Martinez speaks volumes about the industry in his new book.
by Jackie Apodaca
Tony Martinez says he intended his book, An
Agent Tells All, to read like a conversation. "What
I really wanted," he says, "was the book to feel
like you and me are hanging out at a bar having drinks, talking."
Well, he got his wish. The book is funny, personable, and
written with a casual air that is quite inviting. As I read
it, I repeatedly interrupted my husband, who was trying to
work nearby, and made him read excerpt after excerpt. We laughed
out loud at the way Martinez turns a phrase or points out
the absurdities of the business. Laughs in a "how to"
book? You bet. Here are some quick excerpts from the chapter
titled "Tools of the Trade."
Martinez on the "don'ts" of headshot
photography: "Don't use props. I've seen pictures of
actors holding guns, tennis racquets, pets, and I once saw
a shot of a guy eating pasta. We all laughed at that one.
Then we threw it out. Just say no to props."
On the "don'ts" of resumés:
"Don't be overly creative. Blue eyes should be listed
as blue, not aqua. And, to this day, I have no idea what "flaxen
hair" looks like."
And, from the chapter called "Getting an
Agent," the finer points of submissions: "You should
never mail your material to an agency without addressing it
to a specific agent. This is a common actor mistake. If you
don't make it out, "Attention: Tony Martinez," it
will stay in the agency's reception area with many, many others.
Eventually, when hell freezes over, someone with free time
will wander by and take a look. It's much more efficient to
target an individual agent. Anything with my name on it will
end up on my desk. That makes it a little harder to ignore.
The package will get opened. And that's half the battle."
The book lives up to its fresh introduction,
in which Martinez clarifies that it's not written for the
mega-stars. "I wrote this book for those of you who are
just starting out in your career," he writes. "I
also wrote it for all the actors who have been struggling
for years and just can't seem to catch a break. I didn't write
this book for Tom Cruise. He seems to be doing just fine."
Martinez admits to Back Stage West, "I
never had any intention of becoming an agent." About
12 years ago, after spending time in New York working as a
line producer, he decided he wanted to come west. One night,
while he and a friend hung out in a Hollywood bar, he noticed
a want ad for a job as an agent's assistant. His friend felt
he should apply, but Martinez wasn't eager to be anyone's
assistant. They flipped a coin to decide what he should do.
Suffice to say, he lost the toss.
Martinez landed the job and worked for two years
as an assistant at Paradigm, a major Hollywood agency that
represented such clients as Andy Garcia and Kenneth Branagh.
After that he took the leap and became a licensed, fully franchised
Hollywood talent agent. "I just thought it would be a
great day job to learn the industry," he says. "but
without meaning to, I fell in love with the business. I like
working with actors, and I realized that this was something
I wanted to do." That was 10 years ago, and he hasn't
Of course, it's not all fun and games. "The
hardest part of being an agent is that a large part of my
job is saying no," Martinez says. "I meet terrific,
talented actors every day who deserve representation, and
I have to say no to them. The truth is that no agent can sign
every talented actor they meet; your client list can only
be so large. If it gets too big, you can't do your job effectively.
So, that's not fun." Still, it's not hard to see that
Martinez enjoys the idiosyncrasies of the business, and the
rewards are great. "I have clients on my list who make
a lot of money and work consistently, and those types of deals
are cut and dry: You get them done and move on to the next
one," he explains. "But when you are dealing with
a young actor, a 22-year-old girl, and you just helped her
book her first job as a one-day guest star on a series, and
she breaks down in tears, it is wonderful. Knowing that you
spoke to the CD and convinced them to trust you to meet this
young girl, and then she books it. You don't make a hell of
a lot of money on a one-day guest star, but it's such a great
pleasure to be part of that process."
For those of you who have read your share of
"how to make it in Hollywood" books, you know that
many of them just repeat the same old, tired clichés.
Much of the advice is general, and some of it is just plain
wrong. Some books are outdated before they're even published.
Martinez feels your pain. "I wrote this book because
I have a lot of actor friends," he says. "I see
the books they buy and, quite frankly, with a few exceptions,
I'm appalled by what's out there. There are a lot of books
written by people who have no business giving advice to actors."
He thought someone currently working in the industry, a successful
agent perhaps, could easily do better. He was right. An
Agent Tells All is informative and up-to-date, as well
as being a good read.
Still, this book, like any, has its audience.
It is targeted to actors who are just getting started, and
it may not be revolutionary to those further along in their
careers. And yet there are details, from an agent's perspective,
you might not find elsewhere. The excellent chapter on pilot
season, for example, takes you step by step through the process
of auditioning for and landing a role in a pilot: detailing
the casting process, testing, the roles of networks and studios,
and even the "test deal agreement." It is a clear
and detailed window into what, for many, has long been a mysterious
Tips and tools aside, Martinez hopes his book
gives actors extra confidence. "I want actors who read
my book to walk away with the understanding that they have
more control over their careers than they may have realized,"
he says. "I think actors in L.A. sometimes feel helpless.
They feel like they're so close to the industry, and yet they're
still far away from it, and I understand that. When I came
out here I felt the same way. Even though I was working at
a cool company like Paradigm, I felt, like, 'Okay, I'm talking
to movie stars, and I'm going home, and I can't afford to
feed myself. I'm so close to the industry, but I'm not really
a part of it yet.' But you can take charge. That's what I
did. That's how I ended up becoming an agent."