First, thanks to www.twitter.com/ClarkCoffey for suggesting I expand on some of my twitters on this subject into a full length blog. You can always suggest topics to me when you follow www.twitter.com/TalentAgentLA.
Let's say you've read all the usual books. "Acting is a Business", "How to Agent your Agent", etc. etc. etc. You believe in casting director workshops, postcards, following up, and that old cliche about you doing 90% of the work because your agent makes 10%. Fabulous.
Unfortunately for you, none of those books have told you anything about actor/agent boundaries in the new world of facebook and twitter (I would include myspace, but is anyone on that anymore? Anyway...). Unfortunately, you have been hardwired to believe that you can never market your "product" (yourself) too much, so you have stopped using your common sense when it comes to agent/actor boundaries online.
Or at least, some of you have.
It's not a secret that a tidal wave of casting directors started joining facebook a year or two ago, and when that happened, the agents and managers were on there just as fast. They all became friends with each other, and as some forgot to make their profiles private, you got to finally take a peek at some of the mysterious faces and personal lives of the "others". (When you are an actor, I've come to realize, agents, casting directors, and managers are "others". Kindof like the tv show Lost except that you want to be their friends.) And now of course, a lot of them are on twitter too.
First, let's get something straight (and repeat after me). Agents are people too! We're not others!! (Agents... They're just like us!!!) Except.... we're in a profession where every time we meet someone new in a social situation, if it turns out they're an unrepresented actor (or an under-represented actor)..... we know we are going to be followed around to some degree. Even if you don't stalk, we know we have something you want, and it can make us feel a wee bit isolated because while you're trying your best to charm us, we're kinda thinking its because you're trying to get us to bring you in for a meeting or worse, become our fake friend and THEN get us to bring you in for a meeting. That's a slightly awkward position for us to be in, and we're in it on a regular basis. We're also used to running into actors we saw one time at a workshop again at, I don't know, Target, and forced into a conversation by an actor who sees this encounter as a "sign" while we're buying deodorant or tampons. And then there's the worst case scenario, when the opposite sex is involved and there is a romantic connection... Look, I'm not saying there may not be a few "sleezy" agents out there. But put aside the sleezy agent stories you've heard for a moment, because let me tell you, I know a few male agents who have been repeatedly, genuinely hurt in this town from predatory actresses pretending to be in to them. Point being: There is definitely a certain "occupational hazard" to being an agent.
So now that you've had fun visualizing being us for a moment you may not even need the following rules because this will all hopefully be common sense. But just incase, let's do it. Just when is it ok to "add"? To "follow"? Here's my rules.
FACEBOOK: First, it's NEVER ok to use facebook to submit. Some of the "add" messages I've seen are "Hey, I know your client so and so, would love to be considered!", "Hi just wanted to introduce myself, here's my IMDB link!", etc. etc. They are all completely, universally, creepy, misguided, and (most importantly from your standpoint) ineffective. But because you are feeling "proactive" and don't trust that we go through all our mailed submissions, you think what's the worst that could happen & that this will get you noticed. Oh I'll notice you-- I'll also notice that I *never* want to meet you. Why? Well, if knew my name & you found out my home address would you mail your headshot there or to my agency? My agency, right???? (If any of you are thinking home, you better get out of town now because you are hopelessly desperate). Well, submitting on facebook is no different than submitting to my personal email address (as opposed to work), my personal home address, my personal phone number. You just. don't. go there. Ever.
It *is* perfectly ok to add me on facebook if you are a client of mine. Now maybe some "others" will only approve you with a limited profile, but I can't imagine any of us declining because that's a nice, friendly gesture. I know I really care about my clients, and some I'm even friends with outside of the office. On the other hand, if we've only had one meeting together and we didn't take you (barring any unusual circumstances like we found out in the meeting that we have 20 friends in common or are second cousins once removed), adding me is kinda awkward. I personally will probably feel bad and accept you because I don't want to add insult to injury, but you can pretty much rule out resubmitting to the agency again down the line because I can guarantee I will never reconsider you after I've been left with that uncomfy "add"so why bother? And again, if we've never met... you already know you don't go there now.
And I'm going to wager with casting directors the rules are similar. If you are FRIENDS with a casting director, or you've become really friendly with them (first name basis) through lots of repeated auditions, bookings, or maybe even a long class (not a one night workshop), then go ahead and hit "add". Otherwise, it's probably better to stick to the workshops and postcards. Certainly don't add anyone you've never met.
This is easy. First of all, Twitter is not as threatening because even if you follow someone you can't direct message them unless they decide to follow you too, unlike Facebook, so nothing you do will be judged as harshly as in facebookland. Obviously if who you're following is something generic (like my twitter-- TalentAgentLA) with unprotected updates, it's designed to be followed. If its an actual agency name (as opposed to individual) that's fine too. But if its an individual agent, manager, or casting director and they aren't even referencing their company in the bio line AND their updates are protected and you don't even know them? It's a personal profile. Pass.
Twiterrfacebookiquette class dismissed!