• Laura Egelhoff

Why I Fired My Agent

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

When a talent scout approached me after telling a story at the 3rd Annual Atlanta Fringe Festival, my heart skipped a thousand beats, but I still managed to maintain my composure. This is what I was waiting for, my moment of discovery, the one story I would tell for decades through blubbering tears while accepting lifetime achievement awards. This was the moment I had worked for my entire life - the moment I landed a contract with a high-profile agent. A trusted friend had introduced us and we booked a time where I would arrive to the studio to audition. I signed my contract on August 15th, 2014 - what would have been my great grandfather's 95th birthday. Ever since he left this earth, his birthday has always been my "lucky" day. He never fails to prove he is still here taking care of me. And through all of the nights I kept him up rehearsing monologues from Chekhov plays, I knew he would have been proud I finally made it to this milestone.

At the tender age of 23, opportunity began to fall into my lap. I was fortunate enough to work on different commercials, at times filming would last throughout the night, which is not unusual for film work. But waking up in the morning for 8am classes proved to become more and more difficult. I was no longer interested in my school work, thinking my future was sealed due to my contract. Finishing school became a hinderance, and I quickly realized how easy it was for certain actors to just drop out of school and ditch the idea of a degree.

In between my full load of classes, I prepared my self-tape auditions. On the weekends, I would work. I'm still unclear how I even managed to find time to sleep. (I get more sleep now as the mother of a newborn then I did five years ago as an actor and student.) After a few fruitless auditions, I began to lose confidence in my ability to sell myself. I blamed the content of the scripts, I blamed the culture at large for the degradation of television, and at my worst I blamed my own body. I was too short, too tall, too thick, too round, too stubby, or too lanky - I was never the right combination. There was a specific audition where I was only asked to complete a 360 degree turn and then I was dismissed. The sting from that experience lingered for way too long. I auditioned for casting directors to be the drunk "party-girl", the vixen, or the token latina. One time, I was even given a casting call for a housekeeper who spoke broken english. Yes, everyone knows trash television exists. I'm not sure why or how I was even surprised to discover this. My naivety made me believe this day and age was different.

But truth be told, I did not succeed because I had no idea who I was as an artist. Despite the efforts of my education, it proved to be extremely difficult to answer this question. I did not succeed because I allowed others to make artistic choices for me. I was waiting for the next cattle call audition instead of focusing on how I could build my own brand. I was obsessed with impressing the likes of casting directors before impressing myself. How could I sell my work without knowing its purpose? I was selling a product with no idea how to work it, only I am not a product. I am a human being, a young one at that, who's still learning about herself and who did not need the opinions of jaded industry professionals with dollar signs for eyes to confuse me even further.

You don't need an agent to say, "You're hired", to make art. You don't need the approval of your peers, you don't need to wait for the next opportunity to audition to practice your favorite song. As artists, we chose this path because we loved the freedom to be anything in the world, we fell in love with our own imaginations. The instinct to play has been ingrained in our souls. This is not to say agents are inherently bad, of course not. How else are actors going to advance their career? Though the market is over-saturated, an artful life does not have to be one spent measuring your successes against your peers in order to please your agent. A true agent is one who will work with you to build your brand and artistic identity, not against you. A good agent is one who will make you feel human and not another name on their roster. Sometimes the hardest decision in your life will be learning when to say no. I did not walk away from my dream, I simply had to learn who I was NOT in order to better build my dream.

My mother likes to call me hard-headed, but I'd like to say it's because she taught me to stand firm in my conviction. Because I promise you, I will never allow myself to be defined by any person or entity ever again. And as a result, I've never been happier.

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