Talent Agent Caroline Raedeker-Freitas Runs the Top Agency in San Diego, and She Has Some Advice for Budding Actors: Turn Left at L.A. if You Want to Book More Work
When actors think about moving to Southern California to pursue their dreams, their thoughts naturally turn to visions of the iconic Hollywood sign, glamorous red-carpeted awards shows, and the Walk of Fame. What’s not often on their radar is a burgeoning market just down the road from L.A.
There, you can find a city close enough to be easily drivable for L.A. auditions, but also distinct enough that it’s considered a separate entity in its own right for non-union commercial, industrial, and print work, as well as theater: San Diego.
Most importantly for up-and-coming actors, San Diego is far less saturated with talent looking for their big break than its larger neighbor to the north.
That’s where Caroline Raedeker-Freitas comes in. Along with partner Carol Shamon she runs the successful and well-respected San Diego talent agency Shamon-Freitas, offering a leg up for actors seeking representation there. According to seemingly everyone you ask, including a Yelp account bubbling with praise and enthusiasm, the pair seem to have created something much bigger than a mere talent agency.
“It was our actors and models who started calling us the ‘Shamon-Freitas family,’” Raedeker-Freitas said via email. “We’ve been booking talent in San Diego for thirty years and [we’re] the city’s premiere talent agency. We have repped certain talent for 20-plus years.”
Indeed, in a business with a reputation for unscrupulousness and deceit, the Shamon-Freitas motif is a refreshing one. Since Shamon founded the agency 30 years ago and even since she brought on Raedeker-Freitas more recently, the company’s reputation has continued on an upward trajectory.
“I’d like to say the biggest misconception about agents is that they prey on the dreams of starry-eyed hopefuls, but frankly, there are agents who work like that,” she said. “Thankfully, though, this seems to be changing, and it’s certainly not how we operate.”
The stereotypical image of a grumpy Hollywood talent agent/power-broker chewing on a cigar while barking at his terrified talent in his cramped office is one that decidedly doesn’t fit in with Shamon-Freitas. Their office in the trendy North Park area of San Diego is a comfy converted house, a place where talent often stops by to say hi or just to “…cuddle with the office terrier rescue, Fern,” according to Raedeker-Freitas.
For her, the bottom line is that being a jerk is not a prerequisite for being a good agent. The success of current and former talent they’ve repped like Adam Lambert, Navid Negahban of “Homeland” fame and even Eva Longoria would seem to affirm the validity of that approach.
“One thing that I’d impress upon actors and other talent looking for representation is this: just because an agent is intimidating, bossy, or condescending doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get you more work. Like so many kinds of professional relationships, there can be a power imbalance between talent and talent agent. People should reasonably expect that the relationship they have with their agent is based upon mutual trust, honesty, and respect. Your agent should have your best interests in mind.”
As unconventional as the Shamon-Freitas approach to repping its actors may sound, Raedeker-Freitas’ personal trajectory to where she is today is perhaps equally outside the box.
“My path to becoming a talent agent was circuitous. I was a theater kid growing up, and my earliest professional fantasy was to be a casting director,” she said. “But my early adult life took a number of detours–retail management, non-profit work, grad school, and teaching–before I became a full-time agent at Shamon-Freitas. Now I feel I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
Her actors feel that way too. What she’s doing there is nurturing talent and getting her performers in front of the right casting directors to audition for the right roles. Plus, with all those years of experience, she has some key advice for actors.
“All the basic advice applies–get there early, bring a headshot and resume (yes, really–even if they don’t need it; it looks professional),” Raedeker-Freitas said. “Look like your headshot, nail the audition, leave, and forget about it.
“But,” she added, “the most common mistake we see is when an actor seems more invested in demonstrating their acting skills than occupying a role. Most often this is manifested in acting that’s too big. To inhabit a part rather than perform it [is key]–easier said than done, I know.”
And do keep in mind that building that sense of mutual respect and trust between agent and talent is a two-way street. Among the rudimentary mistakes Raedeker-Freitas sees actors making is violating the basic rules of social norms. Don’t be like this guy:
“One time an actor came in for an interview with my colleague, Frank,” she said. “Frank asked him to remove his chewing gum before performing a monologue. The guy obliged by taking it out with his fingers and sticking it on the corner of Frank’s desk.
“We didn’t sign him,” she added.
Another seemingly obvious no-no is venting on social media and calling out the people who are in a position to give you a job–and may be in that position again in the future.
“‘Oh God, you did NOT just do that’ was my internal and external monologue when I saw that one of my actors had written disparagingly about a client on Instagram. That’s one way to sabotage your career in a hurry!”
But assuming you aren’t into self-immolation and that you’re someone who understands how gum works, Raedeker-Freitas says the hardest hurdles for most actors to overcome are the ones in your own head.
“I’ve found that it’s better to presume you didn’t get a callback or book the job until you do,” she suggests. “And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Casting decisions are a strange alchemy unknowable to people who aren’t in the room making them.”