performer to gain that mindset, I talk about this quite a bit with friends and our clients is having a life outside of this industry.
Toby: Yes, hundred percent.
Kenneth: The more you have going on in your life, personally, whether it be relationships or hobbies, or charities or interests, whatever it may be, the less important that callback becomes. And when I say that, I don't mean that it's not important, but--
Toby: You mean to your identity as a human and your life.
Kenneth: Yes. And to the next day. You wake each day for--
Toby: Yes, I was just talking to an actor about this. And I feel like what happens is, we get so tied up, and basically the results of like booking or do I get the callback. And then all of a sudden, if we don't, then we start thinking, I'm not a good actor, I'm not good at my job, I'm not a successful person. And then you don't want to be in that zone because that'll just take you down a very deep dark hole. And it basically sort of puts you in a place where you need a job to feel good about who you are. And if you're in touch with other elements, like you're saying, like, oh, I do this, and this is my job. But I also get worth from doing other stuff in my life that can really help bounce and sort of take the pressure off of those moments.
Kenneth: Yes. And that's how most of the rest of the world lives. And I'm not saying it's easy, because this career path is way different than climbing the corporate ladder, for sure but it does borrow some of the same mindsets. There are people who go to work at offices every day, myself included and if my whole identity and life is dependent upon this job and this job alone, it'd be a pretty small life. It'd be a pretty boring life, so yes.
Toby: So your advice to them is what, sort of engage more with stuff that's outside of the industry?
Kenneth: Yes. And I think it does. I mean, without being an acting instructor, you might speak to this more, but I would think that that would lead to a more well-rounded performer as well.
Toby: Yes, 100%. And also, to your point, like, just makes you seem more like a person. Like we always sort of this isn't a great phrase, but we talked in casting about like, oh, like, they just want real people and the insinuation there is actors are not real people. Which is, of course, they are but what they're speaking to is like, we don't want to feel like you're performing, that you're performing and being someone that you're not. And especially commercially, so often it's just like, we're just trying to cast you but the challenges you need to look, be totally comfortable being you under X, Y and Z circumstances. You just bought a new car and it's raining or whatever, but you need to make that look normal and that's the challenge.
Kenneth: Yes. And that also brushes up against what we're talking about before when you ask about what clients, what actors can do to do their part with their agents is an understanding of where they fit. Getting pictures that match the archetypes where they fit, not spreading a net too wide and I say that with an asterisk because there are certain very fortunate people who can spread a wide net and more power to them. But particularly for someone just starting out, it's helpful to stick close to the vest as to who you are, and where you fit, shades of you. Shades of you that you can show up in the room and be that person pretty comfortably--
Toby: And have it be authentic. And authenticity is such a sort of hop, keyword in advertising and casting right now, everything is meant to be real, believable, natural, organic, authentic. And then they'll say, oh, we want real couples, or like, we want a real rock climber, and then they get them and they get so self-conscious when they have to do the acting. Because 90% of people are terrified of doing stuff, where they perceived that they're being judged.
Kenneth: Part of the reason that commercials is lean towards more, real people, real skills, the timing of a production, the time from the concept to post-production, that time has been shortened dramatically. So you have a two-day shoot and your concept involves an EMT pulling up a gurney and connecting somebody to an IV, there's really not time or the wherewithal to teach somebody how to do that.
Toby: And have it look real.
Kenneth: And have it look real. So it's just easier to hire the real EMT who can show up on set and knows exactly how everything works.
Toby: Yes, sort of like the skill set needed there outweighs maybe the emotional performance, it's more important that they can do X, Y and Z connecting to an IV than it is that they, whatever we're requiring of them emotionally. Likelihood, we're not really requiring them anything that's outside of what they would do on their job.
Kenneth: Exactly. And then if you're a good actor, cream on top. And this differs to some degree from TV and film where I have a friend who was hired one time on a TV show, and he had a recurring role. And he was going to be a guy who hunts a lot, and it's taking place in rural Georgia and he fits the role, he suits the role. It's the type of role he'll play, but he didn't know the first thing about how to handle a gun. And so they flew him out two weeks early, and they trained him and they just don't have that kind of time.
Toby: Exactly. And I mean, that's sort of what I'm telling, it was like, look, there's still an arc here but for the sake of clarity, we don't have the time of an hour and a half of an arc to sort of get a feel for your character. And so to that same point, like with a film, there's a lot required in terms of probably most likely emotional depth for that role for your friend's role, because he's got different scenes, and he's got to be able to play them. And then there's also this hunting element, where they're like, well, it's more important that we get someone who can do the acting, and then train them to hunt than it is like, let's get a hunter and train them to act, that's going to be much harder.
Kenneth: Right? I mean, in that scenario, you need someone who can carry an eight or nine-episode arc. So who tells the story the best? And then we'll figure out the particulars. There's an inverse relationship in commercials, to some degree.
Toby: Yes, 100%
Kenneth: And that's not to diminish that the best-case scenario is that somebody knows how to do that and they're a good actor, and they understand, and they have emotional depth. Like, that's a best-case scenario.
Toby: Yes, you've been very generous with your time. And I just want to hit a couple of other things, before so I don't want to keep you too long. But let's sort of take that and move into where the industry is at now. Do you feel like there are big jobs out there still? Are they more rare? I mean you started 10 years ago and that's basically when I started. And I know that there's been a massive change since then. And you were in the industry prior to that as well. And from your side, like we see our offices' jobs coming in and as a session director, I bounced between offices. So I see that, but I feel like you guys also kind of have more of a pulse on because you're going to see all the breakdowns that are coming out. And I talked to actors, I've talked to agents who are like, yes, I have actors who are making 200 plus K a year, it's not normal but like our big actors are making that, there are still $40,000 jobs out there. It's not just crumbs, there's a lot more smaller jobs, there's probably a lot less bigger jobs than that I just sort of want to get your take on that.
Kenneth: That's how I would characterize it, I mean or describe it. There are still big jobs out there, there are still advertisers that need to advertise on national network and cable, there are less of those jobs, there's certainly not the volume that we saw dating back five years and certainly ten years. So yes, they're farther and a few between, and there is our top people still make a very good living. But I think that there is, to possibly mirror society, there's less of a middle class in commercials than there used to be.
Toby: Do you see that as an ongoing trend? Or from your perch over there what's your perspective in terms of where this is all headed?
Kenneth: Yes, I do see it as an ongoing trend, you're seeing more celebrities in commercials, there's a reason for that.
Toby: Which is what?
Kenneth: Well, advertisers are doing the calculus, if you're going to do a large campaign that you plan on running that has a large media by a larger run. If you hire seven actors who are below the line, nobody knows who they are, and you pay them each 40, $50,000 over the course of the year to run that commercial. You're talking about, let's say my example, that's $350,000. Well, you're starting to get into the range, where if you just spend a little bit more, you can get one person who everybody knows to do it. And on the flip side of that, films aren't paying what they used to, so many film actors are more open to doing commercials, because the paychecks that used to be there aren't there.
Toby: Also, it's a sweet gig.
Kenneth: It's a really sweet gig.
Toby: They are like I don't want to leave LA, I got to work two days. And I get to make all these demands.
Kenneth: That's right,
Kenneth: That's right. So we're seeing that. So advertisers are trying to be more efficient with their dollars where if we're going to spend this much money, where do we want to spend it? And advertising agencies are looking and advertisers themselves are looking at ROI, which is return on investment? We're putting this commercial out there and how much are our sales increasing? What kind of engagement are we getting with the consumer, they're running data on that end and seeing diminishing return, particularly in national network and cable. Protect the national network, let's just isolate that, national network is not garnering the eyeballs that it used to. You used to have three networks and then there was four and now it is five, but--
Toby: And we used to be forced to watch those commercials, whereas now it's too easy to sort of pay on and pay wall and it really started with TiVo, just being able to skip them.
Kenneth: That's correct. And live TV is diminishing other than sports. That's why sports are some of the more heavily advertised events throughout the year because they're live and most people watch them live, so you have a captive audience. So, if you're getting a lower return on investment from a particular medium, then you're going to tend to use it less and less. And advertisers get better ROI on cable, and they get outstanding ROI on digital. So if that's the case, it's not like the rates for broadcast television have decreased with the diminishing eyeballs, the rates are still the same. So as a result, advertisers are looking at television advertising differently, spending their money in different places. There's always going to be a place for auto ads that advertise the Memorial Day Sale, that's a staple, that's not going away, I mean, it's tried and true.
They want as many people to know that they're having a sale this weekend and if you're in the market to buy a car, then you want to get down there. Those are staple products like household products are typically trying to grab as many eyeballs as they possibly can. But a lot of technology and digital products are trying to find their tribe. And so
Toby: It's targeted.
Kenneth: They're being more targeted with their dollars. Plus, there's a lot of new companies that are trying to do things differently and be more efficient with how they spend their advertising dollars. I remember there was a car company years ago, and I'm forgetting the name. I want to say it was the Neon but it might not be what's that boxy car that--
Toby: The Kia no I don't know what you are talking about. It's like a hip hop car.
Kenneth: It's kind of like a car that a lot of like, you know, if you're an editor at a film company, you've got one of these cars, it's that boxy car anyway. Years ago, I remember the point at which, which is them, they stopped doing television advertising and they started throwing themes, promotional parties in big cities. Because the people who were buying their automobiles weren't watching commercials and so they just stopped trying on that medium and went straight to the source. So when you see that happening, it is taken away from some of the income that actors who previously relied on national network uSAGe is taken away from that pool. Hopefully, that answers your question.
Toby: It does. Are you talking about this Scion?
Kenneth: Oh, yes, the Scion that's it. That's it. Thank you.
Toby: So I mean, the conversation that's always happening in casting lobbies is about like, the amount of non-union work, and it's all going non-union. And people always ask me like, oh, it's just more and more non-union and I've sort of told them, well I feel like it's kind of plateau. I mean, it's still, in my experiences, I'd say it's sitting around, maybe 65/35 with fluctuations, I feel like for us, in terms of what I noticed like the biggest peak was a few years ago, then it sort of plateau. And, of course, there are still non-union jobs, but the industry is shifting so drastically, piggyback on what we're just talking about in terms of how people are consuming media. When I think about how I see commercials, I see them on my phone, when I'm scrolling through, like, sports apps.
I'm like plugged into all these streaming services where there are no commercials, this is maybe bad because I'm in the industry, but it's like, you work at a pizza shop, you don't want to be eating pizza all day. So I'm happy to not be seeing commercials. And then I'll see them like if I'm at a bar or something point being like you're saying, like, it's so much of a physically very small there in the palm of my hand often cases targeted, to me, often cases, they're run digitally on social or otherwise is likely relatively short. And I feel sort of like I talked to someone recently who was telling me like, look like 15 years ago, this is an executive at a really big [inaudible 46:33] firm in LA, that handles commercial content. He's like, 15 years ago, let's say you had $10 million they put that all in one spot, and now they're breaking that up.
Instead of doing one spot, they're doing 25 spots, and they're targeting them but there's not more money for 25 spots, it's the same amount of money, but it's going in. And then not only that but production has gotten so much cheaper that these smaller production companies are able to start up and sort of vie for and underbid on jobs. Where like, these big commercial directors of the last two decades are saying, they're putting their bids in on jobs, and they're coming in way too high because they're bidding what they used to bid. And these other young pups are coming up and be like, oh, we can do that for a quarter of that. And part of that is the casting budget, and they're like, oh, we could go non-union for this, it's so small, and they're going for it, because they're not investing a large amount, they're like, alright, let's take a risk. This isn't a huge investment if it doesn't work out. Do you feel like that's accurate or what's your take on it?
Kenneth: That's really accurate. I mean, it goes back to what I was saying earlier about, everybody in the supply chain is being asked to do more with less. So advertisers are asking ad agencies to do more with less, ad agencies are asking production to do more for less, and productions asking casting to do more with less. What you previously might have spent, you might have spent two days on casting a job, you now doing it one day?
Toby: Yes. Same Day. We need this now.
Kenneth: Right. So efficiencies are being handed down. And I'm seeing this happen. And I'm having conversations with ad agency executives, about the impact it's having on the ad agency world. Because there are smaller digital ad agencies now that are able to make digital or social content for a lot cheaper and charge a lot less that's having an impact on the larger ad agencies that are signatories to the union. So there, it's common business practice undercutting. It happens in every business, you know, somebody makes the same product, but they make it cheaper. So that trend has been happening over the last several years, you described it perfectly, I am seeing a larger percentage of non-union jobs than before. Now, some of this tends to lie with the talent agency and with their roster, we don't submit on a lot of non union jobs. In fact, we don't submit our most non-union jobs, because we've seen the pay scales in those non-union jobs go so low, that it's not worth our performers or our time.
Toby: Race to the bottom.
Kenneth: It is a race to the bottom in some respects. And also the value that the advertisers deriving is commensurably to pay that is being offered. Something that performers don't often think of, but agents do is indirect conflicts.
Toby: What does that mean?
Kenneth: Well, you probably witnessed this in a callback room when you running camera. It looks like someone who did, a non-union digital commercial for XYZ Soda. And they're now in the room auditioning for Sprite. And the digital commercial that they did for XYZ Soda doesn't carry any conflicts, hopefully, if their agent, paid attention to that [inaudible 50:00] release, in the contract, they didn't sign the contract that way. But you know, it's very easy for somebody to Google someone, [inaudible 50:08].
Toby: Yes. And likely is for XYZ Soda, that spot still on line.
Kenneth: it's still there and it's visible. And then that all of a sudden becomes what we call an indirect conflict, you are technically in conflict, contractually.
Toby: But they may not want it.
Kenneth: But they may not want you now, they may not want to consider you because it's for their archrival, or it's for someone, it's for a product that they order, or that video garnered 5 million views and it's gone viral. So the possibility of indirect conflict and that's something performers don't often think about. And so when we talk to performers about that, we talked to them about it in the context of a career, are you building a career? Are you just trying to get a job?
Toby: Yes, I really think that is the crux, I was literally just talking to a good buddy of mine who's very involved in all the SAG stuff and talking about the fie core situation. And that really is what it comes down to because I think a lot of actors who are fie core are frustrated because they're not working and they just want to work. And a lot of actors who are, sort of hardcore SAG are really focused on the career pension and health like you're building for something much bigger than just the job that's right in front of you. But that can be a hard sell for people who feel like they're trying to make a middle-class lifestyle, or they're just trying to make ends meet in the moment.
Kenneth: Right. It really is the $64,000 question to be answered to date myself a bit. So I don't have the answers. I do know what I see. I do know that actors performance has been significantly devalued over the last 10 years, and probably on a larger scale over the last 20 years, how do you turn that ship around is probably beyond my pay scale? But I do know that there is a certain value in a professional actor who shows up on set, knows what they're doing, knows how to deliver, is easy to work with, there is a value to that. And I think when we hear of a non-union casting, casting 20 people and 17 of them are fie core that had off the record conversation with a casting director about something, about a project. Then that tells you that they may not have found the quality of actor they were looking for if those people had an audition for that project. And that's without taking a strong position on anything. I mean, I believe in the Union, but I also believe in people's right to earn a living. So I tend to be Switzerland on that topic but--
Toby: No, and you're right. And I think that there's very little question about the fact that like, offering union talent for non-union wages being a risk to the battle. They're like, oh, well, we got it last time and we'll get it next time. I don't think there's a question about that. The question really is that sort of the crux of like, yes, but these people just want to work and they don't feel like there are union jobs for them. And so I feel like the Union would say, well, that's tough, you got to wait. If you wait, and enough people do the right thing there will be more but they're like, yes, but there aren't. So I do think it boils down to sort of like people who are predisposed to take the long view on things. To look at this as a career, to look what they're building towards, versus people who are really in the moment, and just saying, like, yes, but I want to work, now, I didn't come to be a union member, I came to be an actor. And if I go route A, non-union fie core, I work more as an actor, if I go route B, I'm supporting my union, but I'm working less. And that's a totally valid argument in a lot of ways, but it is destructive to the union itself.
Kenneth: Yes. And I think it's very destructive to the union and I think I think it depends on who you're talking about too. If somebody has a part-time career as an actor over a 20 year period, and that part-time career is largely fueled by nonunion work and that person is a union actor, who occasionally books a union job, it's an ethical question of sorts. It's a societal question, as to whether that person by doing that is doing more damage to their fellow community--
Toby: And their own career.
Kenneth: And their own career and is it worth it? Is it providing enough benefit to do a few jobs a year and to maintain your status as an actor? Or are you really living and doing a job that's paying your rent and this is sort of this becomes a hobby? And I don't know how somebody does that for a short period of time. Usually, when you will receive the most is new actors who will work non-union to get experience and will make mistakes and stub their toes and sign contracts they shouldn't and be involved in production they shouldn't and then eventually move on. But what we're seeing for a variety of reasons, as we discussed is we're seeing that now impact people who are 10, 15, 20 years into the business which we didn't see as much before.
Toby: Yes. I've always sort of thought of it as like, one way an analogy is like, the minors and the majors. And sort of what you just described was like, oh, the actor comes in, they're in the minor leagues, they kind of get their chops, they get their feet on the ground, and they move up to the majors. But I think the flip side of that analogy is like, okay, well, I'm in the majors, but I'm sitting on the bench, I came to play. They are like, okay, go down but you're saying I can't go down to the minors, but I have to stay up here and play. And I think what SAG would say maybe, then it's like, you could go down to the minors, but you can't play in the majors, then, meaning you have to withdraw your membership completely.
Kenneth: And somebody more hard line would say, well, maybe this isn't a career for you?
Kenneth: And this is a complex issue that isn't easily answered but the reality of the situation that we see now, is that non-union work is becoming more and more prevalent, the wages associated with that non-union worker going down. And it's an interesting attitude that some, or perspective I should say, that some in our industry have, particularly on the production and casting side that I find really, really interesting. We're hearing more and more, especially when we deal with newcomers who are working on a non-union project. We hear more and more from production and casting don't they want to make X amount of dollars, I mean, what else are they going to be doing that day?
Toby: Yes. With much more than they would work, make as a bartender.
Kenneth: I've heard that. I've heard that before.
Toby: Yes. For sure.
Kenneth: And I think it's a slightly unfair characterization, in my opinion, because if I went to that casting director or that production person and said, listen, I have this project that I want to shoot on Sunday. I'm funding it myself, are you free?
Toby: To cast it?
Kenneth: Yes. Are you free? Yes, I'm free on Sunday. Okay, I had $50 to spend. It's $50 more than you would have made on Sunday because it sounds like you're free. And so you and I both know that the response that I'd received from 99% of people would be I'd rather have my Sunday. So what we're seeing because of diminishing wages, not only a non-union, but it's had an impact on union wages, because we're seeing all kinds of new agreements now that have been agreed to and developed by the union.
Kenneth: Is we are starting to see some people who have flexible but good-paying survival jobs, find their flexible, good-paying survival job to be more appealing than going on a set for a couple of hundred dollars. Because for them it's not about being on television. It's not about the thrill of being on television telling your parents at home for them it's a career. And so we're reaching that sort of tipping point because some of our actors do really well in their survival jobs and do well in commercials. So when that point is reached, then you have people turning down auditions, saying, I'm not going to that I can make as much or close to that amount and not to deal with the stress of driving across town for two auditions.
Toby: So are you talking specifically maybe about low paying union jobs?
Kenneth: And non-union jobs, both.
Toby: And non-union jobs. Yes, 100%.
Kenneth: We have actors, particularly seasoned actors, and all agents have clients like this, I would assume that won't go to certain jobs. It's got to be a national network commercial or--
Toby: It's not worth it.
Kenneth: It's not worth driving across town for two auditions and missing out on a day shooting on a day where I could potentially be auditioning for something else that would make me a lot more money.
Toby: Yes, I mean, I do think it comes down to sort of just like a free market economy question, which is like, will the market bear it? With these low paying jobs can they get what they're looking for? And it seems like the answer is yes. And whether or not it's because it's fie core, like people who are crossing the union line help, absolutely not. But even so, I mean, I've definitely cast a ton of non-union jobs that have no, you know, that is purely, truly non-union talent, where they're fine with it. Because A, they don't have the money, B, you're right there devaluing the performance, this is not a national network spot that's going to be airing for six months to be seen by everyone. This is a little spot that's going to air for 30 days, and people are going to see it on their phones. So we don't really care that much about this performance in this situation. And I think that you are seeing that, and its sort of this is we're going to see where this ends up. Because there's going to be cases where it's like, wait a second, that we're not getting the talent we need because it's not worth it to them. But, it seems like, for the most part, they're being like, yes it's okay,
Kenneth: In some cases, that's the case, in some cases, a job will go union because they couldn't find during the initial casting. In some cases, they'll increase the rates on a non-union job, because they're not getting what they're finding. But yes, I think at some point the market will have to correct itself.
Toby: You hope, we hope
Kenneth: It would have to, I mean, because if it diminishes to a point, that it's not worth it, for anyone in the supply chain to work in it, then there's no one to work in it. So part of the reason why many, many, many people move to Los Angeles every year to pursue a dream of being a TV or film actor, is because of the money involved. And if the money isn't there anymore, then that's the good part of the dream that's taken out of the equation.
Toby: So from your humble position over there, what would be your advice to the union at this point? What would you say from your perspective?
Kenneth: I have a big idea. I believe in you know, when it comes to these sorts of problems too and these issues, think big. What I would like to see the union become is the foremost media expert in the world, from a technology standpoint, from a tracking standpoint, from a click standpoint.
Toby: And having an understanding of how people are consuming media, where it's being played all of that.
Kenneth: That's right, invest, partner with a technology company or companies and become the foremost media experts. So that it gives you tremendous leverage when you're dealing with, you know, in a negotiation, if you come to the table as being the foremost expert, and it carries a lot of leverage.
Toby: This sort of sounds like what the NFL players union did with regards to concussions.
Kenneth: That's exactly it. That's exactly what the NFL players union did and if you read about that topic, the NFL players union, in some ways, surprised the NFL by coming to the table with a mountain of research and so it gives you leverage. I think that would be my big idea for the union is to really [inaudible 1:02:38] in becoming the foremost experts so that companies, media companies around the world are coming to SAG after it and saying, how do I track this? How does this work?
Toby: Yes, and is a cool thought, for sure.
Kenneth: And then your members are aligned with an organization that has their best interests in mind and has the wherewithal to negotiate contracts for their members that can hopefully earn them a living.
Toby: Yes, I think that's a very interesting idea, for sure. Listen, we've gone so much longer than I told you, so I appreciate it. But I want to get just a couple of quick hits. I had some questions that I had actors post on my Facebook, just knowing I was going to talk with you that they want so we can make I won't ask like these be labored long follow up questions to these. So this is for a child actor, his agent is getting him above average auditions. Is there a time and if so when is that time to switch agents to go to the next level?
Kenneth: Well, my first question would be is that actor booking? And then my follow up question would be, what is the next level? I mean, are we talking about commercials?
Toby: Let's say we are or no, I guess not because what is the next level commercially? I don't know.
Kenneth: Yes, exactly. So if this is more of a TV film question, I don't necessarily have an answer for that because that's not--
Toby: That's not your industry?
Kenneth: [inaudible 1:04:08] great in that world. You know, in our commercial world, if it isn't broke, don't fix it. If you're getting out and you're booking jobs, most people are pretty comfortable with that scenario. The only time I've seen actors become uncomfortable with that scenario is where their agents might not be garnering or negotiating If and when they can.
Toby: Got it.
Kenneth: They garner better deals.
Toby: So that's great. So here's a question, when you see breakdowns, how do you decide which actor from your roster to submit, assuming you have a choice of actors that are a good fit? Do you submit all of them or do you only submit the one you think is the best match?
Kenneth: Well, this is specific to our agency, because we only have a small number of clients at this point, about 130, 125 clients, I think, is the number. So the numbers going to be a lot smaller than another agency. We don't stack our roster with a lot of the same types of people. So we're going to submit whoever specifically fits that breakdown. It depends on the breakdown too, some breakdowns a little more wide-ranging, some are very, very, very specific, some will even reference known actors, or will include picture references. So to the best of our ability, we'll match our client's personality, look vibe with what the casting director is asking for and if we're unsure we'll ask the casting director.
Toby: Yes. Do you think this person is a good match? And for the record, I think you said like 150, 160 is that right.
Kenneth: We're actually about 125 now.
Toby: So that boutique, I think, like the bigger agencies, and you may know, more than me, are like 4, 5, 600.
Kenneth: I think most agencies in town are between 4 and 700. And then there are some that have more, but--
Toby: Yes and I can speak to that question a little in saying that some agencies just submit everybody, some agencies just submit the ones that they know that office likes, and then they'll pitch ones that they want. Those are sort of the more engaged agents. So I think it really depends on who your agent is.
Kenneth: Yes. Well, look, we're not working with somebody, it serves us no purpose not to send that someone who's right for a role. So it doesn't make any sense to sort of favorite one person over another. Now, whether that casting director calls in their favorite that is another story that we have, sometimes very little control over.
Toby: Okay, so this is sort of a related question, how much do you need to know about your talent to submit them accurately? Is it just a headshot and resume? Or do you see them often outside of acting to better gauge who they are?
Kenneth: That's a great question. And it's changed, nowadays, we do need to know our talent, we need to know who they are, we need to know what they're about. We need to know what skills they're capable of, what experiences they've had. We had somebody book a job a few years ago because we knew that she did charity in Africa, and then it's testimonial and they wanted people who have actually done charity in Africa.
Toby: Yes. Speaking to the real experience stuff.
Kenneth: So the fact that we knew that about her is essentially the reason she had the audition, and why she booked the job. So--
Toby: How did you know that do you hang out with her, or that's just from your conversations?
Kenneth: it's a client that we have developed a relationship with, and that we would go to dinner with occasionally, and that we would have a phone conversation with, over and above just confirming an audition in that case. But now there's ways for actors or performers to communicate their additional skills to us in their electronic profiles so that we have access to that information.
Toby: You talking about posting videos and photos or--
Kenneth: Videos, we specifically use an area called other experiences, which is LA casting, which is a free form writing area, which we had people put bullet points of different skills and experiences that they have that are outside of the realm of acting. Or maybe within the realm of acting, if somebody's really great with accents, you know, they may have checked off the boxes in their LA casting profile but what does that mean so we want some more context. If you say you're a moderate swimmer, what does that mean? Does it mean you go two times a week and swim regularly or do you go to the ocean? Or does that just mean that used to swim a lot and now, you could get back in the pool and be really good? So those sorts of things and we kind of, it isn't out of the question, we've had this happen, that casting director will call and say, hey, you submitted this person, what's their deal? Why did you submit them, what is that about? And then--
Toby: How good are they? Can they really ride a horse or do they just seen a horse?
Kenneth: That's right, or if it's a particular regional accent? And the fact that we're able to say, oh, yes, she's from Plano, Texas, she went to Baylor University. She has an authentic Texas accent.
Toby: So you can know your clients?
Kenneth: Yes. And so I think it helps the process because you're putting your people in the best positions to succeed.
Toby: Yes. And you sort of have a--
Kenneth: And some of that has to do with look too, by the way, I think that's important, too. So if somebody has aged and you haven't seen them for a while. Maybe they've changed their hair and you don't know that then you're sending them into rooms, that they may not be right for, because sometimes casting is making decisions based on a picture that they're looking at, and the person shows up in the room isn't accurate.
Toby: So are you good with actresses popping by your office or what? How would that work? Just called you and say I got my hair cut.
Kenneth: So we decided a long time ago because it's just two of us and because of the way we operate, we don't have an open-door policy, which I know is not popular with some of our performers. But we decided a long time ago that we would, anytime any client wanted to meet, we would make an appointment and meet with them. And we would give them our undivided attention as opposed to somebody walking in unexpected and who knows, I might be on the phone with a production company sorting out an issue on set, and I'm unable to really talk or be present. So we just decided, make an appointment, call us, email us, text us and--
Toby: We're business partners, let's have a meeting.
Kenneth: Let's sit down and meet or let's get on a phone call, let's schedule it. And we'll sort out what do we need to sort out or discuss what we need to discuss or catch up. And some of our clients have invited us to lunch or dinner and we always with very little exception will go. And we try to go to performances as much as we can more so during the slow season than during the heavy season.
Toby: And one last quick question, what's your advice to someone who's looking for an agent to get in touch? Do they call, do they cold submit or for you guys what do you guys like?
Kenneth: Well, for us we prefer electronic submissions through our website because we can look at the profile quickly and easily, a profile is your first line of representation. So that gives us a quick snapshot of who we're looking at and what they're about. We usually like to see real so that we can see the person walking and talking and given how easy it is to have real nowadays that that's something we like to see because a picture doesn't always tell the full story. And so that's us specifically. But if I was to tell you that we've never called in anybody from a hardcopy submission, I'd be lying to you. So you do what you got to do but that's our preference.
And then what are we looking for in a submission, first and foremost, we're looking to fill a spot on a roster that we don't have. I think that's a really important concept or it's really important to understand that it's really not personal in that way. We have people of certain ages and ethnicities and types, and we're looking for something that we don't have that's viable in the marketplace. And if we already have three or four of you, or two of you, or one of you, then it may not make sense to bring on somebody or to call somebody in for me. So that's not a personal thing that's just a business thing. And quite frankly, if you were an actor submitting to an agency, and they had a number of people like you, you may not want to be there, because you may not, you know, you may be the odd personnel when casting asked for their favorite five, or their favorite 10. So that's first and foremost.
Secondly, we're looking for obviously, experience helps, you know, TV and film credits help commercial casting loves calling in people who work in TV and film. So, that's an obvious one. A solid professional photo or two that give us a sense of your type that's in line with where you're going to be called in to casting. Gives us a sense that you know who you are and where you fit, it gives us a sense of your professional because if you source a professional photographer and taking that photo. For commercials, comedy experience always helps particularly the improv schools, casting directors love that. They've decided that that gives them a better chance of having a flexible, malleable actor in the room. And the asterisk here is that, sure, if there's somebody that we have a similar type, but they are an experienced commercial booker that are looking to change or they don't have an agent currently that might trump.
Toby: Yes, a little experience.
Kenneth: Yes. I mean, you know, to be perfectly honest, that would trump much of what I just said, so gearing it more towards somebody newer to the business, which is where I anticipate why you're primarily just asking these type of questions . And that's it, you know, the most common thing that I see when we receive submissions that doesn't provide us with a clear picture of who the person is, it's either really amateur looking pictures. It's just an instant-read of somebody that is outside of the business and really doesn't have a clear understanding. That's not to say we have never called it anybody with bad pictures because we have, and then seeing a resume that's not filled out or not filled in we don't know what this person is capable of today. Were they a stockbroker yesterday, and they decided to become an actor today? We don't know.
Kenneth: So you know, just like any other business, the more professional sort of thorough presentation, the more opportunity we have to be engaged with that performers submitting to us.
Toby: Awesome. That's awesome. All right. I'm going to give you really quick ones, where it's like one word, reply, okay from a commercial standpoint, Headshots are?
Toby: Flexibility is?
Toby: Communication is?
Kenneth: Really important.
Toby: And presence is? Wait, I didn't think I heard it presence is?
Kenneth: I'm trying to think about one word--
Toby: I thought you had cut out.
Kenneth: for that one. Presence is valuable.
Toby: And success is
Toby: Awesome. Kenneth, thank you so much, dude, you've been more than generous with your time, way too generous. I appreciate it.
Kenneth: No worries.
Toby: I got you. You got to lunch coming your way from me anytime you want. I really appreciate it. I'm going to hang up and we'll sign off.
Kenneth: Okay. Thanks, Toby.