Did you know Bill Murray is not represented by an agent? It's true. True story. Or at least from the magical wonderfulness that surrounds Bill.
Apparently, in order to get a hold of Mr. Murray (outside of the wonderful folklore of him just showing up at people's houses and saying "They will never believe you") you have to actually have his phone number and leave a message on an answering machine.
No. I don't mean the one that is part of your telephone service that you have to type your password in to retrieve...or the one I have where you get an email of your message mangled badly as part of voice to text...I mean a 80's style on the desk answering machine.
That's hardcore if that is true. So amazing. So fucking awesome. So...hell. Bill Murray Legend.
Every unrepresented actor spends a good majority of their days in Los Angeles looking for a decent person to submit to those "Backend" Casting Calls we don't see online. Happily wanting to give someone that ten percent just to be seen to audition to land a role.
I'm officially one of the unrepresented. Here is the thing though: I have been represented and it hasn't particularly worked out well in my favor.
I'm a hard person to sell. A black woman who has dropped an incredible amount of weight since moving to Los Angeles who has sat in front of agents and has been compared to just about every black actor before myself. From every black actor from The Help. The woman on Community. The black woman on Law and Order SVU. Diane Amos who is the Pine Sol Lady.
If you have someone who is older it has ranged from Lola Falana to Shirley Hemphill. I'm a hard person to sell when agents look at you like The ever changing faces of Peter Sellers for Black Women.
...and surprisingly enough: Every bit of work I have ever done in my career has been through self submittals or...they have just called or emailed me. Everything. Gwenn Craig in Milk? A phone call from the casting director. Read You Like A Book? Robert Zagone saw me on the front page of the San Francisco Guardian and called me. Consequences? Part was written for me. Heterosexual Jill? Potluck? Self Submittals via CAZT.
I'm a low-end Bill Murray.
With that said, boy its is nice to see other actors find that agent who sends them out constantly and your actor hussle percentage is taken down considerably. All you have to do with a a great agent as an actor is what you are always supposed to do: Be prepared for the audition. Show up on time for the audition. Rock that audition out. Don't say anything stupid. You land that audition callback. You land that audition. Agent gets their percentage, you get to do what you love. Everyone wins.
In Los Angeles there are actors who spend more time trying to land an agent than trying to land an actual acting gig. It is a vital part of living in Los Angeles as an unrepresented actor. That is when places where you self submit try to do the good and right thing of trying to connect you with ease to an agency.
Like L.A. Casting...god love em. They give you the option to check a box that says "Looking for Representation" For the first time since living in Los Angeles, I decided to check that box.
I just keep forgetting as an unrepresented actor: Like self-submitting, you never know if you will end up having to go into hiding after self-submitting, auditioning and landing a gig for someone who takes what you have done to start an all out Jihad...as much as you never know who is going to send you an email to want to represent you as an actor.
Such is the case over the last two weeks the moment I checked that L.A. Casting Box.
Unrepresented actors (and pretty much all actors in retrospect) are afraid of the "You Will Never Work In This Town Again" aspect of talking about things that are just plain wrong falling into downright illegal in this industry.
I'm not that person who gets sucked into that vortex. If Charlie Sheen can still work after everything that has occurred. I guess I have nothing to lose here.
In the three years here I have been represented both commercially and theatrically. I left my last agent because as much as I loved them, they had a hard time with remembering when I was "Out of Town" doing improvisational comedy. :-) So for snicks and grins, I got onto my LA Casting Profile and checked Seeking Representation to see exactly what would occur.
First email I got was from an agency called MZA. Without the abbreviation: The Michael Zanuck Agency.
If you are an older actor with any film history, the name Zanuck is possibly the most impressive name in the lexicon of Hollywood. Darryl Zanuck? Hello? All About Eve?
Richard Zanuck? Hello??? Jaws and Dark Shadows?? Anyone???
Anyone who has any idea of the name Zanuck would fall out of a chair to receive an email saying that a Zanuck wishes to represent you.
I was sent an email Friday September 28th 2012. Directly cut and pasted:
MZA.. “The Michael Zanuck Agency” , would like to meet you for possible film ,television , and commercial representation. Our submission process is simple.This is a very special request ,after our very successful ( for both us and the industry) pilot season. Please just send us a brief email to (the Gmail email). All you need say in the email is that you would like to meet us for possible representation. We will then email you back (within 2 weeks) to arrange a meeting. There is no need to submit a picture , resume or other materials , we already have your picture and resume from LA Casting.
Please don’t submit , if you have recently done so or met with any of our divisions.
You were specially selected by Michael Zanuck. We now plan, to take on a few select , new , exciting clients. For complete information on our agency .Please visit our website (the website). MZA “The Michael Zanuck Agency” is a state of California licensed talent agency, and is franchised by SAG/AFTRA.
Holy shit. *I have been specially selected by Michael himself!* Sweet Baby Jesus...A Zanuck sent me a very special request!
Here is the thing: As someone who has been in the industry since eighteen, all I could do was laugh. Why would any legitimate agency send out a blind email like this and more importantly, why would any high end agency even consider a yahoo or a Gmail account as a reply system?
I can tell you why: Gmail and Yahoo can deal effectively with Bulk Emails.
I'm fascinated by agencies like this. Completely fascinated. That is when I went to other friends (who work quite a bit) about MZA.
When the initial laughing of my friends died down (one telling me I should take the trip to the "A-Hills" just to get an Armando Diaz Improv Monologue Story") I now just wanted to hear what the rest of the Acting Community in this town had to say.
That is when I Googled this agency's name.
After doing the basic percentage math of negative reviews all over the internet to the positive ones, with a 3 percent plus/minus added for "Possible angry former employees" and "Sock Puppet Accounts" I have come to the conclusion that the ride to Agoura Hills is not worth an Armando Diaz Story performed at any improv theater in this town.
That is when I got even more interested: Is this Zanuck related to the other Hollywood Mogul Zanuck's?
The answer: No. And if he is, there has been a breaking off of that family. Maybe Michael tried to get Richard to take an intensive producer workshop over Thanksgiving dinner.
If they are blasting emails to every actor who has checked not represented on L.A. Casting, that is one huge email blast. No matter how good they might actually be to their lineup of actors in their agency, Spaghetti Flinging Representation seems to be their practice: Send out as many emails as possible and see what sticks.
It has also been called in every company that does this sort of email practice that has nothing to do with acting: Blast Emails. "If we get ten people to 3000 emails to buy three thousand a piece worth of our products? The email blast is successful"
Same thinking, apparently with this Agency: If we can get 15 people out of a 600 email blasts to sign with our agency and take workshops, get new headshots, backend on getting them SAG/AFTRA in a dubious fashion and the chance of getting a percentage of anything we book?
That guys is a good day for MZA.
The moment you check that box on L.A. Casting looking for Representation is the moment an actor leaves themselves wide open for unsolicited emails. For all purposes we, the non represented, have opted into L.A. Casting services. That means we leave ourselves open for agencies like MZA the moment you check that box.
I laughed and hit delete. This was last week.
Today, October 5th 2012, I get another email from MZA. This time using the intern Yahoo account as the blast email.
MZA.. “The Michael Zanuck Agency” , would like to meet you for possible film ,television , and commercial representation. Our submission process is simple.This is a very special request ,after our very successful ( for both us and the industry) pilot season. Please just send us a brief email to (a Gmail account). All you need say in the email is that you would like to meet us for possible representation. We will then email you back (within 2 weeks) to arrange a meeting. There is no need to submit a picture , resume or other materials , we already have your picture and resume from LA Casting.
Please don’t submit , if you have recently done so or met with any of our divisions.
You were specially selected by Michael Zanuck. We now plan, to take on a few select , new , exciting clients. For complete information on our agency .Please visit our website (website). MZA “The Michael Zanuck Agency” is a state of California licensed talent agency, and is franchised by SAG/AFTRA.
Life is good. Life is so good for a writer/comedian. I won't be part of your agency MZA...but thank you so much for blasting me the exact same email at literally the exact same time for two consecutive weeks telling me that I'm super special, that I'm super exciting and that I have been chosen along with the other thousands of emails that you have blasted out today that I have been specially chosen.
Yes. I am special. I am super exciting. I'm damn well near perfect and awesome. Thank you for considering me, but I think I just bounced off the wall. I didn't stick.
I'm not that done yet as a Spaghetti string Actor that is currently not represented.
My advise to every actor looking for representation? Get a reputable list in this town of agencies and send your headshots and reels to them directly per their guidelines. Ask about an agency and do the research on line. Do not go in blind. Do not leave yourself open.
And check out the agency and its reputation. For instance this fine young woman who wrote about her experiences on this particular agency
If you are someone sort of like me who knows this is nothing but a blasty generic email and hate them? For the love of god and all that is holy: unclick that box that says you are not represented on L.A. Casting and go about finding a reputable agency on you own.
Or, you can do like I'm officially doing: "I'm leaving that box checked" because if history states, I will be getting an email from this agency every Friday telling me how I have been specially selected and how exciting I am.
It's a nice reminder of what I already know.
Boy. It would do my heart good to know that Bill Murray gets these emails too being an unrepresented actor...just looking at the email saying "Yes. I am special and wonderful" in an official Friday email Affirmation way....then goes about his business of answering the jammed packed full messages on his voice mail from Wes Anderson.
I think I will start that Urban Murray Myth.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.