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The Real Life of a Showbiz Agent – Can You Take the Truth?

Jon Roseman

If you want to get work on screen in TV as a presenter, host or TV expert then you are no doubt wishing you could find a good agent. Today’s post is written by TV agent, Jon Roseman, who has represented the likes of Kate Garraway, Natasha Kaplinsky and Fern Britton.

Getting an agent is not that easy. There is no point an agent taking on someone unless they think they have a good chance of finding them work. Otherwise the agent is doing work and getting nothing back for his or her time.

Some presenters have been known to say that agents are a useless bunch on the whole – that they have found most of their work themselves and the agent has only jumped in to negotiate the contract. But they obviously haven’t got a good agent – or maybe they misunderstand what their agent is doing behind the scenes (got to look at both sides of an argument!).

Truth is an agent is not a fairy godmother (or godfather). They should have the contacts and a finger on the pulse of TV so that they know where the opportunities may lie. But if you don’t put in the effort yourself and work with your agent those opportunities may pass you by.  If you don’t show you are willing to do some work yourself an agent is unlikely to take you on. One day soon we are going to do the article with tips on how to be your own agent (so subscribe now to be sure you don’t miss it).

Jon Roseman is one of the UK’s most well known agents. He was described in the press as UK’s “Uber agent”. But not so long ago his agency closed down. He wrote the book – ‘From Here to Obscurity’ which charts his career from making the first music videos with Queen, Rod Stewart and the likes, through to his professional fall into ‘obscurity’ after losing such high profile clients as Fern Britton and Natasha Kaplinksy.

It is a great read – just about every celebrity you can think of seems to have passed through his life. Jon’s life in Hollywood can best be described as debauched – he’s admitted as much as he recounts those years in the book  – but what he has learnt from his many years dealing with celebrity and TV executives is fascinating and instructive.

Jon is a straight-talker. This site is based on the principle of telling it how it really is. Jon is about to tell you how it really really is – from his point of view.  And remember it is just his point of view so if you disagree or have had a different experience please do add your comments!

OK that’s the disclaimer out of the way. I will now hand you over, somewhat nervously, to the man himself – Jon Roseman on the subject of being an agent:

 

THE AGENT, by Jon Roseman

“Most people think an agent finds you work, negotiates the deals, advises you on PR and generally keeps an eye on you to make sure you stay focused on your career. He/she needs to have a wealth of contacts covering the entire media including television, radio and the press. Perhaps that’s what an agent is supposed to be and do but you won’t actually find one that will tick all those boxes. If you’re lucky, and I mean very lucky, you might find one who is actually proficient at one of those objectives. It takes a very experienced and committed agent who can encompass all

Nancy Dell’Olio

things and if you are a new kid on the block you’re never going to get through his/her door.

I’ve represented some major players including, Jill Dando, Jonathan Dimbleby, Carol Vorderman, Fern Britton, Natasha Kaplinsky, Nick Ross, Kate Garraway, Claudia Winkleman, Roger Cook and a smattering of celebs like Nancy Dell’Olio. Some were very talented and most were just plain lucky. If you stuck a new presenter in a room with five TV executives and asked them to evaluate said presenter there would be no consistency of opinion. Some would say they were rubbish, one might say brilliant and another might say, with the right training they could do well. Illustrating the fact which, I promise you is a fact, that nobody knows anything.

What makes an agent decide to take on a particular client? Let’s assume we’re talking about someone who’s just starting out. The answer is simple. I’ve no idea. The variables are so huge that taking on new talent is a total gamble. The agent may know that a particular company is looking for a presenter for a new show and wants a fresh face. That’s what they call someone who is fairly new to the business. But as they have absolutely no real idea of what they’re really looking for and if they did they almost certainly wouldn’t have the ability to spot it. Let’s assume for a moment they got down a bunch of wannabes to a short list of three. It’s not their decision who the final choice is. The broadcaster wants the final decision. And the broadcast executives have as much ability to spot talent as a walrus. So there you go then. You have more chance of winning the lottery than getting a job in Telly.

But, I hear you cry, someone wins the lottery. So, Ok, if you’re that determined to make it in telly land here’s some hints. First, and most importantly, get yourself a bloody degree. If all else fails you’ll have something to fall back on.

1)     Decide what area you want to work in. News, current affairs, children’s, daytime, magazine, if you have a speciality, even doing the bloody weather!

2)     Now if you’ve chosen the more meaningful side of the business like news and current affaires you’ll need to have some kind of journalistic credentials. Preferably having worked for a newspaper. It doesn’t have to be The Guardian any local paper will do while you learn the ropes.

3)     If you have a speciality like cooking, property, antiques, astronomy, open heart surgery then it’s not going to be rocket science (or, by the way rocket science) than it doesn’t take much research to work out which door to knock on.

4)     Try and find an agent that specialises in what you want. That said they all think they know everything anyway so good luck there.

5)     Everyone will ask for a showreel. This is where most aspiring presenters get ripped off. A showreel simply is supposed to ‘show’ off your abilities as a potential presenter. Can you walk and talk at the same time. Not as easy as it looks. How are you with autocue? If you have to ask what that is give up now! What, bottom line, do you look like and sound like in front of a camera. The rip offs come from so called presenter courses. Beware!!

There’s more, lots more, but that’s enough for now.

There is but one overriding factor in all this. Are you lucky? Success is 60% luck, 20% having the ability to recognise you’ve just had some luck and 20% having the ability to manipulate it to your advantage.

If you don’t mind playing the lottery with your life, if you can take endless rejection, deal daily with people who would mostly be lucky to find a good patch to sell the Big Issue, than this is the business for you”.

 

Thank you, Jon, for that brutally frank account of a TV Agent!  

We’d love to hear your views. What experiences have you had looking for, or working with, an agent? What do you make of Jon’s account of the business?  Let us by leaving you comments below or join the chat on our Facebook Page.

Jon’s book is a very entertaining read. You can find it by clicking on this link: FROM HERE TO OBSCURITY by Jon Roseman.

Jon is on Twitter @JonRoseman1 and on Facebook. And apparently he’s offering a free copy of his book as a competition prize. All you have to do is follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page to be entered. 

And if Jon hasn’t put you off the game entirely you can find some useful articles on being a TV presenter and finding an agent right HERE.

4 comments

  • Shu says:

    For some reason I haven’t quite fathomed (too technical!) some people are having problems leaving a comment.
    Greg Scott, who regular readers will be familiar with, wants to leave this thought with you:

    A great read, and I look forward to getting Jon’s book.

    I do wonder if Mr Roseman will get slated by certain people in the same way that I did for saying similar “negative” things in my piece on the same site?

    Particularly by those who take money from wannabes in return for advice that implies that if you do X. Y or Z, it’s a breeze to make headway in the industry?

    If you didn’t see my piece, here’s the link:

    “HARDER THAN WINNING THE LOTTERY”, says Jon. Just about sums it up. But I’ll keep buying tickets.

  • John Hammond says:

    Having worked and yes I did say worked as a TV Presenter for the past 11 years I think these comments are spot on. Agents are a tough cookie to crack and finding a good one that will take you on even when you have experience is neigh on impossible. TV people do not know one good presenter from another it all depends on their own criteria and preferences. I am not sure that I agree with the comments on courses as some are very good, but what aspiring presenters have to realise is that you do have to invest time, effort and money in yourself if you want to work as a TV Presenter and have a back up plan as well!!

    • Shu says:

      Thanks John. It is a lot about personal preferences, luck and skill as well. If you can’t do it you won’t last long! Good advice to have a back up plan.

  • Chris Dodd says:

    First off — comments seem to be working fine for me!!

    I whole heartedly agree with Jon’s sentiment that aspiring TV Presenters should be cautious about expensive training courses.

    As with all creative jobs there are two parts. First you have the technical side (ie. can you operate a camera) but you also have a creative side (ie. do you have an eye to work out which shots work / look good).

    The technical side can be taught, and often is, at schools, colleges and university. But the creative side, to a certain extent you either have or you don’t.

    No amount of spending on expensive courses will guarantee you a spot on screen, nor should it.

    My main issue is with the provider of these courses, who will accept money off anyone – regardless of how unlikely it is that they will go on to find work as a presenter.

    My advice would be, get involved in Community Radio / TV, present your own YouTube show; hone and develop your skills through practice. There are no short cuts, but proving you can do something, by doing it. Will be far more valuable than any training course.

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