agent chat

Chat with a Pro: Oorala Yamada (a.k.a, my agent in SF!)

Advice: Live your life – in other words, don’t revolve your life around acting/modeling. Have and pursue other passions. Spend time with people who love you and have your best interest at heart. People who have well-rounded, rich lives are much more interesting as artists and have a lot more to offer.

Oorala Yamada is the dream agent. She’s patient, direct, no nonsense, and light-hearted. She’s the agent that always has your back, even when you screw up, even when you don’t know what you’re doing. For five years Oorala and I worked together (at my SF agency, Look Talent), before she decided to return to production in Los Angeles. She took time out of her insane schedule to give us all some solid, no frills, talent agent advice. Get a tea, sit down, and get schooled. Oorala booked me in my first SAG movie. I had a speaking role and a partner scene with Eric McCormick (Will from Will and Grace.) me and Eric

CP:You moved to LA from SF, where you lived and worked for years as a booker for Look. Why the change?

OY: Being a talent agent takes a lot out of you if you really care, which I did. I was already burnt out and it felt like a good time to switch gears and get back into production work, which is something I had done prior to working at Look. Plus I missed having my personal space!

Oorala booked me several nationals… this was a holiday spot that ran during NFL playoffs.

CP: You’re were an amazing agent… sigh. Anyway you’re doing production now… so talk to me about some of your projects, or a project you’re working on now. How is working in LA different than SF? Anything you prefer over SF? Anything you miss from SF?

OY: Currently I’m working on a luxury brand commercial/print shoot. There’s a lot that’s different about working in LA and SF. In SF, there is a sense of community while in LA, you’re on your own. SF casting directors and assistants are much nicer and giving of their time than the ones in LA and are more willing to take chances with newbies. I prefer the support everyone gives to each other in SF than the personal agenda a lot of people have down here in LA. I miss working at Look Talent and the actors I used to represent, the beautiful city, and all my friends.

CP: You’ve seen a ton of talent over the years. What makes an actor or model successful? What are the common traits?

OY: The first thing to address is defining what “success” means because it means different things to everyone. My personal definition of a successful actor or model is one that continues to evolve. Any production’s success is dependent upon everyone being able to do their job competently and efficiently, including the actors. Most people’s definition of success is a person who books a lot of roles but the truth is most of the time it’s about luck so there’s not really a common trait. I guess if I had to pick one thing, it would be that the successful ones are those that are confident in who they are.

CP: What are the most annoying questions you were asked as a booker from clients? From talent?

OY: From clients – no questions really bothered me. The only troublesome thing is when the clients become difficult when I ask for clarification or to change the contract/release to reflect the terms of agreement. This isn’t limited to just clients but casting directors as well. From talent? Any question where I find I’m repeating myself. I’m very patient but have zero tolerance for people who don’t listen. If you’re not going to listen, don’t ask me.

CP: So the takeaway: Listen to your agent. What are some things aspiring talent should consider when submitting to agents?

OY: Ideally one should do some research as to if the agency is a good fit for them. Present yourself in a professional manner because when an agency represents you, you are an extension of them so if you send a cover letter and resume full of misspellings, we are not going to be impressed. Submit photos of yourself that look like you TODAY. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone who doesn’t look like anything like their photo. Photos should also be tasteful. You can’t imagine some of the submissions we’ve received.

CP: Oh MAN I’ve never thought about that. YIKES. Speaking of which… do you have any favorite success stories you can share? Any crazy stories with a famous actor?

OY: Paul Lacovara was non-union and new to the business when I met him. I got him into SAG and hired him whenever I could and now he works as an actor and stunt doubles for people like Tom Hiddleston, Ryan Reynolds and Eric Bana. The best part though is that he still texts me when he’s going to be on TV or in a movie and I make sure to watch and tell him what I think. Sadly they always end up killing him. I have an amazing kinship with him and am so proud of him. When I drove Christopher Plummer (Mr. Von Trapp of Sound of Music!), on the last day he gave me a bottle of Dom Perignon and serenaded me which was pretty sweet. I also spent one Thanksgiving at George Clooney’s house.

CP: I LOVE HIM. Christopher Plummer, not George Clooney. But that’s cool too. 😉 So… Any warnings or red flags you can give to aspiring starlets?

OY: Ask yourself why you’re doing this – is it because you want to be famous or is it because you can’t imagine doing anything else? If it’s the latter, then there’s a chance that you might make it, but anything less than that – it’s going to be a long, tough road unless you are very, very lucky.

Oorala’s Closing Advice:

Live your life – in other words, don’t revolve your life around acting/modeling. Have and pursue other passions. Spend time with people who love you and have your best interest at heart. People who have well-rounded, rich lives are much more interesting as artists and have a lot more to offer.

Practice listening. It amazes me how little people listen when you are giving them valuable advice that people are normally not very forthcoming about. Anytime you have someone who is generous with information, LISTEN TO THEM.  You could save yourself a lot of time and heartache down the road.

Oorala. I’m so incredibly lucky to have worked with her. She’s responsible for booking the biggest films and TV spots of my career. Our relationship was professional, uplifting, occasionally frantic, and always a joy. I’m a better performer and person because of it.

Break a leg people! Ganbatte!


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