Behind every A-list star is a very frantic agent checking contract details, managing schedules and staving off a PR disaster.
Agents’ lives and works have been put in the spotlight thanks to the series Ten percentthe English language remake of the French series Call my agent! which revolved around the antics of the Parisian film agency ASK and their top clients.
In the UK version, the action has been moved from the 1st Arrondissement to London’s Goodge Street and the storylines revolve around megabucks deals, sophisticated Hollywood studios and 4am.
We’ve seen agents on screen before, but the depictions tended to be a bit one-dimensional. In extras and entourage, they were essentially caricatures; insensitive, venal middlemen. In Friends, Estelle Leonard was a no-contact chain smoker.
In Ten percent, Shown now on Amazon Prime Video, there is more humanity. The agents rightly care about their customers.
While it seems more realistic, is it actually an accurate representation of an agent’s everyday life?
are the days so long Are the deals top secret? And how do you tell an actress or presenter that she didn’t get the job because the director thought she was too old?
Joanne Byrne is one of Ireland’s leading celebrity agents.
While Byrne says her “bread and butter” runs her PR firm Presence, she works with some of Ireland’s biggest TV stars including Nicky Byrne, Brian Dowling, Síle Seoige, Lucy Kennedy and Mairead Ronan.
She also seems to know almost every Irish celebrity personally. She is responsible for appearing as Cupid and building up Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman. She even offered to cater for the media on her big day as a wedding present.
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she thinks Ten percent is modeled on reality, albeit with a glossy sheen. “I watched the French version… A TV series will always have a poetic liberty because it has to be entertaining but based on truth,” she says. “It’s an interesting world. And yes, we all have stories. We can never repeat most of them.”
Collaborating with actors and TV personalities in big shows or movies may sound incredibly glamorous. But those looking to break into the industry should be aware that this isn’t back-to-back champagne receptions and red carpet parties.
Years of contract negotiations, meetings with directors and producers, visits to showcases and hundreds of hours of phone calls must take place before the carpet is rolled out.
“These moments usually come at the end of two years of auditions, contracts, filming and editing,” says celebrity agent Susannah Norris. It was a lot of hard work to get there, and in that regard, she says “it can be really satisfying.”
Norris began working at Dublin talent agency The Agency after graduating from college before launching her own highly regarded business, Susannah Norris Agency, in 2019. “I didn’t know you could do something like that in Ireland,” she says. “I fell in; I thought it was a job you could only have in the US or London.” She represents acclaimed actors like Angeline Ball, normal people‘s Eanna Hardwicke, Mark Huberman and Mary McEvoy.
A big part of the job is managing expectations and preparing actors for setbacks, she says. “People think of this ideal start; getting a roll once they complete the lir and that’s a fantastic dream but those are kind of unicorn trajectories. About 2 percent of actors make a living from acting, most people have a side job alongside acting, and 98 percent of the time people are told they didn’t get the job. It’s a tough gig and it takes a thick skin to deal with that rejection…I couldn’t handle it myself.”
Joanne Byrne agrees that breaking bad news is one of the worst parts of the job.
“It’s very hard not to take it personally because you say; ‘They don’t want you, they want someone else,'” she explains.
“And sometimes I had to say to customers, ‘Teflon off, or this isn’t your business.’ One must be prepared to hear “no” in order to place more emphasis on hearing “yes.”
“I had news to share with people, and they were wondering if they should stay in business, whether it was singing, presenting, or acting.”
Another challenge is dealing with stories that become known or leaked before a celebrity expected it. “You’re the first port of call and you call someone who’s like, ‘You know that thing you thought was private? It will be made available to the public.’ That can be really challenging.”
It goes without saying that discretion is a big part of the job.
Today, there are NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) surrounding just about every big-budget film, and actors and producers need to be able to speak freely and openly with agents to know what’s being discussed doesn’t turn into empty gossip.
“The discretion is enormous. It’s huge,” explains Byrne. “I found out about births, deaths, marriages, engagements, divorces and deals months before anyone else. They must be hermetically sealed. Louis Walsh always says to me: “You have a book inside you, you only have to leave the country to write it”. Your discretion becomes your reputation.”
In the US and UK, talent agencies can be huge with hundreds of agents and thousands of clients competing for jobs and contracts.
There were books like Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller showing how cutthroat and under pressure the industry can be.
In these big agencies, there can be a lot of internal bickering over talent. There is less pressure in Irish agencies; There are no Hollywood executives breathing down your neck, and most agents have a more personal relationship with their clients.
Halina Froudist runs Actors and Movers agency and has been an agent in Ireland for 21 years. Originally from Australia, she began her career as an actress but soon found that roles for Australian actors in Ireland were limited. She formed her company and soon other actors approached her asking to join.
“Because my agency is small, I wouldn’t compete with other agents. And because I’m an actor, I want to be the one that actors talk to when they call.”
Froudist representing Holt McCallany mind hunter, charges a commission of 10 percent, which is considered the standard rate. However, it is now common for agents to charge 12.5 per cent for film and television work and in the UK this can translate to a commission of 15 per cent.
Her favorite pastime is delivering good news. “It’s the best feeling in the world. The screams of joy from the actors… and also the introduction of new actors.”
For Susannah Norris, it’s “when you give a customer opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
For Joanne Byrne, it means being there for incredible moments in a client’s life.
She remembers telling Nicky Byrne he got these Dancing with the stars presented a gig while she was in the middle of an intense physical therapy session. “I broke this message to him when I was being beaten up by my physical therapist because my back was cramped,” she says.
“I was lying practically naked on a physio table and asked my physiotherapist to stop for two minutes so I could break the news to him. You’re with people through some incredible moments in their lives… I really love it and the moment I don’t love it is the day I stop.”
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/discretion-is-everything-most-stories-we-can-never-repeat-life-as-a-celebrity-agent-41656170.html “Discretion is everything. Most stories we can never repeat” – life as a celebrity agent