If you're just starting out in the hectic world of showbiz, chances are you've begun to wonder how to get an agent. Finding an agent — specifically a talent agent, not the real estate kind — can be tricky, but it’s not impossible.
Agents are often considered to be an actor’s personal cheerleader who’s also “in the know.” These highly coveted beings, considered the Holy Grail in the entertainment industry, usually help actors to find work they wouldn’t normally find on their own. The difference between an agent and a manager is that an agent is employed by a talent agency. The talent agency is usually licensed by the state and, on occasion, franchised by the union.
Managers, on the other hand, don’t have to be employed by a management company and therefore act as more of an independent agent. That said, independent agent or not, they still aren’t authorized to schedule auditions or negotiate contracts. Many people believe having a certain look or booking a television project will automatically land them representation with an agency. The truth is, there’s no blueprint to finding an agent. It’s also important to know that securing a talent agent doesn’t automatically mean you will book acting work. Good agents are very helpful with getting actors face time with a casting director, but unsigned talent can also secure their own meeting with these high-profile execs. Below are some tools that will help guide you in the direction of getting an agent.
Do your research.
First, reflect on your own personal ambitions and talents. What do you have to bring to the table besides a great headshot? Based on your work so far, are you ready for representation? Are you a union member? Ask yourself these questions and figure out what kind of agent you need at this stage in your career. There are agents who specialize in commercials, those who specialize in voice-overs, and then there are agents who specialize in film. There are agents that represent a slew of established talent, and there are agents who have much smaller rosters. Try to determine if the agent you’re considering working with has a genuine interest in their clients’ careers; some unfortunately don’t have a care in the world. Do your research to see who in the industry is well reviewed, and write down a list of agents that you have an interest in working with. Then, begin to contact those agents. It also helps to ask your fellow acting colleagues if they can put you in touch with an agent, especially those who already have an agent or have worked with multiple agents.
Once you have your list of agents that you’re interested in working with, send out your headshot, resume, cover letter and reels (if applicable). The goal is to get the attention of agents and secure an in-person meeting with an agency. Always be sure to have the correct spelling of the agent’s name and the correct address and email address. About a week or so after sending out your package, contact each agency to follow up with them. Remember, talent agencies receive tons of emails and regular mail daily. If you don’t hear back from an agency you sent your package to, consider revamping your resume and possibly re-doing your headshots. If you do hear back from an agency interested in meeting with you, be prepared to read a monologue. You may not have to perform at all, but always be prepared.
It also helps that in this day and age, with technology, there’s a variety of platforms for actors to promote their work. Social media is a great way for actors to get their latest projects out there and to make it known that they are seeking agent representation. You never know who’s reading and/or watching your posts! Twitter, Facebook and even Instagram are ways to engage with agents and possibly build a relationship in a way that could lead to a meeting. Be very careful with approaching agents on social media, though. Some agents may feel that social media is not the place to contact them, and you also don’t want to come across as being stalkerish or too desperate for representation.
Also know that if you do secure an agent, the work has just begun. Many actors figure once they’ve secured an agent, they can take a sigh of relief and listen out for the agent’s phone call. It doesn’t work that way. Remember, the agent wants to know that you will help them to make money, too. They want to know that you will get booked and make them look good. Thus, it’s essential to always market yourself and always be professional.
Network, network, network.
Networking is key in the entertainment industry, as it certainly helps to go to events and other places where agents and managers tend to be. Agents often attend showcases and go to movie premieres to network as well. Support your actor friend by attending their show or opening night of their film. You never know who you’ll meet or run into. Don’t be shy about asking your classmate for a referral if you know they already have an agent. Agents tend to be more receptive when there’s a recommendation from one of their clients. It always helps to know a friend of a friend, and keeping a copy of your headshot and resume on you at all times should be routine. Hey, this acting thing is not a game! It’s definitely a hustle.
Always be working.
The best thing for an actor to do is to always be working. In the entertainment industry, people want to see what you’re doing and they want to see what you’re doing now. Similar to other industries, reputation goes a long way. If you work hard, word will eventually get out that you’re serious about your craft. Many agents and managers attend film screenings, go to plays, and watch video clips that are recommended to them. Show them what you’ve got! Act in plays, web series, and independent film projects, and try to get your work out there to as many people as possible. Of course, the quality of your work matters. Don’t take on just any old project to throw on your resume. However, consistent work is good and shows that you’re passionate and determined. Agents like to see consistent work. It shows that you’re in demand, which could mean more money for the agent. And agents do, of course, enjoy the bragging rights of being the first to discover an unknown actor and guiding them to fame.
Of course, there are plenty of other kinds of agents representing different talents out there, too — like literary agents and literary agents who represent writers, travel agents, and football player agents, to name a few common examples. But when it comes to breaking into showbiz as an actor, nothing besides your own talent and perserverance can get your further than a well-connected agent.
Leesa is a writer and blogger who loves to travel. She currently spends her time between New York and Florida. See more of her writing at leesadavis.com.
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