Monday night I taught my 'Navigating the Actor's Career Path' class for the Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program. I promised the folks who attended that I'd answer additional questions from the class via my blog. This is one we didn't get to.
How do you leave your current agency and move to a new one?
Sidebar: agency representation in the SF Bay Area is way different than in other cities. Agents don't represent actors for live theater (like NYC), and you don't sign with multiple agents for different types of work (like LA). Here, one agency can represent you for on-camera work both industrial/commercial and film & tv, and also for voiceover work and modeling. Some agencies don't have all of those divisions, but if your agency does, then you're repped for all those things.
Full disclosure: while I've wondered if I would get better treatment or more audition opportunities if I changed agents, I haven't navigated the change myself.
But here's what I think: the first thing is to assess why you want to make the move - articulate for yourself why you are unhappy with the current situation. It might be that you want to do voiceover and your current agency doesn't submit for voiceover. In that case, you've got a legitimate reason to move agencies. You can check in with your current agency, break up with them, and start the process of trying to get an agent all over again, targeting agencies that do what you want.
What if what you're unhappy about is something that could be solved at your current agency? They don't submit me enough is I think a common complaint. Set up a meeting and figure out how to work together more effectively with your current agent - it might be that your agency has a new person booking auditions who doesn't know you yet. Maybe your headshot doesn't represent you effectively and a different image would get you more of what you want.
I met with my agents in December, and I think they were surprised by the meeting. I came in asking them questions like 'how am I doing?' 'what can I do better in the way we communicate and interact?' 'I'd like to go on more calls for film projects - how can I help you accomplish that for me?' I think that often actors approach this conversation with more of a 'why don't you send me out more?' or 'my friend got this audition, why didn't you get me that audition too?' This framing sets up a blaming/adversarial relationship instead of a partnering one. Agents only make money when the talent make money. It's a tough job.
If it seems like your agency is unable or unwilling to partner with you after you meet with them, then maybe it is time to move on. Thank the current agency for their time and assistance with your career, and start working your way towards representation elsewhere.
Like I said above, I haven't tried to switch agencies - so if anyone reading has a story about how they successfully navigated this transition, please post in the comments.