If you ask anyone starting out in the industry what the most powerful position is, you'd probably be surprised by the answer. It's not an actor, not a director or producer, not even the head of a major studio. The most powerful people in Hollywood? Agents.

Why is an agent the most powerful person in Hollywood? Because an agent has control over what the actors, directors, and producers do. The agent can recommend deals, put together packages, and create superstar bundles. Primarily, though, the agent's responsibility is to get the client work.

Agents represent mostly above-the-line talent. This means that if you want to deal with a writer, actor, director, and sometimes a producer, you have to go through that person's agent. The agent handles all preliminary correspondence, acting as an intermediary for the client. Once the deal is ready to happen, the agent controls all negotiations, trying to get the client the most money and benefits possible. The agent also contracts for things like movie poster details, boxes around the clients' names or how big those names are and where they should appear on the poster. If an actor's name appears on the poster in large letters above the title ofthe film, the agent contracted for it to be that way. It wasn't an accident or the production company being nice.

It is in the agent's best interest to get as much as possible for the client because that's how the agent gets paid. Agents work strictly on commission, usually 10 to 15 percent of the client's earnings. Unless you happen to represent the next Tom Cruise as your first client, it will take years of hard work before you can even think of becoming a top agent. Almost all agents today have advanced degrees, either in business or in law, and they all started out as assistants or even lower. It's rumored that there was a time when the entire mail room staff at the William Morris Agency, one of the top five agencies in Hollywood, held law degrees. You have to start out at the bottom and work your way up. That's the way it's done in the world ofartist representation.

Once you make it to agent, though, you can't rest. You are constantly on the phone trying to make deals or stir up interest in your client. You'll always be reading scripts, either by your writing clients or by producers who want your actors to star in their films. Two or three lunch meetings a day, and on weekends you're attending screenings of somebody's latest film. It's a lot of hard work, but if you can bring a project to life, it is worth it. Then you are the magician.

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