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Mind Your Business: Agents

Mark Simon explains some of the hard truths about representation.


I hear the same whining all the time: I need an agent so they can pitch for me. I need an agent to get me work.

Grow up. That's not what an agent does. Agents negotiate deals for you and can help you get into places that are hard to get into without representation.

Looking to get started in the industry? You will not get an agent.

Have an idea for the next SpongeBob? You will not get an agent.

You want to get an agent? Get off your ass and land an offer for a show. Work your way through the industry until you have fantastic, sellable credits. You have to prove that you and your ideas are worthwhile before an agent will sign you on.

Getting an agent is like getting respect. You have to earn it. Yes, it will take hard work. If you're not willing to work hard, an agent won't want you anyway.

Let's look at how agents make money. They only make money when they successfully negotiate and close a deal for a client.

Put yourself in their position. Who would you prefer to represent: Tom Cruise or an unknown actor straight off the bus from Idaho? As an agent, you would make money faster and easier representing someone with a lot of proven experience. There is only so much time in a day, so agents will work with those who are easiest to sell. Land some great projects on your own, gain great credits and then agents will want to work with you.

Let's try that again. Who would you rather represent, someone who has a standing offer for their concept and just needs someone to negotiate the deal, or would you rather represent another dude with an idea which he has never pitched but that he promises it will make millions for everyone involved? Do you know how long it can take to sell a show, especially from someone who hasn't learned how to pitch? It could take years. That would mean years of not getting paid as an agent.

But that's a catch 22, you say. I need an agent to pitch for me, you say.

Bullshit, I say. You need to know how to pitch yourself and your ideas to get offers. With offers and success come agents. You know what happens after you get an agent? You still need to know how to pitch yourself and your ideas.

Agents have their work to do and you have yours. Agents will know who to approach and who is hiring. But, only the creator of a show can truly pitch a concept. An agent can do an introduction, but the rest is up to you.

Yes, I have an agent, but I didn't always have one. I have gotten 99.9% of all my gigs and deals on my own. Every pitch my agent helped set up, I still do the pitches. Next week, I will be doing the rounds at the studios, handling each pitch myself. My agent will be there for some of them (he has a personal relationship with some of the execs and wants to see me in action) and he helped set up the meetings. You know why he's setting up these meetings? Because I already landed the rights to the hot property I'm pitching and I've landed many other deals, proof to him that I'm worth his time and effort.

I have had other agents, but some were not that helpful, and one didn't do shit.

Years ago, I landed an agent just before I went after a gig on Spielberg's seaQuest DSV. I landed an offer from the show and sent the info to my agent. No response. I called him and he promised to get back to production. Production called me saying they needed an answer and hadn't heard from my agent. I finally negotiated my own rate, finalized my own contract and still owed my agent 10%.

I fired him soon thereafter.

So if you are able to land gigs on your own, why do you need an agent? Maybe you don't. But, a good agent will help those who help themselves and can negotiate a higher rate for you so you still make more after their commission than you would have without them. They also know how to negotiate for better terms in your contract besides just your fee.

So how did I get my current agent? I landed an offer to direct a series and another offer from a network for one of my shows. I called him and asked him if he would like to negotiate my deals for me.

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen when people get an agent is that they think they are on easy street and stop schmoozing, promoting themselves and pitching. They expect their agent to do everything. Then the offers stop coming.

Work smart and hard as hell and prove yourself as a good risk for agents. Learn how to pitch your ideas so you get offers. Don't rely on anyone else, but if you get a good agent, you can make a great team and everyone prospers.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation director. He is co-founder of, the ultimate resource for TV show creators. His animations may be seen at Join his TV Pitch blog at