Danielle Crockford is an Associate Agent at Becky Barrett Management. After graduating from vocational training at The Urdang Academy, London, Danielle went on to perform in numerous West End shows and UK and International Tours.
Danielle has now been working as a successful Talent Agent for over 6 years, with the clients she represents currently working in the West End, UK Tours, Australian Tours, cruise ships and across Europe in well-known musicals.
Amy: Hello, how are you?
Danielle: I’m very good, how are you?
Amy: I’m good, thank you. Thank you very much for joining us today.
Danielle: You are more than welcome.
Amy: So, Danielle, you are an agent at Becky Barrett Management?
Amy: And you’ve also been a performer who’s worked both in the UK and internationally now?
Danielle: That’s correct.
Amy: Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to make that switch from performer to agent and why you’ve decided to pursue this career professionally?
Danielle: Yes, I can. So I performed for over ten years professionally and obviously loved every minute of it. But as I started to get a little bit older, I knew that I wanted to have a family and I had a long term partner and we got engaged. And so I decided that I felt like it was the right time for me to kind of step away from performing and maybe look at doing something different that would allow me to support a family and be able to spend time with them.
So that’s really how the transition happened. And as a performer, I was always really interested in the agenting side of things. I had a very close working relationship with my agent and I always thought that it was something that I might be interested in pursuing long term. So when the time felt right, I approached an agency about doing an internship and then it all kind of started from there, really. But really the decision was made for family and security in that sense because it’s really hard to be a performer and have a family.
Amy: I think that’s something in the industry that hopefully does change one day. I think we’ve started to make progress, but yeah, I do think it’s so really hard to be a performer.
Danielle: I agree. There does need to be massive change still. There is a lot of progression and a lot of movement happening in that area and I champion it wholeheartedly.
And I think I’ve got friends that are performers who are parents and they struggle everyday with trying to make it work. I’m a working mum now and it’s still a juggle. I still juggle every day trying to make everything work. But I think as a performer you have to be so in it 100% that there’s not as much flexibility and that is what I think needs to change. I think there needs to be flexibility and more understanding that you might need to spend time with your family at some point. So yeah, I do hope that there are movements. I know that there’s a lot of talk about job shares and people being successful in that area, so I really hope that it continues.
Amy: Yeah, me too.
So you were talking about having to juggle lots of things, so can you just talk us through what a regular day looks like to you as an agent?
So I normally wake up in the morning, I actually get up quite early and I generally go to the gym. That’s what I try to do before everyone else in the house wakes up. I try to do, I’m a 06:00, a.m. gym goer, and then when I get home, I’m straight into kids breakfast, getting Harper ready for school, getting them out the door, and then my husband does the school run and then normally once they’ve left, I will sit and start looking through some emails.
Now I do start early and I do that because I like to get a head start and I like to kind of work while the office is quiet so that I can catch up on anything that’s come in overnight so that I feel ready to kind of take the day on as such.
So Isaac just kind of potters about that time and then he’ll go to nursery and then generally the first thing I do is always check my emails and then I will look at my Spotlight breakdowns and see where we’re at with that. And then it’s generally a constant kind of juggle between those two, phone calls, emails and making sure Spotlight and all that is up to date throughout the day and then kind of dealing as and when things arise.
Being an agent is about prioritizing what needs to be done first. So you will have your to do list, but that changes all the time because something might come in that then needs to take priority, so that automatically moves to the top of the list.
You can’t always just do everything in the order that it came in because that’s just not how the industry works, because sometimes it might be a last minute commercial casting for that day. So you need to call the client immediately to try and get them there. So it’s about juggling and about prioritizing what needs to be done first and how quickly does that need to be done?
So that’s kind of how my day looks up until I get the kids back and then it’s dinner, bath and bedtime and then I normally collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine.
Amy: Sounds like the ideal way to finish off your day?
You have to do a lot of multi tasking during your day and also not a lot of sleep, it doesn’t sound like you get a lot of it!
Danielle: I decide I go to bed very early so that I can get up early. And I have found that I could not get up and go to the gym and take that time for myself. And I don’t do it every single day of the week because that’s too much. But when I don’t do it, I don’t feel as good. So as much as you might think, oh, she should get more sleep, she should get more sleep. Actually, I benefit more from getting up and going to the gym and having that hour to myself before the chaos begins. So it’s important for me to carve that time out somewhere in the day.
Amy: So this leads on quite nicely to my next question, because our industry is known for being fast paced and like you just mentioned, when you are doing your working day, sometimes you think you have a list that you need to work through, but all of a sudden you get a phone call that needs to be prioritized or a submission comes in that you need to sort out with. And sometimes working in that fast paced industry can feel like quite a lot of pressure. So how do you deal with pressure? I’m presuming maybe your going to the gym in the morning is one way of dealing with it, but do you have any other ways that you deal with it?
Danielle: Absolutely. So I think pressure is a massive thing that we all deal with. We’ve all got weights in our world and everything’s relative. So what might seem huge to you might seem only minor to someone else, but to you that is the most important thing that you need to worry about at that time.
So I am a compartmentalizer. Like my brain has little boxes, so I will just put things into those boxes and I’ll go, I can’t deal with that right now, so that’s going to fit in that box and then when I need to deal with it, I’ll get it out of the box and I’ll deal with it. So whatever has to be handled right at that point gets dealt with to the best of my ability and then I will move to something else. And I think that’s the only way I can cope with the chaos and the amount of stuff that goes on in my life.
I always call it plate spinning in the circus and they do these plate spinning skills. That’s what I feel like life is like. You’re spinning loads of plates and you’re trying to keep them all going. And sometimes you might drop one, but it’s not the end of the world. But the idea is to try and keep as many up as you can. And you can only do that, I think, by being organized. My diary is ridiculous. Literally, I write everything down because if I don’t, then it doesn’t happen.
Amy: I love a good list. I get the coloured pens out!
Danielle: It has to be out of my brain, so if I think about it, it gets written down somewhere. And I’ve actually started to… my husband told me about this thing when he was doing his degree that he learned about diary management and how to help kind of carve your day out and to be the most productive with your time. And I’ve really taken it on and I found that it’s been a really positive influence. So instead of trying to write down everything that I need to achieve, I actually diarize certain things. So if I needed to chase someone that I hadn’t heard from in terms of an email, if I’d sent something to someone and they hadn’t come back to me a week after I’d sent that email, or three days or however quickly I needed to know an answer by, I diarize, have I heard from XYZ or chase up XYZ so that I can remember it and it’s out of my brain. So I think that really helps. And I’ll carve that time out in my diary. So if you look to my calendar, you think, Oh, my God. But a lot of it is, have I paid this? Have I heard that from this? Have I checked that XYZ? So it goes on and on, but that’s the way I juggle and stay on top of most things.
Amy: So that was like a really good handy tip that you gave us. Talking about handy tips, I’m sure a lot of listeners out there are currently seeking representation. So when you receive that email, what exactly do you look for? And have you got any handy tips that you can tell our listeners to help them to get their work noticed?
Danielle: Yeah, of course.
The first thing that we’re looking for is someone that has done some research on the agency. Sending out a blanket template email with no personalization is not ideal.
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get a response, of course, but just showing that you’ve taken the time to look at who works at the agency and who you should address your email to is a nice little touch. Also doing your research about the kind of performer that you are, and do you think that your skill set lends itself to that specific agency? Or are you just hitting up the first 15 agents that you see on Google? Are they going to help you in terms of where you want your career to go and what you want to achieve? So I think that’s also really important.
The other thing I would look for is footage. The first thing I’m going to ask you, if you send me your CV and you haven’t sent me a show reel or a singing reel or dance or whatever, I am going to ask you to send me that over. So you may as well send it with your first email, because then at least that person can be seen in full view. You can see everything that they have to offer and everything that they bring to the table.
But other than that, it’s kind of the obvious things I’ll always look at, where someone trained again, no reason, just out of interest, and what credits they’ve got, where have they worked, who have they worked with? Do they know anyone that I know so that I can ask them what they’re like, et cetera, et cetera? Yeah, that’s kind of what I’m looking for.
Amy: Brilliant. So, just talking about footage, because sometimes we get asked this, do you have a preferable minimum or maximum time for dance or footage, or like, singing, do you like to see two contrasting songs? Do you look for anything particular within that footage?
Danielle: I think that less is more. You don’t want to show four minutes of the same thing. I think with a dance reel, a minute to a minute and a half is plenty for someone to see if you can dance and what you can do. And
it’s really hard to be self-critical and brutal with yourself, but if you’ve shown a double pirouette to the right, you don’t need to then show it again. So you just need to show everything once and show it brilliantly
and don’t get attached to the narrative and whether it makes sense. It just needs to be the best section. So you might have learned a routine in its entirety and you might think, oh, I want to put the whole routine in, but actually you don’t need the whole routine because bits of it are shown in a different routine that you show later on. So it’s hard to be quite cut throat. And that’s why it’s always good, I think, to get someone else’s opinion, to watch it and show and pick the best bits. But it doesn’t need to make sense as a narrative, it just needs to show the best bits of you. And I definitely wouldn’t go over a minute and a half for a dance reel.
Singing wise, I think the same. There are lots of places you can go and they will make you like a three to four minute singing reel. I mean, that is absolutely fine and they are really great, some of them, but to be honest, most agents or casting directors are going to hit play and then they’re going to skip forward. So what you want is, you want every single moment on that self tape to be showing you off. So if there’s any weakness, it needs to be cut out because the chances are they’ll skip forward and they’ll hit the point that’s your weaker spot. And then they’ll go, no, and that’s not what you want. It just needs to be strong all the way through from start to finish.
Amy: Brilliant. I think that’s really great advice. And hopefully our listeners who are seeking representation can use some of that when they’re moving forward to write to different agents in our industry.
There can sometimes be a lot of rejection. I know sometimes clients can get recall after recall after recall and they invest a lot of time and energy into the addition process to make finals. And then unfortunately, they don’t actually book the job. As an agent, how do you help rebuild the confidence of a performer?
Danielle: God, it’s so tough. You have to be so resilient in our industry. To pick yourself up time and time again and get back in the room and believe in yourself, there’s, just nothing else is like it. No other industry would expect you to do that time and time again. And I think until you step back and realize how unusual it is, you’re so in it that you don’t even question it. But of course, it is hard. Of course there are times when you might feel broken, but at the end of the day, it’s the ultimate belief in yourself that’s going to pick you back up and get you back in that room. And if you are getting to finals all the time, you’re consistently getting recalls, you’re consistently delivering, and casting directors are calling you back in again and again and again.
Something will stick, at some point one of those jobs will be your job.
It just might not be your job yet. And I know that sounds awful, it’s probably not helpful at all, but it really is the truth. If you are getting to the end a lot, then at some point someone will book you in their show and you will be brilliant. And the chances are that you haven’t not booked it because you’re not good enough. You just haven’t fit that jigsaw. And I know that sounds cliche and I feel like that’s always the feedback. It just didn’t go their way or they didn’t fit into the jigsaw. But I just think that’s how it is. It literally is a jigsaw and sometimes you are not the right fit for that jigsaw.
But I think in terms of building confidence for clients that are in that situation, it’s all about, I think, listening to them, allowing them to talk to you and tell you how they’re feeling, and also checking in with them. In terms of when you went to that final, did you do 100%? Were you at the top of your game in that audition? Do you feel like you should have booked that job? If you did, then that is amazing. And at some point you will book the job. If you didn’t, then why didn’t you? And then let’s fix that. Have you not seen a singing teacher for a while. And did you not quite nail the song in the way that you should have? Or did you feel like you could have read through the script with someone before you went in for your final? Or did you not put that extra level on that dance performance that needs to be brought for that final audition?
All those kinds of things that can be unpicked if you actually sit and think about it, like, why isn’t it going my way? How can I get over that last hurdle? And sometimes it will take something like you just go, oh, you know what? I don’t care anymore. That’s it. I’m literally going for it. And then that’s the job that you book.
Amy: But I think sometimes in those situations that’s when you take the pressure off and just that little extra bit of anxiety disappears because you go in and you think, what have I got to lose? Let’s just go for it, actually. Let’s try and enjoy it. And sometimes then that joy and love performance really does shine through. But I think, like you said, if you’re making finals, the talent is there. It is just unfortunately, that piece of the jigsaw.
Danielle: Yeah, 100%. And I think sometimes as well, it’s really tricky when you’re going in for recasts of shows, because the jigsaw is actually already made and you might be replacing one person. There might only be one track available. There can be so many decisions for that one track and you just might not be right for it. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t change yourself. You can’t make yourself taller or smaller or sing higher or sing. You can’t do that. So you just have to accept what you are brilliant at and wait for that jigsaw to fit you in.
Amy: Brilliant. Thanks very much for that.
So, talking of pressure, just to finish off, we are going to play a quick game. I have to ask you. These are random questions and I want to see if you’re going to perform or crumble under the pressure of a quick fire around.
Okay, are you ready?
Amy: Okay, first question.
Danielle: Oh, my God, Cats. I’m saying Cats.
Amy: Favourite musical number?
Danielle: Oh, God. Tricky. So many. Probably 96,000 from In The Heights.
Amy: Oh, nice.
Do you prefer legit musicals or contemporary musicals?
Danielle: Contemporary every time. Even though I said Cats, it’s only because it’s the first musical I saw.
Amy: It’s the pressure!
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Danielle: Holding out for a Hero.
Because I sang that song for every audition.
Amy: What was your last impulse buy?
Danielle: I bought some beauty products last night from Superdrug that someone told me would make me look really young.
Amy: Love it.
Can you name three musicals beginning with the letter B?
Danielle: Beauty and the Beast. Erm, oh, this isn’t very good, is it?! Oh, Billy Elliot!
Amy: One more, quick.
Danielle: Oh, God. B. Is there one about basketballs? Bring It On!
Amy: Bring it On. Yes! We got it at the end.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Amy: Ah yes, sunshine.
And last question. Name the first word that comes to your mind.
Amy: Sleep. Love it.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
Danielle: You are so welcome.
Amy: It’s been a pleasure having you on our podcast.