This interview, conducted by Terry Ross, is with the following talent agents and agencies in the San Diego Area.
Frank di Palermo, Shamon Freitas
Shamon Freitas Agency was established in 1987. Carol Shamon Freitas, the owner, was a model herself and wanted to protect up-and-coming talent from less than reputable agents and managers. The agency was conceived of and remains a booking agency. Shamon Freitas Agency is not a school and does not take photographs. The agency prides itself on fairness, honesty and integrity. Although based in San Diego, Shamon Freitas models and actors can be seen throughout the world on television, film, and in print.
Nanci Washburn, Artist Management
Artist Management Agency is a full-service talent and modeling agency that has been a permanent fixture in San Diego for over 30 years and in Orange County for the past 12 years. The San Diego office is headed by Agency President, Nanci Washburn Artist Management represents some of the most successful performers from Los Angeles to San Diego in the fields of voiceover, spokespersons, hosts and actors, many of whom have been guest stars, co-stars and reoccurring characters on the various San Diego based television shows. The agency also represents over 200 runway, fashion and commercial print models.
Pam Pahnke, Elegance
Agent, Pam Pahnke, has been in the business for over 30 years. She started modeling in Chicago at an early age. She moved to California and opened the modeling agency in early 1980, booking models for runway, print, and promotions; as well as placing models internationally throughout the world. She has been booking actors for the talent division for television, films, and commercials since 1991.
Q: In what ways do you find San Diego to be a unique market?
Frank: San Diego is a unique in that it is so varied. One day last week I worked on a non-union commercial paying $350.00 total, a non-union infomercial with a $6000.00 buyout, a national SAG commerical, two SAG modified low budget features, and two nationally syndicated TV show. Betwixt and between these things I booked folks on print, voice-over, and working promotions and trade-shows.
Nanci: san diego continues to suuuport excellent professiona (aea) theatre, 2 television series and a number of feature films and mow’s, along with the industrial work and commercials (non-union though they be. san diego is a training ground for aspiring actors. it is a wonderful working environment for los angeles actors who cannot get representation in la to develop their resumes. san diego’s uniqueness is also in a diversification in locations and physical texture. Pam: San Diego is a great market… a lot easier to get work here, and less competitive than LA..
Q: Is there a specific “type” that works more than other types in San Diego?
Frank: There is an industry-wide prejudice toward men. Not only are there more roles for men in general but men work more consistantly through their carreers. Women, including quite famous women, will often encounter periods of less work as they age from one type to another. While this is also true for men, it seems less extreme.
Nanci: Men more than women. that’s not a type. that’s the nature of the business and scripts that are written. Pam: There is not a specific look for San Diego, but a lot of the work is for clean cut, and mom, dad, and the kids for commercials, and print.
Q: Are all ages and types needed in this market?
Nanci: Yes (over 18). producers prefer to hire 18 looking 15+ to avoid having to hire studio teachers for the set…..upwards to 85. as long as you are mobile and can handle your dialogue there is a role with your name on it.
Pam: We handle all ages.. babies to senior citizens. The best age range for kids for us would be 9-13… and of course 18 years old legally to play younger.
Q: Are you a full service agency? If so, what is the approximate percentage breakdown of print, commercials, theatrical, etc.?
Frank: We are full-service. I’m not sure it’s possible to answer this because the work is so variable. If Stu Segall is in production, they can be counted on to book anywhere from one to fifteen actors a week. If it’s spring or fall we get a lot of print clients from all over the world taking advantage of our weather. We’re always a popular location for commercials, both union and non. Voice-over is very consistant and we’re almost always working on several training films for one client or another.
Nanci: YES and this VARIES YEAR TO YEAR. Pam: We are a full service agency.. It is hard to say what percentage of work we do for each category. We concentrate on tv, commercials, and print.
Q: How long have you been in operation?
Frank:It think it’s fifteen years now. I’ll have to defer to Carol about that.
Nanci: A LONG TIME.
Pam: We have been in business for over 20 years.
Q: How did you first get started in this business?
Frank:I was an actor first. I started working here as an assistant over seven years ago.
Nanci: Before there were agencies in san diego. first on the block. school of hard knocks and a lot of iodine/bandaids.
I started the business as a teenager (modeling).. after working in the business for several years, I started working for agencies… and the rest is history.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being an agent?
Frank: Watching someone grow and become successful (by their own definition – whatever that means) doing something they absolutely adore.
Nanci: Having an actor book. book a series regular. appreciate the hard work and effort i put into to developing their career. and being remembered at the holidays, birthdays and valentines days.
Pam: The business is very exciting… Rewarding would be when we book our talent on the jobs..
Q: How do you find new talent?
Frank: There is a constant stream of new talent trying to get to me. The most effective way is for me to see their work in a showcase, play or film.
Nanci: Showcases, personal referral, attending theatre, word of mouth.
Pam: Our talent is found in a number of ways.. submissions by mail, showcases, workshops, plays, etc.
Q: What are you looking for in new talent?
Frank: In addition to talent, energy, and likeability, I’m looking for someone who knows enough about themselves and the business to book jobs.
Nanci: Professionalism, passion for their craft, parking their ego at the front door, passion for their craft, cooperation, passion for their craft and patience.
Pam: We are looking for professionalism.. someone we can count on to be there when we need them… have their lines memorized .. be prepared, and of course have a positive attitude.
Q: When you take on new talent, what is your expectation of them?
Frank: I expect them to listen to me during the intake interview as I go over the paperwork and explain what they can expect of me and what I expect from them (they almost NEVER listen). I expect them to be professional and self-sufficient.
Nanci: All of the above and study, study, study, study, study.
Pam: Same as above
Q: What should their expectations be of you?
Frank: They can expect that I will work hard for them. I wouldn’t sign a person I didn’t think I could get work for. They can expect me to provide them as much information as I have to help them get the role. They can expect rigourous honesty. They can expect integrity.
Nanci: all of the above. plus total communication with total openess/honesty. i am a straight shooter!! i’m a team player.
Pam: To guide them, and try to get them auditions which eventually lead to work..If I sign them, I believe in them and I hope to get work.
Q: What should they NOT expect from you?
Frank: They cannot expect hand-holding. I won’t do their job for them. I will give them general guidlines about wardrobe but won’t spend much time helping them interpret those guidelines. I won’t tell them how to approach a certain role unless the client has given me specific ideas. I won’t remind them to bring a picture and resume to each and every audition.
Nanci: To babysit.
Pam: They should not expect me to guarantee to get them work. I can only give them opportunities and auditions. It is up to them to get the work.
Q: What is your idea of the ideal talent/agent relationship?
Frank: One that is friendly, honest and professional.
Nanci: professionalism, passion for their craft, parking their ego at the front door, passion for their craft, cooperation, passion for their craft, honesty, openess and above all, a team player.
Pam: Open .. we are working together.. communication
Q: Do you recommend that talent seek their own work through internet sites such as nowcasting.com in addition to going on auditions for you?
Frank: Yes, sort of. An actor must be extremely cautious about who they work with, the work they do, and the end uses of that work.
Nanci: an actor always “seeks” their own work. the minute they walk into an audition they are seeking their “own” work. they should submit with my knowledge and only if i am aware of what they are submitting for.
Pam: People can always submit themselves.. the more they are out there and visible the better.. it is not a requirement though.
Q; If talent gets paid work on their own (through an internet site or otherwise) do they owe an agency fee?
Frank: They don’t owe the agency a fee unless the client is one they’ve met through the agency in a prior circumstance. Some actors will insist on paying a fee to the agency as a gesture but this isn’t required.
Nanci: that should never occur. by the way i hate the term “talent”. “talent” comes in many forms, woodworking, painter, manicurist, hairdresser, doctor, engineer, mason. they are actors. and actors should never handle their “own” money. i promise not to audition and try to be an actor as long as the actor doesn’t play agent and try to negotiate and cut deals “on their own”!!!! that is not how team players play.
Pam: no… unless it is from one of our clients.
Q: Do you send San Diego actors to Los Angeles auditions?
Frank: Yes but our focus is San Diego.
Nanci: On occasion.
Pam: we are a san diego agency, and work mostly in san Diego and Orange County.. but occasionally we do work in LA.. Most of my actors already have LA representation.
Q: Do you have any advice for a beginning actor who says they want to move to LA?
Frank: Don’t do it. LA is not the place for a beginning actor. Don’t move to L.A. unless you know you can be competitive. You need an impressive resume, union affiliation (for the LA market – union affiliation is not so important in San Diego and in my opinion no one should become SAG by doing extra work), killer marketing materials, and aggressive representation. All of that should be in place BEFORE you move to L.A.
Nanci: Don’t. Unless you’re prepared to get swallowed up. This business is a crap shoot, a poker gam, unless you’ve got the skills you’ll lose a lot of money.
Q: Should talent contact you regularly (send postcards re shows they’re in, etc)?
Frank: Yes, as unobtrusively as possible (postcards and e-mails).
Nanci: i prefer email for that information. unless they have a problem, an issue, then my door is always open.
Q: When is it not appropriate for talent to contact you?
Frank: It’s never appropriate to call me after an auditon to see if you got the role. I will never, ever forget to call an actor to book them if they’ve gotten the role.
Nanci: To chat.
Q: Do you go to see represented talent in shows?
Frank: Approximately once a month.
Q: If an actor has not gone on an audition for you in several months, should they contact for any reason?
Frank: They should check in on a positive note. Tell me what wonderful class they are taking, production they are in, whatever it is they are doing to refine their craft. Nanci: Yes, but normally i contact them. their pictures are no working, their cd is not working, their demo reel is not working, something is wrong. good marketing materials are essential.
Q: What do you recommend talent always do (stay enrolled in classes, update headshots, etc.?)
Frank: All of the above.
Nanci: Acting is a work in progress. it is a craft. if not practiced, it gets rusty, breaks and dies.
Q: What should talent never do (on an audition, in an agent/talent relationship, in their career, etc.?)
Frank: An actor should approach every opportunity in a professional manner, should give it the best shot they can, then they should let it go.
Nanci: Cut the deal. Never play agent. Don’t sell your soul and don’t wait for the phone to ring.
Q: Do you have any specific advice for beginning talent?
Frank: I’m going to take a broad view here. An actor should not fall into the trap of postponing happiness until some event happens (i.e. getting an agent, joining the union, booking a commercial). An actor should enjoy the process at every stage. That’s not to say that there won’t be frustration and struggled but an actor should be finding fulfillment and happiness where they are in their career right this second. Because the truth of the matter is: where they are right now may be all they ever have.
Nanci: Practice, practice, practice. work it. work it. work it. audition, audition, audition …… theatre, theatre, theatre. and be patient. don’t be desperate and don’t sell your soul.
Q: Do you ever ask talent to perform monologues?
Frank: I always ask actors to perform monologues if I haven’t already seen their work.
Nanci: monologues are duller than dirt. actors tend to pick pieces that are over the top, about death and dying to prove they can cry. That’s why I attend theatre, showcases, etc.
Q: If you have any other information or advice that you think would be helpful to working and/or potential working actors in San Diego, please list that below.
Nanci: On your resume, don’t lie. i can read right through it. 3 sensational pieces on your resume are worth 25 lies…every time. don’t put extra work, don’t put “featured” extra work, don’t put student films (graduate only) and don’t try to fill up a page!!! I don’t recommend non-union work because it means someone else is making money off your hide and you’re not. don’t work cheap unless you’re just looking for your 15 minutes of fame. if 15 minutes of fame is what you seek, do reality tv. it pays better. respect your profession and your fellow actors. respect your agent and if you don’t, find another agent. it’s team work.