Getting an agent can be very hard or it can be very easy. Whether it’s hard or easy is due to different factors, some you can control and others you can’t. One factor you have no control over is The Roster. Agents often have a stable of actors that include different types that they send out for various auditions. If you happen to submit to an agency when the roster for your type is full, you probably won’t get signed – it’s the luck of the draw on this one. And it also works in reverse, if you happen to submit to an agency when they have an opening in their roster for your type, you have a good shot at getting a contract. Don’t bother trying to figure out if and when these slots open up though, you’ll just make yourself crazy. Alternatively, if you keep hounding an agency every week to find out if they have a slot, you may drive them crazy. Both of these scenarios will result in frustration and/or desperation – neither of which is attractive to an agent.
There are plenty of other factors that are out of your control when it comes to getting an agent, but I don’t want to waste any more time on them. After all, they are out of your control, so let’s talk about what you can control instead. Even with lots of uncontrollable factors in the mix, you can make getting an agent easier if you work on the things that you can control. That said, it takes work to get an agent. So while I can suggest a pathway for you to follow, you need to be the one who does the work – there is no magic pill that will get you representation. You need to be prepared, motivated, and persistent.
1. Make sure that you are ready
Don’t just walk into an agency’s open call and expect to get a signed contract. There are several things that you should do before you even attempt to get in touch with an agency. This is only the first step, but in my opinion, it is arguably the most important one. So, I’m going to spend the most time on it. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. You need to get good experience, have good headshots, a decent resume, know how a professional set works, and be a professional yourself before you can even attempt to start working professionally. I know, it seems bassackwards, but it’s not. If your goal is to get an agent and work professionally, you need to make yourself as attractive as possible to an agent. You can get experience in many ways – work on student and independent films, work in community and semi-professional theatres, work as an extra on a big studio production, etc. All of these jobs will help you to gain experience, hone your craft, and build your resume. Check out my post on Gaining Experience. You need to have good headshots, but don’t get new professional headshots just to attract an agent (unless you really need them). Reason being that once you do get signed with an agency, they may require you to get new headshots that will match the parameters that their agency sets for your type (and you don’t want to be out the cost for 2 new sets of headshots). Check out my post on Headshots. As far as a resume goes, you don’t need to have hundreds of credits, but having about 10 good ones will go a long way towards establishing that you have skills, that you know how to do the job, and that you are capable of booking in auditions – all things an agent is looking for. Check out my post on Resumes. As far as understanding how a set works and knowing how to be a professional goes – the only way to truly gain this knowledge and skill set is to take classes and then get out there and get working and observing how things are handled.
There are a few other things that you need to take into consideration in order to make sure you are ready to get an agent. Are you in a position to go to auditions whenever your agent calls you? Are you able to work during any hours for which you may be needed? Are you physically and mentally prepared to handle taking the huge leap into the professional realm of acting? Are you willing and ready to give up control of part of your career to another person – your agent? Have you thought about what you want your relationship with your agent to look like? Do you have a list of requirements that an agency must meet before you are willing to sign with them? Do you know what your work boundaries are – what you are or are not willing and able to do for a job? Are you ready and willing to give up all no pay or low pay work in the categories in which your agent represents you? Are you willing to sign an exclusive contract? Is your acting at a high enough level to compete in your market? There are tons of questions that you should be asking yourself and the ones listed above are important ones. I can’t stress enough that you should really be READY before you even contemplate looking for representation. You also need to know yourself, your type, and what marketing strategies work for you.
2. Find agencies that fit you
Ok, so assuming you have met all the above, asked yourself any necessary questions, and you are indeed ready for an agent, you now need to decide which agencies are right for you. You can do this by researching the agencies in your area. Check them out on the web, look at their stable of actors if available, ask all of your actor friends who have representation what their agents are like, ask directors and casting directors that you trust for advice. Finding the right agent is just as important as finding an agent. You need to make sure that they know how to represent and market your type. Find out what they specialize in. If they rep models and actors, but their focus is on modelling, they may not be right for you. If you are a gorgeous model-type actor, who is capable of doing print ads, then this type of agency may be great for you. You also need to determine if you are right for them. If you’re 5’1” and bald and an agency has a stable of 5’10” blondes, you aren’t going to be able to do much for them or them for you. Once you’ve narrowed down the list to only the agencies with which you could have a mutually beneficial arrangement, then and only then should you start a targeted marketing campaign for representation.
3. Get an appointment
This is sometimes easier said than done, but there are many ways you can go about contacting an agency. Some people will suggest that you do pay-to-play showcases, however, I never recommend going after an agent in this way. You should never have to pay anyone anything to get an agent. An agent should pay you. So use this method at your own risk. Some reputable acting classes will showcase their actors works-in-progress at the end of the class (for free – no one pays to attend – not the actors, not the agents) and will invite talent agencies to attend this showcase as a means of showing off their talent and helping them to find representation. The showcase will often be followed up by a mixer where you can meet and mingle with the agents and other actors on a personal level. This is the only time I advocate using a showcase to help you meet an agent. I don’t, however, recommend that you try to sell yourself to an agent at this type of function. Instead, use this as an opportunity to find out about the agent and get to know them a little bit. Start building a relationship with them, then maybe seek them out at a later date to talk about the possibility of representation. Consequently, this is how I met my agent for the first time. I was bold and open, but instead of talking about how badly I wanted representation, we talked about the craft of acting and our thoughts and opinions on various acting techniques, methods, and motivations. Eventually, when I felt ready to get an agent, I submitted myself through their website and attended their open call. I like to think that I made a positive impression in that first meeting at the showcase, because they sent me a contract to sign within a week of that open call.
Other methods that can be used to contact an agent are as follows: ask a friend to set up a meeting between you and their agent (only do this with a close friend whom you trust and believes in your work), submit yourself through their website or send a well-crafted email with all of your information, attend an open call to meet with and/or audition for the agency, and you can always send a snail mail marketing packet with all of your information and a well-written cover letter.
So there you have it. While actually getting an agent to sign you may be difficult, the process itself is really that simple. It just takes time, determination, and most importantly – Preparation. Preparation is the key and it is what will help you to stand out in the sea of actors who are begging to be seen.
Next Week: Mind Your Acting Manners