A snapshot with: Sandy Ani-Adjei, Lex Arthur Cob
Sandy Ani-Adjei was born in Ghana West Africa to Ghanaian parents in 1975. He trained in media entertainment with Charter House Productions Ltd (TV Production Company) run by his sister Theresa Ani-Adjei Ayoade as a Production Assistant for three years after which he migrated to the United Kingdom in 2000.
Sandy gained a degree in Credit Management with the University of West London and worked as a Credit Risk Analyst for a number of financial institutions for a few years, and then went back to his first love, media. He took up the professional name Alexander Arthur and went on to train as Screenwriter with the London Academy of Media Film and Television where he graduated with a Diploma in Screenwriting for Film and Television. After practising with a few screenplays, Sandy, also now known professionally as Alexander Arthur found that he had an interest in fictional character development, so he joined the Kingdom School of Arts to train as an actor to understand how actors brought characters to life. He graduated from Kingdom after a year’s training and continued his training with the Identity School of Acting in East London.
Whilst training, he gained his first representation by auditioning with David Stinson Agency after which he joined KSW Agency as well as Identity Agency Group Commercials (IAG) Commercials. Sandy went on to appear in Supporting roles in Feature, Shorts, Stage and Commercial projects.
With knowledge of Screenwriting, Acting and character development, Sandy set up Lex Arthur Cob Ltd, a Talent Management Agency in 2014.
Sandy now represents a diverse range of professional actors in London. His agency Lex Arthur Cob focuses on actors with foreign/regional accents and multilingual skills.
His actors have been cast in BBC, ITV, SKY and FOX Entertainment projects to mention a few, with a recent success being a Guest Starring recurring character role on US FX Series TYRANT.
Vincenzo} Hello Sandy. Thanks for taking part in my Vincenzo Photography BLOG a snapshot with Sandy Ani-Adjei talent agent @ Lex Arthur Cob
Sandy} Thank you.
Vincenzo} Being an agent must be a tough yet rewarding job ? Has the business changed much since you first became an agent?
Sandy} I think the entertainment industry is one that is continuously evolving, and there is certainly a growing interest in the arts, especially among the youth. Gone are the days when if you said you were an actor, people will ask… “How do you get into the industry?” Now, the industry has become more accessible, it is less challenging to get trained as an actor, and Producers/Directors are more open to casting diverse actors in their project. So from a business side, it changing for the better and there are more opportunities available than there was before.
Vincenzo} What do you love about being an agent at LEX?
S} When I decided to set up Lex Arthur Cob, I wanted to be different. I understood what it was like to be an actor, the struggle to make ends meet when you didn’t have work, the struggle to be recognised for your talent and the competition you faced in the industry. I wanted to represent a category of actors who were not being represented on a wider scale. As an actor, I realised how valuable it was to have an agent whom you could have a real relationship with, one who will teach you the ways of the industry, guide you and help with your growth and development. This is the type of agent I set out to become, and I love that very much. The process of scouting and developing raw talent and seeing them breakthrough the industry is priceless.
Vincenzo} Who is LEX?
S} Lol! Lex is the shortened version of Alexander, and that’s me I think lol!
Vincenzo} Is being an agent a tough job?
S} I think it really depends on how you look at it. A job’s a job, right? And just like any other, there are challenges. It is one that demands a huge amount of time, attention to detail, good management and leadership skills, excellent business acumen, effective communication skills, discipline and consistency. It can be difficult, but it can also be fun and it all depends on the individual and how s/he perceives it.
Vincenzo} How did LEX evolve?
S} Oh man lol! I can go into a whole lot of reasons, why’s etc. But to keep it simple, I’ve always been a proactive person and quite impatient and ambitious. Trust me, I am never satisfied, always hungry for more, actually, I think I treat food the same way too lol! On a more serious note, Lex Arthur Cob was born because I wanted to represent myself as an actor and find my own work. Then after I had managed to secure a few good auditions for myself, gained a number of Casting Director contacts and relationships, I realised that I could use that to help others, and so I opened the door for submissions.
Vincenzo} What is your daily agency routine. Describe a typical work day in your current position.
S} Well, the day begins with a strong coffee, definitely! The school run comes next and then I get to my desk. My phone begins to ring from about 0930hrs with audition invitations, availability checks, client communications, emails etc. I do a lot of driving meeting industry professionals for networking and other business related stuff. To be honest, the internet and technology have made working so much easier, and I wonder what it would’ve been like without them. Every day is different for me, and to be honest I have stopped anticipating what the next day is going to be like because it’s never the same. That’s what I love about this job because it is so unpredictable. One minute you’re being told your client is on heavy pencil and the next minute it’s not happening. So yeah, lots of adrenalin and the inability to predict a day is what makes it exciting.
Vincenzo} At what point did you decide you wanted to be an agent?
S} I had reached a point in my career where I felt that the only way forward was to take matters into my own hands. I had a sales background, good communication skills and an analytic mind. The fight to become independent from having to work as an employee in a corporation was one of the driving factors, however, I had chosen a path into creative arts, corporate life was behind me and I was left with two choices, get another agent, keep a flexible part-time job to be able to audition or become my own agent, run a company, represent others and fingers crossed, break the chains of corporate slavery forever lol! At least I know I speak for many who have found themselves in similar situations.
Vincenzo} What type of actors do you like to represent? And do you specialise?
S} Yes I do specialise. I am drawn to actors who are different in looks, ethnicity and culture but not limited to. All my actors are proficient in speaking in different regional or ethnic accents and or a foreign language. Being a native always helps with authenticity, but it’s what I am known for, at least for now.
Vincenzo} Some agents find it hard to get a client auditions in a film if their client tends to work in say West end musical theatre. Any tips on changing this.
S} I think musical theatre is a completely different creature to screen acting, but there are transferable skills which if nurtured properly can be adapted for screen. Skills in movement techniques, physical abilities and vocal abilities for musical films do have a market. Screen acting is more intimate and therefore as the saying always goes, little is always more, whereas theatre seems to be more expressive and emotive, but as long as the agent and the talent believe in each other and they invest time and effort in developing the actors’ talent for the screen, and creating the right showreels to market their skills, then I am sure it won’t be a problem. Especially if the said talent has the ability to draw a crowd, or perhaps has a following but not necessarily limited to.
Vincenzo} Should actors email casting directors or send it performance notices? Or is that best left to an agent?
S} Okay, this has always been a trick question but let’s give it a go. I remember when I first started the agency, I still had the fear of contacting casting directors directly so I called a knowledgeable friend and asked the question. He said… “No! Do not call the casting director, it’s suicide! Just use spotlight!” At that point, I hated the internet, but I also felt that I needed to make myself known to the casting director in order to pitch my client for the job, so as soon as I hung up, I called the casting director. We spoke tor ten minutes, shared jokes and I eventually got my client an audition. now would it have been wrong to do if I acted in capacity as an actor? Or would I have been treated differently? I don’t think so in my opinion. Actors should research casting directors and know what they expect of them. Nothing should stop an actor from contacting a casting director to invite them to a performance as long as the casting director is not harassed. One email and a follow-up phone call is enough. If the actor is represented, then the actor must have the confidence to discuss with their agent and let the agent send the invitation to the casting director. However, a proactive agent will not wait for their client to inform them to do so. Believe me, when I say this, the casting directors are always on the look out for talented actors for projects they cast and as long as the actor has followed protocol according to how the casting director expects to be contacted by actors, then all should be well.
Vincenzo} What’s the worst thing about being an agent?
S} Oh dear! Whatever it is I will hate to experience it. It’s hard as it is already considering the competition out there. I think I am yet to experience the dark side of being an agent lol! Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone lol!
Vincenzo} Before being an agent did you have any other interesting jobs?
S} Not sure whether to call it interesting or not, but sitting behind a computer for eight hours a day, five sometimes six days a week crunching numbers, forecasting and analysing accounts are not my ideal situation, but I appreciate someone has to do it, just not me in this lifetime I’m afraid lol! I’d say being on stage, working on films either in supporting roles or as the lead at some point in my acting career was fun, and I do miss that now.
Vincenzo} Theatrical agencies get lots of representation requests on a daily basis from actors. What is a good way to get your attention as the lead Talent agent at LEX?
S} The only way to grab my attention is by following the brief for submission on my website. I have received some pretty badly written emails and those emails never got my attention. I am in the business of selling talent, and this means that whoever is looking for representation must then sell themselves to me. I want to know why I should represent them, what it is about them that makes them special, what it is about me and my agency that attracts them and at least have a feel of what I stand to lose if I don’t represent them, that’s all. So a good covering letter, link to cv/spotlight profile, a decently cut showreel, professional and headshots. The covering letter must include all unique selling points and their cv must show that they satisfy the criteria set out in the skills sections, i.e. Language and Accents (Regional or Ethnic).
Vincenzo} Should actors avoid sending emails for representation to your office? Is this a real way of not getting seen? Would you prefer a hard copy headshots and demo reel?
S} I seem to have bought into the “Let’s preserve the world” theory, so I always welcome applications by email. I do not reject applications by post, but emails are preferred.
Vincenzo} What is that you look for in an actor’s headshot and CV and demo reel?
S} There are two things that I am interested in to start with, Headshots and Showreels. If I don’t get past your headshots then I will not go to the showreel. So clear and professionally taken headshots are a must, I cannot stress how important that is. A headshot must show the actor as a blank slate. It must show character, a bit of attitude, a glimpse of shoulders to have an idea of frame, no sunglasses (believe me I have had those), no stylish model shots (unless applying for a model agency I think), no makeup or very light makeup if possible, and they must be no longer than three to six months old. The showreel is the next important thing. Now I do not spend more than thirty seconds on a showreel at first glance once I have gone past the headshot. Avoid long montages, they are unnecessary and take up too much time. Cut to the chase, show me what you can do. I like to see short, sweet scenes of you in action, that is all. I have seen showreels that begin after one full minute of montages and intros etc. Believe me, I will be long gone and your application will be deleted without hesitation. Look at it this way, if you have a strong talent, then there is no nee to entice me with a stylish montage. If your reel keeps me beyond thirty seconds, then there is the likelihood that I will be responding. The CV must be well organised with credits to show the year of production, characters played, title of production and the director in order of most recent credit. They must be divided into the various categories (Feature Film, Television etc.), clearly written skills and performance abilities and training. Most actors send me a link to their spotlight page which is perfect and acceptable, but if not on spotlight then the above should apply.
Vincenzo} In terms of actors headshots, we are getting closer to using more colour. Some agent like love colour and some don’t! Do you think colour photographs are a distraction and should actors applying for representation to your office stick to black and white?
S} I think the style of headshots is evolving and yes I prefer colour. I do because It gives a better representation of the actors skin pigment. I think that is important because the casting directors are able to make quick judgement calls on whether the actor has the right skin tone or not. I see nothing wrong with black and white, but I also don’t think it serves it’s purpose. So I do not think coloured photos are a distraction, actors must always send me coloured photos as they are preferred.
Vincenzo} Has The Spotlight link made your job easier and why?
S} Hmm… I am a bit old school, to be honest. I tend to communicate with most casting directors over the phone and by email frequently, so I do not always use spotlight unless there are clear instructions by specific casting directors who may want to keep phone calls to a minimum. It really does take away the joy of human communication (which I enjoy) when that happens, but I get it. The advancement of technology and the internet has made life so much better. This makes it easier for casting directors to share casting briefs to the agents they work with as well as the actors much faster on their links. You can’t have everything you want in this world, there are always sacrifices to make. So yes, it’s made my work easier as I have access to exclusive casting opportunities for my clients. It also reduces communication costs of agents having to chase the castings directly with the casting directors. It is a positive thing but it has its disadvantages.
Vincenzo} Some actors use cast call pro only as a way of getting work. Surely they Should be in Spotlight first?
S} Lex Arthur Cob is listed in Casting Call Pro, but I hardly ever use it. I do not think Casting Call Pro is as user-friendly as Spotlight. Most of the serious and well-paid work is advertised through Spotlight but there certainly is no harm in having a CCP profile either. If an actor takes their career seriously and wants to be considered for serious work, then they should strive to register on Spotlight. I have not seen a major US Series advertised on CCP yet, maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think it’s happened yet. I think casting directors are more confident when an agent pitches a potential talent to them for large projects than when the talent pitches themselves, and therefore as opposed to CCP, the agent is there to do so through spotlight rather than CCP which takes the casting directly to the actors more than it does with Spotlight. It all comes down to choice, what works and what doesn’t.
Vincenzo} Should an actor worry about feedback comments from every audition? Is that something that you seek out from the casting director?
S} Most casting directors I work with give me feedback on my actors who have auditioned with them before, and I do enquire sometimes when necessary. It is good for an actor to ask his agent for feedback from a casting director, it shows that the actor is hungry to develop. Every audition will be too much considering the number of clients I will have to manage, but If the audition was a big one then I won’t wait to be asked for feedback, I’ll do it myself lol!
Vincenzo} Are there any helpful hints and advice that you can give out to our actors about representation interviews for LEX? What can students expect for example?
S} Oh I am a very easy going person. My interviews are usually held in casual environments. I talk a lot, love a good laugh and always make sure the actors are relaxed. I prefer actors to be themselves because that is what I am looking for. When an actor takes on a character, they pretend to play the characters objectives truthfully under imaginary given circumstances, but the key ingredient that makes each actor and their performance unique is the actors unique personality, and therefore I like to see that personality in order to gauge the actors casting type and marketability. So my advice is to strip yourself of all ego and just present yourself as you are, a blank slate ready to explore.
Vincenzo} Ongoing training is an important part of an actor’s life. Do you have any course that you think will help even the seasons pros?
S} Training and development is a huge part of Lex Arthur Cob. All my actors are encouraged to train and attend workshops regularly. I tend to arrange workshops for my clients with casting directors, and I also have an in-house coach who coaches LAC clients on a weekly ongoing basis. These services are only exclusive to LAC Clients. However, LAC is about to launch an initiative for new and upcoming actors looking for representation. It is designed to train, develop and launch the careers of potentially talented actors. The initiative is running in stealth as a pilot and will soon be advertised publicly.
Vincenzo} How do you feel about actors submitting themselves for acting projects?
S} If this question relates to my clients, then I will say that I do not allow it. However, if the actor is not represented, then they should treat a submission for work as they would an application for representation. They must sell themselves to the CD and show that they are needed for the character to come alive.
Vincenzo} Actors change agents all the time. (for many different and obvious reasons). What are the top questions an actor should ask a potential agent before making a decision to change agents?
S} I think an agent/client relationship is like a marriage. You have to click and there must be chemistry. The agent must love you in order to sell you passionately, and vice versa. Such a relationship is not born of technical Q’s and A’s. Technical Q’s should be left to the contract and the T’c and C’s of representation. It is only born with an understanding of partnership and what it demands. Every agent knows what they are looking for, and vice versa. So when the two find themselves sitting opposite each other, the only question to be asked is whether they fit together as a team or not. The rest is history. I have always said this to my clients that when that moment happens, my heart skips a beat. That’s when I know I have found my client. If your relationship with your agent is not working, then there is a problem. You need to make that choice on your own. Q’s and A’s do not define partnerships, but relationships do. Find the relationship that works for you.