Acting Business: How to Get an Agent
Another part of the acting business — how to find an agent. This topic could be as complicated and lengthy as a whole book, or it can go down very simply and easily. Read below the advice we have on how to work with talent agent or agencies in this cruel acting business.
Acting Business: How to Get an Agent
If you’ve already entered the acting business then you probably know — finding an agent and getting him to sign you is not easy, not by any stretch of imagination. And that’s any kind of reputable agent, let alone the best acting agents in London that represent Colin Firth type of actors.
Acting Business: Finding an Agent
The thing is, agents get too many enquiries from actors to represent them every single day. Most of these requests are made by amateurish actors without proper resume, no credits, no training and a snapshot for a headshot. These are the types of people that believe an actor’s career is the easiest job in the world, and all you have to do is to get an agent, then you’ll be rich and famous. Not true.
Readers that have some common sense in them and entered the acting business for the love of the craft will do better after reading further.
First of all, remember to always target specific agents, and before you even do that, try to find out what other clients they represent. Learn what sort of area of acting business they are focused on what are they looking for. This will give a vague idea what are agency’s strong sides and where they come in short. You might also speculate on where they might have good connections that will be helpful to you or what casting directors/directors/producers they know very well and maintain a good relationship with.
Research and find all the agents in the city. Then, push them through the strainer — eliminate those who are not appropriate for you: representation for children, hosts, models, comedians and so forth (that is in case you’re not looking for such performance opportunities). Make sure that your agent is focused specifically on acting business. While the whole talent agency might have a wide range, one agent has to attend just one specific area. If not, it just screams “unprofessional — avoid.”
Always try to get some recommendations from fellow actors, friends and acting teachers (see our best drama schools in London and acting classes in London lists). Drama school tutors will always know some important people from the industry, but it’s up to them if they are going to share this information with you. When you finally picked an agent you really like, try to get your fellow actor that’s represented by that agent to recommend you. You’d be surprised how long these type of recommendations go.
At the end of the searching process, you will have a long list of names. Cities like London, Los Angeles and New York are full of talent agencies, and that’s why you have to be particularly careful: avoid scams or even just poor agencies that will not send you to any auditions and prevent you from signing up with another agent due to contract agreement.
Acting Business: Getting in Touch with an Agent
When you have your special list in place, prepare well. Make up the checklist based on what is advised below; try to think outside of the box and come up with additional ideas that haven’t been mentioned here. When you’re ready, here’s what you will need in short:
- Great and professional acting headshots (B&W + Color, theatrical and commercial)
- Professional and well structured acting resume/CV
- Some good credits on that CV (graduate student films, indie films, plays, commercials)
- Training! Drama school or acting classes (several), and point out if there’s any ongoing
- Equity membership
- Spotlight membership
- Own website (optional, but strongly recommended)
- Audition speeches prepared
That’s essentially it. For the actual meeting with your agent, we have a short article prepared — What You Need When Signing With an Agent.
Someone who’s been in the acting business for at least a year will have most of things on the list. If you’re completely new, it would be better for you to spend the first 6-12 months trying to cross things off that list (if you’re in drama school, do all of this then). Avoid reaching out to a good agent if you don’t have at least a somewhat strong resume and a headshot! It just means you’re not ready to go out and audition professionally yet.
Your Spotlight profile has to be completed well, with your headshots, showreel, credits and training. Your website — if you have one — should also contain your acting CV/resume, showreel and contacts. Make sure you’ve got some training and credits under your belt. By now you should have plenty of monologues and dialogues learnt that you could use as your audition speeches. Equity membership is absolutely essential.
When all is prepared and ready, you can start the mailing process. You can do it by either sending emails or actual mail, or both. The choice is yours.
When sending by post, print out plenty of headshots 10×8″, acting CV/resume copies and cover letters — all on A4 paper. Staple your headshot to a resume (that way they don’t get separated). Cover letter should be very brief and informative. Quickly recap what you’ve done up to this point, where is your next production or when your next film/TV show is airing. Send these three pieces in one envelope (go for a slightly more expensive one than 30p) and pray.
Do not listen to others advising you to vouch for your headshots to be returned; it’s redundant. Leave them with agents. If you’re lucky, and they didn’t toss your stuff right into the bin, they might accidentally come across your resume months later when looking to cast someone. You probably know by now that a lot of this acting business is based on luck.
Acting Business: The Agent Meeting
When you’ve been invited to meet with an agent, dress casual smart. Don’t be too formal or wearing an evening dress (suit is fine, but there’s no need for ties for men or business wear for women); just don’t be sloppy. Whether you’re going to have to do an audition speech depends on an agent. Some of them might ask you to, others won’t. Obviously, have prepared at least a few monologues — classical, modern and comedic are always best choices. Always start with your best one, or comedic if they are all equally good/bad.
During the meeting, the agent knows you’re nervous, so they will usually begin first. They’ll ask you questions and tell about themselves. Then it’s your turn: make sure to ask good and appropriate questions, those that honestly interest you and things that you should know about this agent and/or agency. Understand that it’s not a job interview, its you who’s hiring them. Ask them what sort of area they are specializing in, if it’s acting business only or not, what sort of clientele they represent, their point of view on your current situation and your plans.
If you get an offer from the agent right there — meaning they want to sign you — keep it together and ask for the copy of the contract to take with you, because you need to think about it. There are two reasons for not signing on the spot. First, you want to get response from other agents, unless this is the only one you got a meeting with or the only one you want to sign up with. Second, it’s always a good idea to get a lawyer/solicitor to look through your contact. You don’t want to be stuck with an agent that doesn’t get you any work for 5 years or give them more than you have to. Ask how much time you can take to think about the proposal.
ATTENTION: Keep in mind that no legitimate agent charges any upfront fees. As soon as you hear anything about you paying something, be it for the meeting, for the sing up, for the contract, for the photographs you have to take, for workshops you need to attend — run away! That is not how a professional agency operates, and it’s against union rules. This is an acting business, and there’s plenty of people trying to make some money off clueless and naive actors.
Acting Business: After You Sign
Here is one of the major mistakes a lot of actors in London, Los Angeles and New York — and all over the acting business — make. Signing with an agent is a major step in your acting career, and it will most likely help you in the long run. However, it might not have any impact at all and your big break is still as far away as it was before you put down a signature on that contract.
After you get an acting agent, the only thing that changes in your life is that you have to put their number in your phone and onto your resume as your representation. You also have to pay them 10% from every paid gig you booked. Remember that as soon as you start working with your agent and auditioning regularly, you should not be putting down your personal contacts onto your resume at all. Everything has to go through your agent; from now on that’s their job and that’s what they are there for in this acting business — to negotiate for you. Put their contacts instead at all times.
That’s about the only thing that has changed in your career after you signed. Now forget about it, and resume working as you had before — as a struggling actor in London. Continue searching for work, doing student films and indie films, looking for commercials opportunities, and applying for bigger projects. Always discuss with your agent beforehand what projects can you and should you do as they need to be aware of your schedule at all times.
Your acting business career becomes a two-man team, and you’re tackling this cruel entertainment industry from both sides. You are picking smaller projects that are available on the outside, and your agent is going into the depths of the ocean for bigger things. But again — do not stop looking for work on your own just because you have an agent!
Let your agent know your availability in advance, and update them if anything changes. Since they represent you,they have to know about you as much as you know about yourself. If you recently been in an accident and you now have a dark eye, they have to know about it. If you’re growing a beard, they have to know about it. If you cut your long beautiful hair short for some reason (try avoiding drastic changes to your looks unless advised by an agent), they have to know about it. Same goes for your survival jobs aside from acting.
Try and stay in touch with your agent. You might be working together for 5, 10 or maybe even 20 years, so begin developing this relationship. Talk on the phone rather than through emails, unless they are uncomfortable with that. Be on top of this thing on a regular basis (that doesn’t mean phoning every day asking what they are up to).
It’s also absolutely fine to develop a friendly relationship — a.k.a. a friendship — with an agent and hang out together if you’re both comfortable with it. This isn’t considered unprofessional in the acting business. Once a month or once every two months you might meet for lunch to discuss your progress and upcoming opportunities.
Acting Business: What Agents Get
This one is a very common question. As mentioned above, in the United Kingdom, your agent will usually get from 10% to 20% of your pay; it will be in the contract, so make sure you’re aware of this. The standard is 10% and rarely would anyone ask for more, but there are some that get 20% — whether they are worth it or not, it’s difficult to say. In the US, every agent gets 10%, period.
Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you got a gig on your own — your agent still gets the same cut. The reason being is that he/she is your agent and they negotiate for you and deal with all the crap for you. Every query about the project you’re working on goes through them first, which saves you the trouble of constantly being on the phone about any little thing. That’s their job and that’s what they are getting paid for it. Finding an acting job is only a part of it, there’s so much more, which only a professional agent can deal with. Don’t complain.
On the other hand, if your agent is never getting you any work and for the whole year you’ve been finding jobs on your own, it might be worth reconsidering your business together and probably leaving that particular acting agency. That does happen.
How you will be getting paid depends on your employer. Sometimes they will pay directly to you, and sometimes — to your agent. The standard in the acting business when you already have your feet wet is that only the agent gets paid, then they deduct their fee and pay the rest to you. If you got paid instead, you must send what you owe to your agent, that’s how this acting business works.
Acting Business: How to Get an Agent — Conclusion
There’s plenty more to talk about on the subject of acting agents but we’ll be covering every single topic in detail in our regular actors advice on the acting business column. If you have any questions regarding acting agents or the acting business, send them to us on [email protected]
We as actors are struggling and we’re always poor, but we have to understand that an agent’s job isn’t that much easier. It’s usually very difficult and stressful, and there’s a reason why a lot of them seem like they’ve just come from war in Afghanistan. A show about acting business called Entourage and the character Ari Gold is a great example of how busy an agent’s life might get.
If casting directors are the gates to the sweet side of the acting business and to your big break, then agents are the gate keepers — they are the ones who will get you in the room with CDs. Maintain a warm and professional relationship no matter how angry they sometimes make you, and it will work out better for both of you. Acting business is not an easy one to be in, but you don’t need us to tell you this.