Do you have a talent agent? A manager? Both? Neither? As an actor, the people who represent you (even if it’s only you) are vitally important to your career. I wrote a piece a while back on the difference between agents and casting directors, so if you’re confused on that point, check out this post and then come back.
If you’re clear on the difference between an agent and a casting director, then let’s dig in! I think actors at all levels can benefit from representation by a talent agent. Even if you are non-union and just coming out of school, talent agents can help you to gain access to castings that you would not be aware of without their help. The important thing to remember is that nobody cares about your career as much as you do, so you can’t leave it all up to your agent to get you work. If an agent is interested in you, be sure to do your research. Try to talk to other actors who work with that agency and gage the reputation of the agency in the industry. Unfortunately, there are always a handful of shady companies out there and sometimes it is best not to be associated with them.
The thing I always get asked is: How do I get an agent? However, I think the better question is: How does an agent get me? At the end of the day, you either have something that the agent wants or you don’t. The real work is getting in front of the agent in the first place.
There are two basic ways to get in front of an agent:
1. The agent sees you in something: a play, movie, showcase, commercial.
2. You are reccomended to the agent by a trusted colleague: an assistant, a casting director, director, producer, or another actor who works with that agent.
That’s pretty much it. I hear stories of actors getting agents through mass mailings, but for the most part I think these are just stories. If you got an agent through a mass mailing, you are the exception and not the rule.
So now you’re wondering how to get the agent to come to your show, right? When you are in a show invite a targeted group of agents to come see it. Maybe they will come, maybe they won’t. Also, send individual invites to each agent and each assistant in the office: Send it once about 3 weeks before the show, then about a week before the show, and then when the show opens to (hopefully) positive reviews. Make it really simple for the agent to make a reservation, give her an email address to respond to and then make the reservation for her and then write her back with all the details. Don’t expect him to go through a ticketing service or call a phone number (but do give him the option of calling).
You need to hit the agents with the one-two punch. So, send postcard invites to your show, but also ask the director, casting director, and/or producer of the show to recommend you to some of their agent friends. The agent will be much more likely to attend your show if a trusted colleague asks him to come, and sometimes the recommendation is enough. Even if the agent can’t come see your show, she may still call you in for a meeting.
It’s important to remember that representation is a two-way street. You are working with each other and not for each other. The best agents work hard to get opportunities for their clients without being too pushy. They fight for the best deal but stop short of aggravating the casting director and creative team. There are actors I just don’t like to call because their agents are just too difficult. Other agents are always too busy so some of their up-and-coming actors don’t get enough attention. Many agents are working tirelessly for their clients, after all, your success is their success.
A word about managers: unlike talent agents, managers do not need to go through any kind of vetting process so be wary of a manager who is not established. I think it’s best to go agent first (to help you establish your career) and then manager (to help manage the career you now have). Others may advise differently, and it is up to you make up your mind because ultimately, the person who best represents you is you.