We chat to Chris Hemsworths Agent Mark Morrissey.
Lots of advice for Actors on how to get representation, what to do when you have an Agent and more...
- What does an Agent look for in an Actor
- How have Showreels changed over the years and what stands out
- The unique challenges of 50 worders
- Advice on Self Taping vs Auditioning in the room
- What to do now that you have an Agent
- When to look for representation in LA
We chat with Chris Hemsworth's Agent Mark Morrissey.
Max Belmonte 00:11
Welcome back to Two Unemployed Actors. I'm Max. Sam is busy with his survival job this week.
But I have a very special guest joining us, Mark Morrissey. Mr. Mark Morrissey is the founder
and managing director of Morrissey Management with over 40 years in the business managing
talent, including the likes of Chris Hemsworth. And is also a Producer. Welcome, Mark.
Mark Morrissey 00:34
Thank you. lovely to be here.
Max Belmonte 00:36
Brilliant. Thanks for your time, we'll get straight into it. What do you look for in an Actor as an
Agent? Like what what really? Are you after?
Mark Morrissey 00:46
Oh, I'm asked this question. Often, that's a really difficult one to to be specific about what
you're looking for. Because it's a combination, it's not one thing, that it's a each manager or an
agent, it's always a combination of a whole variety of things. For me, I'm looking at intelligence.
I'm looking at commercial, commercial viability with them. I'm listening, a lot of the time I'm
listening to the voice timbre. When show reels are sent through, sometimes you make a very
quick assessment on the person that's approaching the agency will based on the other people
that you represent, to make sure that you're not setting up an environment that is competitive
internally. You assess whether you've got the time because every new developing, if it's a new
if we're talking to you developing actors, developing actor needs good three to five years of
development. And that's a long, long term investment, they've got to make sure that you've
got the time and the energy to to be involved in that there's so many different qualities, you
know, I sometimes I'm unlucky enough, sometimes I couldn't do a self test. And over all of
these years, I can tell really quickly, I can tell them to make in the first 10 seconds whether I'm
going to watch the next 10 seconds and the next. So there's there's a wide variety of reasons
why you want to engage with a new new actor,
Max Belmonte 02:35
Three to five years for an actor's development. That's certainly a commitment and appreciate
for your perspective, you're looking for someone who's just as driven and committed to their
own development, I guess, rather than investing in someone and then have them sort of walk
away and go, Look, it'd be too hard, or I'm gonna go somewhere else or whatever. What does
that development look like? Or is that specific to each actor?
Mark Morrissey 03:01
Well, I'd go back on the previous point, and greet them got to have the, you've got to see
within them the investment that you're about to invest in them. And you certainly don't want
somebody that's waiting on the other end of the phone for you to call you want you want
somebody that's got as much energy as your agency and the people that are working with you
want someone that is learning as much as they can about the industry. They're reading books,
they're reading scripts that are online, they're working on their various performance tools. You
want that because we're here 830 Each morning, we finish at 6pm. But the phone is still ringing
and 7 -8-9, we're still going to do business with London, we're still going to do business with LA.
So our commitment is there. And so we need that it needs to feel like a partnership, you need
to be knowing that you've locked arms together, and you're you're pushing into this industry
together. So that that commitment you get is, is vital that that assurance of a partnership that
that energy, and also it can get, it can get disappointing. There's many, many calls you make to
a client that hasn't got the job. And there's those occasional wonderful, wonderful phone calls
that you go "guess what". And you also need to be able to convey to the client and the clients
got to understand that it is a business. Please don't take it personal. If you don't get it. There's
so many reasons why you didn't get it. And it doesn't necessarily come down performance.
Sure. You may have done a really, really average screen test. You can't afford to do an average
screen test you got to do on More than good screen testing in callback, but it could be down to
look height, coloring of hair coloring of eyes, what the director had in mind what what the
produces. It's, it's so varied.
Max Belmonte 05:13
I think one thing we and when I say we Sam and I on the podcast have been real proponents of
is certainly not waiting for the phone to ring and being engaged in the industry. And I guess to
that point, viewing it as a business relationship as a partnership that you touched on, that
you're both working together, and it takes both of you to make it work. Do you find you're
constantly obviously managing expectations from your talent perspective, but is it also when
you're negotiating with production companies and studios, you're, you're constantly managing
expectations there, or is it all just like negotiating with terrorists.
Mark Morrissey 05:54
You do have to manage expectations from clients. But I would confidently say that 95% of the
clients of Morrisseys have very sound reasonable expectations, they've all got very clear moral
compasses, they know what they're doing. Now, on the other side of it, it's not my job, to
manage a producer's expectations, my job is to get the very best deal and the very best
negotiation, and the very best terms that I can for my client. It's important that if it's me, or
anybody else that works in the company, we have a real clear awareness of what the industry
is paying, understand what the industry can afford, and then you push harder, because the
more we push, the more we improve it for other actors, not necessarily with us. More
producers, look at their budget, before they even go out to casting, the better, you know, if if
an inexperienced producer is going out, and just paying scale on 90% a big task, one hopes
that if we've been doing our job when negotiating hard with the producer, or the casting people
to go, that's not acceptable. No, they won't do the job, that the next time a producer comes
back, they've done some really good work on their budget and allowed increases for for the
actors and the client, the creatives.
Max Belmonte 07:28
And when we talk about, you know, up and coming actors, I mean, how would you, how would
you recommend for actors to get an agent? What would you.... say they've just graduated, or
they're returning back to the industry at a later age. They're committed, they're they looking
for every opportunity and creating as many opportunities as they can themselves? What would
your recommendation be to that artists to get representation?
Mark Morrissey 07:58
Well, graduates are very different people returning because graduates have an audience on
their graduation performance that other people don't get. So after three years, agents, the
industry goes to see their graduation, where we're actually walking, driving to be there in the
audience and watching them. So the graduates have power for one of the very first times in
their life, probably one of the last times in their life, unless they get to a point where they can
command power. So the graduates were there, we want them to be extraordinary, all we want
them to do is just be absolutely wonderful. Talent says that we can approach them afterwards
and talked about representation. Those returning to the industry, if they haven't worked, if
they've left it and come back. That's a challenging time for them. because once they've been
away, other actors have made sure that they've identified themselves in the industry, they've
got work. They've built their profile, they've started regaining relationships with casting agents
and producers and directors. So that's it's a very difficult thing to come back into the industry
after you've left it. Because also there, you know, there's a human aspect to that. And that is, if
I'm a casting agent, for instance. And I've got a choice of three people that have stained and in
my mind deserve to be cast in something as opposed to somebody that's chosen to come back.
I might choose one of the three first because they've been putting the hard yards in and there
may be a subliminal thing in my mind going well, you deserve you deserve my support.
Max Belmonte 10:00
That's really interesting. Yeah, because certainly they've obviously also got more experience
just simply by by staying sticking with it.
Mark Morrissey 10:08
Yeah, I'm not saying it can't work. Because we're all after some new, interesting way of doing
the scene and a new client that intelligently approaches that is able to execute it. But I'm just
saying, from a practical point of view, I would go with people that have been in the industry
working auditioning for the last five years, probably over somebody's return.
Max Belmonte 10:36
And I can imagine you've seen more show reels than you can count. But what would be
interesting is if you've seen how you've seen them sort of change over the years. And then if
you can talk about, you know, what, sort of stands out for you, what you're looking for in those
Mark Morrissey 10:57
Well, what we've all seen is the show reel improved in quality and performance. But I will
preface this by saying, I think it creates an environment that's safe. But that safety of doing a
self test, for instance, in spending three hours together, right? That's not real. That's that, for
me that's not what you should, what shouldn't be occurring. Because you need to put yourself
under the pressure of, if you get that role, you don't get three hours to prepare, if you see me
walk on set, you're gonna get one, maybe two takes and you gotta be ready. And that can be
very much a cultural shock for the younger actors that have come out that are used to self
tests, getting the lighting, right, getting it again, and again, you know, the the, it strengthened
the audition muscle, when there was an environment where actors walked into a casting agent,
they sat nervously in the waiting room, they were called in, they were given that, okay, go
show me what you've got. And I know it's stressful. But the more you do that, the more hard it
is preparing you for that day on set, when you go. Because if you're not up to it, that's, that's a
challenge, you know, you're not going to be getting repeat business. And people didn't get
Max Belmonte 12:39
Yeah spot on, I think because the last 50 worder I had on Home and Away, it doesn't matter
whether you're a guesty or whether your a series regular, you get two shots. And that's it
moving on, and shooting three cameras at once. So you got to be aware of not just the one
camera, but your whole environment. And if you don't turn up prepared, you're not set up for
success at all.
Mark Morrissey 13:02
And I might I say 50 Worder is more stressful than a semi or regular, they are such a hard gig.
Because you know, you've got the weight of the production you've just had so and so walk on,
do their shots walk off, now you're on. If you hold up the crew, with your 50 Worder and you're
already feeling maybe a little less than everyone around you even though you shouldn't be,
you don't want to get it wrong. So I think that's what I'm referring to when I talk about the
screen test muscle, that putting yourself through the rigors of the tension that you have to deal
with. And coming out the other side and succeeding, you may not get the job, that you're one
step closer to being prepared to walk on that set and do the 50 worder.
Max Belmonte 13:52
Yeah, that's great. I think I spoke to Australian Casting Director Anushka Zarkash. And she she
put up an interesting point around self tests, where because of the nature of the industry at the
moment, it just so happens that actors representation agents are seeing so many more self
tests and before they weren't even a part of that process. And now it's as though they're in the
room before that, well they are in effect, before the Casting Director.
Mark Morrissey 14:24
Yeah, yeah. And that's a good thing, by the way, that the flip side of this is that we see all of
the reels that are done before they go out and we and if they're not up to what we want, we'll
go back to our clients say the point or let's come at it a different way. Go back and do it again.
And in that way, we're getting to know our clients better. And in this point, and joyus by the
way, when you see self test after self test from a client and just just knocking it out of the park.
It instills even more belief in you for them. You know, so when you get on the phone to a
casting agent, or when you're talking about to client, you just seen the last three self tests,
they might not have got the gig. But you know, in your heart of hearts sort of what they're
doing, and they deserve this, and it's a great point of momentum for representatives.
Max Belmonte 15:25
Well, once an actor has an agent, I mean, is there anything in particular, you'd recommend?
How they communicate with their agent, or how they engage with their agent, industry at
large, once they've actually achieved representation, rather than just sit on a couch and wait
for the phone to ring?
Mark Morrissey 15:42
No, it's just common sense that and it's that common sense of, you go to a party, and you meet
somebody new and interesting. your common sense knows when you're boring them when
they're not interested. Or when you're really engaged, you've got to, you've got a conversation
going. It's probably a terrible reference, but I'm going to use it anyway. And that is just use a
common sense when calling your agent, they might be, they might have the time to have a
chat. Great if you want to chat about the industry. Yeah. If if it gets to the point where you feel
like your representative isn't picking up the phone, because maybe you are taking up too much
of their time. Just be sensitive to what it's like when dealing with another person, and they just
know that person, then they'll be happy to have a chat if they're a chatty person. I'm not
believe it or not, a very chatty person.
Max Belmonte 16:44
Right. I feel very special today, then.
Mark Morrissey 16:48
I'm putting it on to you, because it's a podcast. And I'm not a particularly chatty person, I like to
keep things very short, and to the point, and talk about the job at hand or the job that's coming
up. Whereas, you know, I've got extraordinary people under this roof. Erin Flur Michael Sharon
has joined us, I've got people here that are so wonderful at the talk, which is very important.
Some clients need to have that ongoing engagement.
Max Belmonte 17:28
So some might prefer a coffee chat, or regular coffee chat others, it's a short email update, this
is what I'm up to, you know what's happening.
Mark Morrissey 17:35
Yeah, my, youngest daughter works with me in my production company, and she knows where
I'm at when I'm sending one word, email responses.
Max Belmonte 17:49
Like, a text message. That's brilliant. That's brilliant. And look, many actors in Australia, you
know, they'll reach a stage. And it'll be a stage that's, that's unique to them in terms of timing,
but, you know, should I go to LA? Or should I look for representation in LA, they might be
getting, say, three times a year, an opportunity to walk on set in Australia, with 50 worders or
in the theater or some independent theater? What would your recommendation be to that
young actor? That established that more established actor?
Mark Morrissey 18:33
Yeah, okay. It's an old, tired cliche, I've used that it's it. You only really attend a party that
you're invited to. And, and that kind of makes sense. Because if you're an actor, if you're
prepared to go there, and stand in line with 1000s of others in that same line, fine. If you feel
like you've got that whatever it's going to take to jump across that line and be successful.
Great. I don't encourage it until I I'm, we are all on the same page that you're ready now for the
discussion. Any client... I'm going through right now actually, I'm flying with a client to LA in a
week's time, the week and a half's time, but prior to this plan going there. I'm setting up the
meetings for the client. And I'm very thankful that a lot of the people receiving my emails if
they see an email from me, they know that it's probably a significant client that's going to do
Max Belmonte 19:54
and they're vetted and prepared. And yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark Morrissey 19:57
But I will say the the the environment over there has changed, it's it's very, very difficult. Some
of them arent back in their offices yet. I'm being asked to do meetings in coffee shops, as
opposed to offices, I'm being asked to do individual meetings as opposed to what I'm used to,
which is a team or a group. And I think there still is some healing time needed after COVID, for
people to get back into a new normal, and working out how to do business in the future. Going
over there at the moment, if the response I'm working through at the moment is any indication,
I would strongly, strongly be recommending actors to wait until they have a powerful body of
work, before making that step. Because you only really get one chance. Yeah, that's, that's the
other thing people aren't aware of. You, you get... you either you do it personally. Or you do it
through your circle of influence, or you get your agent to do it, to reach out to LA. If you get a
no, it's really hard to get a second no in one to three years time, it's really, really difficult. If the
idea if you're clever, is wait until you've got a heat and a buzz around you or the product project that you're in. And that's the time to strike. Yeah,
Max Belmonte 21:31
That's really interesting. Is there something that you think US casting directors are really
looking for at the moment that they weren't previously?
Mark Morrissey 21:43
The obviously diverse casting, you know, the that has wonderfully changed and added so much
to all of our lives. What are they looking for? Overseas, you mean, they're looking for
commitment, they don't want people saying, I'm definitely going to be available not be
available, you're gonna have to make sure you get everything in place all your ducks in a row,
and you're going to make sure your visas in place, that you've saved up enough money, that if
they say we want you to come over for a period of time, you can afford to do it. You once you
have engaged representative over there, you want to keep them engaged invested in you. So if
you're not there, the more work that you're doing back home, that they're able to see the
better. Making sure your self tests for them are the very best to possibly do. Making sure the
accent, the accent, the conversation about accents. It's such a subtle one, because all it takes
is one word in a five minute monologue to not be quite right. And that jars with Americans and
you know, they're not looking to make excuses. Just give me the best work.
Max Belmonte 23:07
And I think one thing we're hearing from an acting perspective is there's no "that person's
perfect for the role and, but we'll work with them on the accent". It's, it's "we want them to be
ready now". We don't want to have to hold their hand.
Mark Morrissey 23:23
Look, no, there's very little hand holding. Because the competition over there is so stiff. There's
so much to choose from. So ideally, I say to people, just try and make a list of all the reasons
why they would say no to you, and eliminate those. If you if you hadn't got a passport, if didnt
have a visa in place. Don't do it yet. Yes, you can get sponsorship but I don't think anyone
understands how difficult the process is to get someone to sponsor me. It is it is rigorous and
there's like two or three days of somebody's work full time just to get you a sponsorship deal.
So just get it as right as if you've gone to this extent. Don't do something half-arsed, make sure
you get it right.
Max Belmonte 24:20
Make it count. Just lastly, the Australian industry is looking pretty good at the moment
considering COVID. And I say that from an acting perspective, looking at the investment in
industry with the streamers as well as the studios. We're hearing talks of another studio, you
know, near Coffs Harbour or one in Cairns, studio facilities. I mean, is it Are you seeing that to
or is it.. or am I just wishful thinking, ever the optimist as an actor?
Mark Morrissey 24:55
There is really good reason to be optimistic pre to when Covid took place here, we were killing
it. And that comes down to producers and crews showing the rest of the world how to shoot
during a pandemic crisis that hats off to these people that did it was extraordinary. And yes, we
had a lot of work that was shooting down here, I think, I think it's best to be practical about it
though. A producer with a project will go wherever the exchange rate is the best. And hopefully
they talk English, because that helps in communication between crew and producers. And, and
generally what sort of rebates they're gonna get out of that country to help their bottom dollar.
So it might be Australia next week, and it might be Croatia, the week after or Budapest the
week after that. It just depends on where the deal is the best. But down here, the the attractive
quality is being able to enjoy the countryside when you're not shooting, which is fabulous. It's
English speaking at our crews, you can significantly get more bang for your buck from our
creative foods, they kill it on a global basis. Our crews are second to none, man. You have you
have Americans calling up. I cannot believe whats getting done by you know, a third of the
Max Belmonte 26:32
So that's great value for them. Yeah,
Mark Morrissey 26:36
it's extraordinary creatives out there that just get the stuff done. Now actors can do great
accents. And we think on our feet, we're very light on our feet, which it just plays again towards
improvisations or or being able to cope with the situation in the future. You know, we may
flatten out a little bit. But I can say that this year, January, February, March has started off like
a bullet nah its a bad phrase, just started off so fast. And yeah, that's it and we're busy. There's
a lot of castings taking place, were busy.
Max Belmonte 27:14
That's great, considering what we've been through, especially as actors who you know, you fall
between the gaps. It's not like you can say to the government, you know, we've had 12 years,
12 months of consistent income. And here you can see it's dropped helped me out. It's gig to
gig the original gig economy.
Mark Morrissey 27:28
Yeah, it is.
Max Belmonte 27:30
So that's, that's great to hear that, that we're firing on all cylinders this year already. So Mark
Morrissey, thank you very much for your time. We do appreciate it.
Mark Morrissey 27:39
My pleasure. Next, thanks for your time.
Max Belmonte 27:41
Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss more tips and tricks here at Two Unemployed
Agent & Producer
Mark is the founder and Managing Director of Morrissey Management and has over 40 years experience in the business managing talent including the likes of Chris Hemsworth, and is also a Producer.