Dallas talent agent Mary Collins, among the city’s most successful actor’s brokers with a million-dollar gross last year, says that if you think you might have what it takes, don’t call her and she won’t call you. And no, the two of you probably won’t be doing lunch, either.
Collins, unlike some less-reputable agents, won’t take a nickel from anybody, period, unless she actually lands them a part. But she is willing to give you her two cents worth for free, just hoping to cut down on some of the starry-eyed walk-in traffic in her office. Collins gets a lot of letters that go something like this: “Dear Miss Collins: My friends tell me I look just like Dustin Hoffman except for being a girl. So, I’m enclosing this kind of dark Polaroid my boyfriend took of me at Trader’s Village during the chili cookoff and I want you to get me in the movies.”
Collins didn’t achieve don’t-call-me status overnight. The twenty-nine-year-old Fort Worth native spent three years as casting director and broadcast producer for the Bloom Agency and served as director of broadcast at the Tanya Blair Agency and the Norton Agency before founding her own agency in 1984.
Kids, fashion models, convention hostesses, and extras need not apply. Ironically enough, though, Collins got her first job by using pretty much the same techniques her walk-in would-be stars use to no avail: as a wet-eared senior at SMU, she walked up to a public relations kingpin and said, “Please hire me.” It worked for Collins, but she stresses that such “discoveries” usually happen only in the movies. For those neophyte thespians who cannot be dissuaded from trying to crack an industry that offers a 10,000-to-l shot at success, Collins offers some advice: “Take classes from a legitimate school. Then get an agent, but start with one who doesn’t require much-or any-experience. There is a place for everybody-but do not go to any agent who has a charge for signing you, or one who says you have to get a lot of expensive photos and demos.”
What are the odds nowadays of a Lana Turner getting discovered at the soda counter? Slim, according to Collins. “I have never said to a waiter, ’Hey, I think you could be real successful, I think 1 can make you a star1 just based on the way he served the salad,” she says.