Know The Basics: Agents

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You’ve already got lots of balls to juggle (searching for auditions, working jobs on the side, attending theatre shows and networking events, managing your expenses, and trying to set career goals amongst all that). One way to share some of that responsibility is by hiring an agent. They just might be able to help you take some great strides in your career, while finding auditions for you.

What is an agent?

An agent is someone that is hired by an actor to help them find work. The agents have access to more auditions, even some that are not publicly posted. They support actors by advising them on what roles would be best suited for them, and assist with finding employment. The agent takes on the burden of time consuming emailing back and forth with producers, and ideally, takes the actors’s availability into consideration, being able to save the actor much time by not sending the actors to many auditions that would conflict with their other projects. Agents work on commission, which means they typically only get paid when the actors who they represent get hired for a paid opportunity.

Do I need a talent agent?

Short answer: yes.

As an actor your goal is to audition as many times as possible to ensure that your audition ROI is high enough to sustain you financially year round. Agents can provide you with more auditions, and do some of your outreach work to potential employers.

Having an agent for film and television acting is ESSENTIAL and it can be extremely beneficial for a theatre actor as well.

How do I get a good talent agent?
  1. Set your goals: Reflect on what you want to achieve as an actor, which part of the industry you would like to dive into (film, theatre, television, children’s theatre, voice acting, etc.). Each of these industries is very specific and building a career in one might sometimes interfere with another. Be specific and set some clear initial goals. Don’t forget to be realistic and consider your look, your training, your skills and your interests (ex: I have never taken a ballet class, and so I will not be seeking roles in a professional ballet company).
  2. Research: Do your homework and see which agents work within the segment of the industry that you would want to participate in. Check out who they work with, and also, make sure they don’t have someone else with similar looks and skills as you on their roster (the roster is the group of actors that an agent represents, and they are almost always posted publicly on the website of the agent). Speak to other actors you know, or reach out to actors who are represented by an agent you are interested in, to hear their throughs and experiences about working with that agent.
  3. Prepare your submission package: Agents will require to see some of your work before agreeing to represent you. During the research phase, make sure you find out what each agent requires for consideration (some require headshots, demo reels, resumes, voice demos, other full body photos, etc.). Once you know what you need, get to work preparing materials you need, ask friends for help, or hire professionals to assist you in preparing a perfect demo reel and taking professional headshots. 
  4. Submit: Once you have all these materials ready, prepare a cover letter, and prepare your submission package. It can be beneficial to invite agents to a live performance you are in (especially if you are seeking representation in the theatre industry) so that the agent can see you at your best; live and on stage. It is common courtesy to provide the agent with a complimentary ticket for them and a guest to attend the show, as a thank you for attending.
  5. Wait (sort of): Congratulations! You have sent in your materials for consideration. I would recommend following up a few days (no more than 1 week) after sending in your submission package, just to remind the agent, and/or their assistant, that you have applied and you are a serious candidate. 
  6. Results: This part is difficult to plan for, since each agency is slightly different. If you receive a no, don’t fret! There are many reasons that could have nothing to do with you for you not receiving a positive response. It could simply be that the agent is not taking on any new actors at this time. Do however think critically about your materials and make sure they did in fact represent you adequately, and in the best light. If you receive a yes, then the process of negotiations begin! You will most likely meet with the agent in person, maybe even be asked to prepare more scenes and materials for them to assess live, and then they may offer you a contract to engage them as your representation!
Characteristics of a good talent agent
  1. They pick up your calls
  2. They are interested in your work
  3. They are straightforward with you
  4. A good agent is exclusive
  5. A good agent is successful
They pick up your calls

A good agent is responsive, they are aware that you are a human being depending on them so they treat you with respect and kindness. This includes answering your calls and emails. If an agent if frequently unavailable to talk with you, consider changing to another agency. 

They are interested in your work

A good agent doesn’t just take on anyone on their roster, they believe in and care about the talent they represent. They want you to get hired, and to see you succeed. In order to achieve that, they are interested in your growth as an artist. A good agent will attend your performances and watch your work, comment on it and suggest what to do next to advance your career.

They are straightforward with you

A good agent doesn’t shy away from telling their client “the bad news”. This may include what “hit” they are or not, meaning what role they are appropriate for or not. For example: someone might want to play a love interest but they keep getting cast as a nerd. A good agent will have an honest discussion with their actors about how do they currently “read” that is how the producers see them and how they might be able to change that.

A good agent is exclusive

Good agents don’t have a large roster because they care about the artists they represent and don’t want to spread themselves too thin. Some exclusive talent agents will only accept new talent on invitation only.

A good agent is successful

Study the talent the agent represents. Read the rosters’s resumes and see where they work. If these are leading artists you see on film, commercials and in theatres, it speaks of the agents success.

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Some things to remember:

There is not one right way to plan your career, and not one right agent or agency that will unlock your success, in the end it always comes back to you, your drive, your talent and your dedication.

  1. The agent works for you. It might seem exciting to just simply ‘get an agent’, and you might want to jump on the first agent who shows interest in you. Remember that they represent you, so take time to make a calm and well through out decision about whether they are really the best fit for you, your skills and your goals, and that they have your best interest at heart.
  2. Agents should not require an up front fee to sign with them. There is very little regulation as to how agents work, but the current industry standard is that an agent is never paid unless you are making money. If you feel like an agent is a good fit, and they have a signing fee, or some other fee that is separate from the amount of income you earn, please ask them about it to understand if they truly have your best interest at heart. That being said, it is not necessarily a deal breaker if they do, simply something to note, and to take into consideration when deciding which agent to sign with. 
  3. You do not NEED to have an agent to work in theatre. Yes, they bring lots of value to your career and can definitely help you reach new career goals that might be harder to achieve on your own, however, especially when you are starting out, it might be difficult to get interest from agents if your professional experience is limited. While you build your resume, and start working on smaller projects to gain experience, remember that an agent would be taking a portion of your earnings, no matter how small they are.
  4. I believe that an agent is best suited when you have some professional experience, and you are earning income as an actor. This also means that you have more leverage and confidence when approaching agents, since you know that you can get work as a professional, and can bring value to them as well.

Your agent will only be setting you up with opportunities, you will still be the one who has to book them.

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