The single biggest problem in managing actors, entertainers, singers, composers, musicians, and other talent is the lack of clear communication between client and manager. Too often, there is only the illusion that it has taken place.
COMMUNICATION is a 13-letter word. It's something that few people actually do. Sure, people talk, and talk, and talk, but are they actually communicating? And is the person on the receiving end actually listening? You see, communication is more than just the flow of words pulled into sentences. It's the art of conveying meaningful information with a shared understanding. But sometimes people get so caught up in what they are planning to say next, that they forget to "listen in" to the joint conversation. The most important thing in communication, I've come to realize, is to hear what isn't being said.
Six years ago, one of my female clients referred a colleague to me for personal management. The potential client was an award-winning actor with fantastic movie-star facial features, an extraordinary skill set and dynamite stage presence. He was seeking new representation. I met with this individual once, twice, actually three times. The first meeting was over breakfast. The second contact was over lunch. Both times I was troubled by his lack of attention to our conversation at hand, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as he was at a crossroad in his career and I knew that he needed my help. Of course, if I couldn't get him to understand that he wasn't communicating with me, there was no way that I could manage him. For the life of me, though, I couldn't determine whether he was simply too wrapped up in himself to hear anyone but himself talk, or whether he was just nervous. So I reserved judgment.
Our professional paths crossed a third time at a screening, where I was able to observe him in a professional social setting and listen to him interact with other actors. By the evening's end, I had politely passed on the representation and wished him well, but left the door open to a professional friendship, which actually continues to this day.
I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. If I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. Unfortunately, many people never listen, while others are caught up in the I, Me and Mine syndrome. And that can set up dangerous roadblocks when trying to communicate with a client, especially in entertainment. Because effective communication is all about good communication. And to achieve good open communication, everyone must have the ability to listen. ■