Bearded Dude Blog

Straight from the Agent’s mouth - Mark Eaton from Eaton Management

How long have you been an Agent?

I’ve been an Agent since 1996, so 22 years.

Wow, that’s a long time! So how did you get into the Agency business?

The short answer is, I was friends with my original agent and when she wanted to retire so she reached out to me because she knew I had a business management background. So I eventually took over that Agency with a business partner and that’s how I first got into the agency business.

What were you doing before that?

I was working for multiple companies in various levels of finance for companies. Purchasing company cars, purchasing properties for the companies, that kind of thing…. Big purchases within big organizations.

Do you think that helped you with your current career as an Agent?

I think it definitely helped with managing the business side. Just because there is normally a very haphazard payment structure within agencies. So it was good to have an accounts payable accounts receivable knowledge… of how to instil good accounting practices, which is essential to any business really.

So were you doing acting before that?

Well… I pretended to act for a short period of time (laughs)

How short are we talking? How long were you acting for?

Ohhhh four years?? Yeah, so just by default I started to get some work in the industry, then I realized that to really progress I would either have to do a lot of study or get into the other side of the business, which is what I did. Which is why I can really appreciate the work actors put into it now, to become real actors… not just faking it. Which is what I did…. You could get away with that in the 90’s like I did, but you can’t get away with that now (laughs).

Was that theatre or was that screen?

Screen… film and TV. Films, short films, commercials, all that kind of stuff.

Would you class your Agency, Eaton Management, to be a small, medium or large agency?

I would say that we are a small Agency, we are a boutique Agency. So we have a small client base of people we like to work with. We represent somewhere within that 60 to 80 bracket.

Why is that? Why did you decide to become a boutique Agency?

Mainly because, you are either a commercial Agency, where you just have a whole bunch or actors/faces, and they don’t have to be super skilled, they just have to have some experience. Then you just expand into the TV commercials and the print work. Or you have more highly trained and experiences film and TV actors. Then the idea is obviously to work on supporting lead roles in film and TV projects, rather than just relying on just commercial work. We try to go for the higher end, professional side of the industry.

So you have Ego management (Brisbane) as well as Eaton Management (Sydney). What’s the difference between the two?

That’s right. Well Ego is the commercial Agency, based in Queensland and we have people all round the country. Basically we have a large number of people, spanning that broad spread of work. We have everything from the extras, doubles and stand ins for film and TV shows, through to Commercial Faces for TV commercials, corporate gigs and print work. We still have some good actors on the books as well in EGO, that do the speaking roles, but it is a broad spectrum agency. We have children starting from four years up to our oldest clients in their 90’s.

Is that because of the style of work up in Queensland compared to Sydney?

It is. We started in Queensland and we morphed into the Agency that clients needed up here, because there wasn’t a lot of good high end commercial agents here. There were model agents… and they were fantastic, but no good commercial agents. So the clients needed an all-purpose agency… large volumes of people doing large volumes of work. SO yeah, we just evolved to cater for the market at the time.

How long have you had Eaton Management in Sydney?

Eaton Sydney would be from about 2009. So this will be its ninth year as a Sydney based Agency.

Ok, so why did you open Eaton Management?

Mainly because we found that a lot of our experienced film actors were either already based in Sydney, or they wanted to be based in Sydney, because that’s probably the largest film and television market place based in Australia. Most of the film and TV series will be cast out of Sydney. Even if they are not shooting in Sydney, they will still be cast out of there, even if they end up shooting in Queensland or Victoria etc. The largest volume of casting directors, producers and film companies are all based in Sydney. It made sense to have a base there as well. Also we have a lot of young actors that are elsewhere in the country, progressing through their careers and their next step was to be Sydney based, so we had to cater for them as well.

Now, you have contacts in LA and London as well? You send some of your talent over?

Yeah, stronger in the US but we have some in the UK as well. So we work with a number of other agencies and managers in the US. Our goal is always to try and deal with an international team of representatives for our actors. We also have direct relationships with studios and casting directors in LA and New York. We do work out of the UK as well…. most of the big UK jobs, people always say “Oh I want to be on Game of Thrones” or on this “Vikings” show… most of those big casting directors in the UK that look after those shows, will have a US casting director appointed as well. Not always an Australian one. SO rather than going over to the UK, we sometimes go to the US counterpart. Even some of the UK work you have to go through the US to be seen for the auditions.

How did you develop those relationships in LA and New York?

By lots and lots of travel! Basically by having fantastic actors on our books, which might be of interest to the US reps. Then going over there and taking lots and lots of meetings. Following up within those big agencies and managers about which of our clients would be of interest to them. Showcasing those actors, and then trying to follow up with our actors, by flying over there to take meetings themselves. I head over to the US between three and six times per year. Now it’s more about servicing existing relationships, whereas in the early days it was taking new meetings.

When you are interviewing talent or looking to sign somebody up, is there anything in particular you are looking for?

On a very basic level I want to see if they can act. When I say act, not just do Home and Away or Neighbours type scripts. I’m looking to make sure that, there is so many Film and TV schools out there where a lot of graduates get churned out every year… some of them are very basic performers that might be right for the Neighbours or Home and Away type show, where you don’t need to have the high skill set needed, more just the look and the character that they are after. I want to make sure they are good for film and TV and preferably good for the US market as well. Good acting instincts. Good on camera presence. Good ability to interpret a character and break down a script, preferably with a great US accent and even maybe a good UK accent. It’s really just a case of looking individually at each applicant or actor and seeing whether there are roles in the last six months that they could have gone for. I kind of base it on what’s hot in the market place right now, what is the clients always asking for. Currently its strong female actors… they have kind of flipped the casting process, it’s not about alpha males, it’s now about interesting women. We look at people and say ”Ok so you have got this look, and these are the type of stereotypes and roles that you might go for and are they relevant at the moment?" Is there a number of auditions that you could have gone for this year, just going on historical data.” It’s a bit of everything, you look at somebody, they look amazing, they look fantastic, has great instinct, they look relevant… there’s briefs coming out for that type of person.

When you are interviewing someone, do you actually look at them and think “They would be great for the US market” or “They would be good for only the Australian market”?

Yeah, there are both. I like to chat to them about what their expectations are, because they have to be realistic. If they are saying “I only want to work in the US because I have friends over there and it looks amazing" or they are following the career of someone like Chris Hemsworth, I need to see if they have the same assets or skills as these people, you know, are they being realistic? So it depends on their expectations, some actors come in and I have the attitude “let’s just see where this goes, it’s a journey”, I’m not sure, from their point of view, which clients they are going to build a good relationship with, I don’t know what roles they are going to be right for yet. So sometimes it’s a bit experimental, let’s wait and see. I always want them to understand the realities of the industry and being realistic about time frames. When I have someone walk in the door and say straight away” I want to be in LA in three months’ time and I want to be represented by pilot season” when it’s already November…. That’s just unrealistic, and you don’t really want to represent them because the goals they want to achieve are just not achievable, so it’s always from my point of view, if we both have the same expectations and we have the same plan about how long this process is going to take, then that’s a good start.

Still on the US thing, because I know so many of the actors that we talk to and deal with want to get over to the US and become big, what in particular are they looking for in an Australian actor in the US?

Well, right now, they want them to have their Visas already in place, so they need either their O1 or Green cards. So most casting briefs coming out of the US right now are saying that the actors must already have their Visas or US citizenship. At a minimum they should have their application ready to be submitted for a Visa, so they should already have all their paperwork done or their support or articles about themselves put together to put the Visa application through. The US market has become saturated with up-and-coming, wannabe young actors from Australia, so now they can be picky. It’s sometimes not about who is the best actor for the job, sometimes it’s about who can work straight away. If they are not there, or have to go through the Visa application process, it definitely makes it harder. You need to have had at least a conversation with an immigration lawyer, find out what they need to put that application together. That’s one big thing. Everyone now just wants to get over to LA to get picked up in some new TV show. So many young Australian have done that, and they have had great success at that. Now the market has been saturated by people who have done three episode of Home and Away or Neighbours and now they think they should be in LA, but you would need a bit more then that normally. That’s what they are up against. They are up against everybody having that same attitude and thought. It’s all been drummed into them through their education process at uni and so forth. They are all trying to get them ready for the US market, but there is no hard, fast path to follow. It’s different for everybody.

Do you think that the casting agents in LA are looking for the typical Aussie guy or girl now?

No, I think it’s moved away from that now. That was more how we were seen about 3 to 5 years ago. Australia was seen as we are all Chris Hemsworth or Margot Robbie… we are all Alpha males or females. They never experienced the quirky side to our actors and theatre actors. Now it’s not about alpha males and females, unless you are going for a war film or something like that. Now it’s all about different, interesting, quirky characters. Strong female roles, gender fluidity, gender neutrality and very much different ethnicity ensemble cast is what they are looking out for now. The way that film and TV has changed now is that with network services and streaming, it is the international markets that they are trying to please now, so they want to get that multicultural cast with all the nations together, to be in a new TV series or show. So, they are not going to just go with blonde, handsome, hunky men and women that are from Australia anymore. They want a bit of everything now.

What do you think the most important thing is that an actor can do to improve their craft?

Again, it’s a little bit individual. From my point of view, they should be putting down scenes every week. Just for themselves and for the practice. So they should be finding scripts that are relevant to the industry today, and not picking movies from twenty years ago or TV shows from fifteen years ago. Getting current scripts from current TV shows and films. They should be putting them down in a self-tape environment. They have to learn like ten pages of dialogue at a time, film ten pages of dialogue and be up to date with their taping skills. That’s the most prevalent thing at the moment, self-taping. Making sure that their voices and accents are perfect and flawless because, again, Americans don’t suffer a bad American accent now. Now it’s got to be word perfect all the way through for ten pages. They have to be hungry and they have to understand in the US everybody fights for the roles and the opportunities they get. Australians are generally a little more laid back. So they have to understand that when they go into the American market, they have to be driven and they have to be confident and they have to sell themselves.

How involved are you in helping the actors that are on your books with helping them improve their craft?

As much as we can we are involved. There are two sides to it. We try to encourage them and develop them. We give them the materials they need if we can. However, it’s not our job as the agent. We aren’t casting directors, acting coaches or dialect coaches.  So we can’t really evaluate somebody or give them a grade. We can refer them out to people that are good at those skills. But the truth is we want to see the actor taking up that by themselves, showing incentive and motivation. There is nothing worse than sitting down with someone for one of the 6 or 12 month meetings and wanting to set goals and timeframes for the next 6 or 12 months, then in 6 months time we sit down with them and you go through with them what they have achieved in that time, but nothing is different than 6 months ago. Basically you end up just having the same conversation a gain. They need to give me material. I can only work with what the actor gives me, because that is all I have to show the clients. So if you have given me crap or no material, I’m going to get crap or no reaction from the clients. So just PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and be on top of your game, because if a big opportunity comes in, it’s generally a 24 hour turn around and you haven’t got time to get your shit together.

How important is the headshot for an Actor?

Very important! It’s the first impression. When we put somebody forward for a job, normally the first thing the client will look at is the headshot. That’s the first visual clue that they get we put forward on a casting brief. If they find them visually appealing for the role they are trying to cast, they will the look for a resume and maybe a show reel. But if they don’t like your headshot, if they don’t like what they see, or they can’t envisage that person’s image on the headshot in the role, they won’t even progress further to click on links to see resumes and show reels. So, headshots all important! The headshot has to capture their attention. It has to accurately portray what the actor looks like, but in a really nice way, not just a digital happy snap or selfie.  It’s got to be a really high quality representation of how they look in a commercial setting, to get their attention. Yeah, it’s the be-all-and-end-all. If you haven’t got a good shot, they aren’t going to click further.

With the actor’s headshot, do you think the casting directors are looking for a blank canvas or do they want character shots?

Not a lot of character. They do want some personality. Depending on the age and the type of actor being shot, I think you can guide a casting director towards the stereotypes that this actor might be good for or could portray really well, by the style of their headshot. You can portray an actor, for example, in a tough, more masculine or feminine way with your headshot if you are going for that sort of role. It might lend itself to that kind of tough guy, police, forensic roles or those strong leadership roles. Then you could equally have somebody looking softer and a little bit more fun, or look more “mummsy” . You can kind of guide casting directors towards what roles or stereotypes this actor might portray the best, without going too far. Don’t do anything that’s too character. Don’t dress up in a police outfit just because you are trying to push the fact that they would make a good detective. You have got to give the casting director a bit of licence to read into the headshot and make their own determination as to what roles that actor would suit physically. At the same time you might want to guide them a little bit.

Do you have any “pet hates” when it comes to Actors headshots?

Actors that think they are models. When they have oversized jackets on and you can’t see their shape. Jackets thrown over their shoulder. When they dress in a business outfit, when maybe they don’t suit that look. Too much makeup. Bad hair. Definitely don’t do black and whites, we want colour. We don’t want a 1980’s glamour studio portrait. Anything that screams that the last shot this photographer did was a half-naked man standing by his motorbike….. Or a lady lying on a furry rug, with hands over her boobs… we don’t want those.

So, no feather boas?

NO, no feather boas no (laughs). We know those photographers… they don’t represent the actor very well.

Last question. What advice would you give any new actors coming into the industry?

Okay. Things I want to know, what kind of roles do you think you are relevant for? Understand what their relevancy is in the industry right now. What kind of roles have their recently been casting for that they think they would have been good for. Because as an agent I want to know that they understand what kind of roles they are going to be cast for. SO know what’s current and what the industry demands. Have an understanding of the process. Understand that spending three years in university doesn’t necessarily automatically get them into the industry, they have a lot of work to do building relationships. There is a lot of time and effort into building these relationships and getting clients to know and understand and like them. I want them to understand that their training never ends. They are continuously on this merry-go-round  of learning new skills, developing technique, meeting new people. Have a fresh mind on how to approach a role. Also understand that you will learn a lot of things from a lot of people and no particular one is correct. It’s like, what works for you may not work for somebody else. Likewise, what you are told by one person isn’t necessarily what the next one will tell you. Most of all just have trust and faith in yourself. Try and make sure there are a couple of stereotypes and roles that you can do really, really well, so that casting directors will remember you for them. Don’t think that you are Leonardo DiCaprio immediately and can approach and play any character in a 20 year span. “I play 15 to 35”…. No you don’t. You play, if you are twenty, you play twenty to twenty two. You will have certain stereotypes to begin with because they are the safe ones, as they will probably be the ones closest to how you really are. Your first role will probably be cast as something that is pretty much you. You will play yourself really well and really honestly and be real, and casting directors will trust you for that role that’s pretty much you. Don’t expect that you will be getting big character roles in the beginning, casting directors will give you very safe roles.

← Back to the Blog