People are always reading stories of our favorite actors and directors that entertain us on screen. However, Hollywood has many moving parts, and a lot of professionals work behind the scenes to create the movies and shows you love.
One of the professions outsiders know the least about may also be one of the most important: talent agents.
We spoke with Tina Randolph Contogenis and Rebecca Ek, the Greek agents behind Eris Talent Agency, to get an insight into their work. Though they are based in LA, their agency has grown to include clients in New York and Mexico City.
Tina and Rebecca told us all about the life of an agent, its special challenges, and the work it takes to become an agent in Hollywood!
How did you start Eris Talent Agency?
Tina: [Rebecca] was a manager and I was an agent at another agency. We shared a client and had been working together well. So when I wanted to start something on my own, I approached her for lunch one day, because I really admired Rebecca’s business sense, and it clicked from the very first meeting.
Rebecca: Yes, when we met I was actually going to say no to forming a new agency. But we got along so well I ended up going for it! Then we brought in Amy (Lord), who is our third partner, and it’s been an incredible collaboration ever since. We back each other up and we’re supportive, always.
Tina: We’re sisters, we’re partners, we’re best friends. That works really well, because whenever there is an issue, we hash it out like sisters do, and we have the same vision so we all know we’re doing what’s best for the agency.
Tell us a bit about your Greek heritage.
Tina: I didn’t get to learn as much Greek from my father as I wanted growing up, but I always practice a little when I speak to him. I have always been proud of my heritage. I go to all the Greek festivals, events, and Easter in LA. Even our agency takes its name from Greek mythology! I also would like to see Greeks represented more in entertainment.
Rebecca: I actually have a Greek actor on my roster, John Kapelos!
What relationships do you create with talent?
Rebecca: Our clients feel they can connect with us and trust us, and that is so important to us. We were all managers at some point before becoming agents, so we can create that very supportive and nurturing relationships with our clients.
Tina: It’s so important to have our clients’ trust. Our clients see that we work hard for them, but also that we treat them well and are kind to them. It’s also important that we receive the same treatment back! It’s a two-way road.
Tell us the most challenging and rewarding part of the work you do.
Tina: It’s difficult when clients are hard to get a hold of or don’t respond when you’ve worked so hard to get them an audition. On the flip side, when a client books a job, or when you see a project come to fruition – we also are opening a literary division – it’s a great win for us. But it’s challenging when some actors stand in their own way.
Rebecca: I love the creative stuff that’s going on now because we opened up a sales branch as well in December. It’s rewarding to see our company growing. What I love the most though, is when I hear from an actor or another industry professional that our agency is very well-respected. That means people are happy and that’s what we work hard to achieve.
What is something about your job most people wouldn’t expect?
Tina: Well, a lot of people think that it’s totally up to us to get actors an audition. We can try and we can pitch, but at the end of the day, the casting director will pick who they pick, partly based off what the network or studio want. There are so many other factors influencing who gets auditions.
Rebecca: Or, sometimes when people expect that we can get an actor booked on a job. The actor’s performance in the audition and the casting director’s and producers’ preferences are not up to us. There’s only so much we can do.
What advice would you give someone looking to become a talent agent?
Tina: Well the two of us, for example, brought totally different things to the table. Rebecca came from a business background and has such a good business sense. In my opinion, you’ve got to be able to organize yourself and be disciplined. Then start out in a management company, or as an assistant and work your way up, because there is a lot to learn. It takes a while to become an agent.
Rebecca: Yes, definitely. For example, how negotiations works, how to choose the right clients. It’s a lot of work, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, while recognizing that it’s also an artistic process, not just a business. In the beginning, you have to be OK with working for free for a while until your clients start booking. So you have to be sure this is your passion, this is really what you want to do.
Tina: And the biggest part of it is the relationships. Getting to know casting directors, people at the network, producers and directors, etc. The more people you know, the more chances that your actors are going to get through the door.
How is the industry doing during the pandemic?
Rebecca: Right now we’re at a bit of a standstill with productions. Commercials are still working, but many shows have been postponed. Of course, on the project being filmed, COVID regulations are being followed and everyone has to be tested, maintain distance, etc. It’s a difficult situation but we’re trying to make it work because people have families to support and jobs to do.
Tina: Also, many productions are shifting outside LA. It’s one of the reasons we decided to create our literary division, because it was an area we felt was strong to pursue right now. A lot of studios want content, especially for feature films, so they can be ready to go as soon as this situation is over.
What are your ideal plans for Eris Talent Agency in the next five years?
Tina: Well, first of all, I don’t ever want our clients to feel that they’re not important. We are not a boutique agency anymore, we have too many clients for that. However, we will always maintain the balance between growing as a company, packaging and selling shows and movies, and keeping our clients feeling like family.
Rebecca: I’m very proud of being a part of this and I want the world to know about our agency. Tina, Amy and I have put so much effort into Eris, so I’m looking forward to seeing our actors booking jobs, our little family expanding, and our agency continuing to grow.
Thank you to Tina and Rebecca for sitting down (virtually) for an interview with greekreporter.com. You can find out more about their agency at Eris Talent Agency.