Finding the right agent or manager is a full time job in itself. I think that one of the big mistakes actors tend to make is assuming they need an agent too soon. Not that an agent isn’t helpful, because they are… but before you get an agent you need to be great at auditioning, you need to be prepared to get to an audition within an hour at all times, you need to always be prepared, you need to be a team player, you need to be patient, and you need to be passionate and driven.
If your have GREAT headshots and the other stuff above then you are probably ready for a Commercial agent.
If you have a bunch of credits on IMDB, if you have a GREAT reel you are really proud of, and you have all the stuff above you are probably ready for a Theatrical agent.
Are there other kinds of agents? Talent agents might handle comedians, stage actors, musicians, magicians, dancers, etc. There are also agents that specialize in those areas only. Voice Over is generally in it’s own category as well.
Managers? Only you know when you are ready for a manager. A manager CAN take 10-20% of EVERYTHING you earn. They can take a percentage off of anything you act in – including background work, so, use common sense when signing any contract with representation. Currently no managers are union franchised. There is currently a push from managers to change this.
SAG-AFTRA has certain rules that all union franchised agencies must comply with which covers you against unfair agencies.
How do you find an agent? There are tons of scams out there (especially in LA & NYC). I speak from my experiences only in the Los Angeles & Atlanta markets (as I am currently represented in both).
Do some research. Pay for an IMDB pro account which allows you to look up actors and who represents them. Look at people that are getting similar roles to those that you want to play and who their representation is. Be realistic don’t think. “I want to play roles that Kate Winslet has… I want to look up who her agent is”. Kate Winslet’s agent will not meet with you… just yet. Look up the girl that played the crazy sister who’s brother was in the hospital on your favorite episode of Grey’s Anatomy… her agent might be attainable and you know that they are already sending their clients out on auditions for good projects that you respect. Once you have found your target representation go to their website and see if they have a way to submit your materials to them. Maybe they want you to send them a hard copy, there is a form on their website, possibly even an email address to send your links, headshot, and resume to. Do not just start blind mailing or emailing agents. It won’t get you very far to send unsolicited mail to everyone, most often you will just annoy them or it will get trashed. I also am a fan of targeting your top 5 choices an unconventional way by going to your favorite bakery and getting cookies or cupcakes and dropping them off with your press kit or marketing materials attached. Make sure if you try this method you get really delicious baked goods, make sure they are from a bakery – because homemade items from a stranger will probably be avoided at first. Attach your business card or postcard to the top and side of the box because if it’s placed open no one will know who it’s from. This plan isn’t fool proof – some people will not accept it (So you have to be cool with eating your own goods). You won’t always hear back. I however have had good results, and it feels good to do something nice for strangers either way. Follow ups… make sure every time you meet with representation you are interested in working with that you do follow up about 5 days later with an email and perhaps even a phone call the day after your email if you do not hear back.
Showcases, Workshops & Speed Rating. Showcases are expensive. Sometimes good people are invited to showcases and sometimes it’s a scam. Be ok with not getting anything out of a showcase and also be happy for just the experience of performing. I have heard great things and great success stories from showcases. I however have not had any good first hand experience. Remember showcases can cost $30-$300, and you don’t have control over who will show up. Even if your top 3 agencies are scheduled to be there… they may not be. Workshops are super similar to the results of showcases. Workshops typically involve 1 agent or manager though and cost generally $20-$85. Speed Rating… I tried this out and thought it would be a great experience to write about for my blog. Speed Rating is like speed dating but with agents and managers there is a bell and you get 2 minutes to talk to 30 agents one on one. The agents (or managers) have score cards and they critique you, your look, your personality, your headshot, your resume, and type you. This was my least favorite method I have ever used. The event cost $400 and I had a few leads to follow up on but all lead to dead ends. The agents never saw any of my work, and the reason I went was because my top choice of theatrical agent was there and I followed up with her only to get an automated email response that the agency had closed (a week after the event). The agent (the head of the agency) was paid to come to an event with actors that wanted to be represented by them – when they knew fully that the agency was disbanding. All I am saying about these 3 methods of seeking out representation is to do your research, talk to friends and people who have used these companies before.
TalentLink. TalentLink has been my favorite method thus far in the representation search. It’s a service provided by Breakdown Services / Actor’s Access and only cost around $30. If you have an actor’s access account with a resume, headshot, and clips of your work this is an awesome service. Twice a month (1st & 15th approximately) it is offered and they send out your profile to all representation registered with Breakdown Services that are looking for new talent. They can review your materials and if interested TalentLink contacts you and give you their information. You can check them out on IMDB pro & go to their website and if you want to meet with them you can contact them and set up an appointment. Your materials are only sent out 1 time but I did it once and got 6 responses while hanging out on the couch, and I know these people all had access to view my past work and skills, and are not getting paid to meet me.
People that contact you on Actors Access & LACasting. Do your research. Google search, IMDB pro, ask your friends. It doesn’t take much to find out info on Michael Zanuck. Not all agencies that contact you are scams but it’s easy to find out the ones that are. People that have bad experiences usually vent about it online.
Open Calls. Only a few agencies offer these regularly – In Los Angeles the first one that comes to mind is Daniel Hoff whose agency meets with talent every Friday afternoon. Other agencies compile your submissions then bring everyone in on one day and call this an open call. Do your research, these are great and free ways to meet with agents and to get a chance to perform for them either prepared material or cold reads.
Representation Meetings. I get so annoyed when I think about this process. I think this is so weird. We go to a meeting for 20-45 min with a complete stranger and we chit chat about goals and our past. It’s basically a first date without the meal or the wine. Then at the end of the date the other person decides whether or not you are compatible. Then you are generally so desperate (the first few times you do this you are generally desperate – after you’ve done once or twice you learn to turn people down) that you hand this person or team of persons your career and you say, “sure, take my entire career and control it”. Then that person is the one that runs your schedule and auditions… blah blah blah. It’s even more true with managers, “Take 10% of everything I earn for 3 years whether you are booking me the jobs or not”. Make sure you ask questions. Make sure you know the people you are going into business with. Make sure you feel like it will be a good fit. Because you may meet a good fit the next day and then you just signed a contract. We can’t know everything about our agents and we shouldn’t know everything. Just don’t be stupid or blind – trust your instincts and feelings.
The Perfect Pair. You love your agent they are the perfect fit and you feel warm and fuzzy about them. They send you on auditions that make sense, that you fit the breakdown for and therefore you book the jobs. Everything is awesome! Then one day, you call the agency to ask a question and the receptionist informs you that your agent is no longer there. What do you do? You should ask follow up questions. Why did they leave? Where have they gone? You may not get answers. Call or email your agent on their cell or personal account, or even on facebook or linkedin. If your contract is up you may have the opportunity to join your agent again or maybe you are happy staying where you are. This recently happened to me and I was lucky enough that my agent moved to a very prestigious agency and she got me a meeting and I liked the entire team as much as I liked her, to top it off they wanted me to sign with them. It won’t always happen that way. It never hurts to try.
This whole representation thing is frustrating I would venture to say every actor agrees on this. Finding the right team is the hardest thing to do in a major market and it will take a few times before you get it right. Just always strive to be at the top of your game and never stop creating and being proactive. Being talented and constantly working are the easiest ways to get the team to come to you.
Never feel desperate to sign a contract, think things through and read things carefully. If you have questions ask them. It’s ok to take a few days and if the agent or manager doesn’t respect that than they are probably not a very good choice for you. This is your career, handle it with the respect it deserves.
Do you have any advice, horror stories, or suggestions about finding the right representation? Add your thoughts by sharing and commenting below. By the way I’m currently looking for a Theatrical Agent in Los Angeles… again… any leads?