Updated: Sep 19, 2021
Okay so you might be thinking... Do I really need an agent to be an actor?
In a nutshell - yes... eventually. If you're serious about acting as a career, it is a good idea to sign with an agency. An agent is crucial for booking higher profile jobs, but if you have little to no experience and are just starting out, there is valuable learning to do before running into an agency expecting to be signed.
I actually want to start with a few ways to identify a scam agent or agency.
If anyone requires payment up front to represent you, turn the other direction, hide your wallet, and run! Agencies do not require any onboarding fee or accept money for your headshots/classes. They might make suggestions of photographers or local acting studios, but it is your job to pay for those yourself. Taking a large amount of commission (usually you'd start to question anything above 15%) is not something that legitimate agencies do. And if you find an agency located in an outlet shopping mall or hear a radio ad that says "you will be the next Disney star, guaranteed!"... probably best to avoid those too. If it seems like a scam, it most likely is.
Okay so, now that you know what NOT to look for, here's what you need to know about legit agents, how to get one, and what you should do before signing one.
Let's start with the basics:
What is a talent agent?
An agent is someone who represents actors and works on behalf of their clients to find jobs, auditions, and opportunities for them in the tv/film industry. This includes auditions for: commercial work, TV series, short films, feature films, voice over/animation work and more.
What is the value of an agent?
Not only do agents find acting gigs for clients they represent, but they provide industry insight that you may not have otherwise. Agents will submit their clients for auditions, negotiate contracts, follow up on callbacks, pitch actors to casting directors or other industry professionals and more.
It is so important to be represented by an agent with a good reputation in the industry, as they are advocating on the actors behalf. Signing with an agent that has good relationships with casting directors, studios, and other industry professionals is key for getting into an audition room.
How do I choose an agent?
It's 2021 - you can find everything on the internet! So doing a little social media and website creeping isn't judged ;) But for real - do your research. Start by putting together a list of highly recommended agencies in your city that offers the jobs you're interested in pursuing. For example, if you're interested in television and film work, make sure the agency you're submitting to isn't solely focused on commercial and voice over jobs.
After you've short listed a handful of agencies you're interested in meeting, it's in your best interest to do a quick imdbPRO scan to see the types of clients they already represent. Familiarize yourself with these agencies - ask your friends, talk to your acting coach or people in your acting classes (even if they're on zoom right now!) Finding a good fit and having a good relationship with your agent is key, so don't rush this research.
What do I need when submitting to an agent?
So, you know which agencies you're interested in, now you need to submit yourself. To do this, you'll want to include up-to-date headshots, a resume of any past or current projects, and a demo reel or link to your work which is always helpful to sell yourself! It will differ from agency to agency, but most will accept a direct email.
When thinking of your subject line, make sure you're clear about why you're writing them. If you were referred to them by an acting coach, casting director or one of their existing clients, be sure to add that in. It creates a personal connection and will increase your chances of getting a response. "Seeking Representation", or "Referred to you by" is clear and to the point.
Keep your email short and professional. Be personable and intentional toward each agent/agency - don't just copy and paste one email to another. Market yourself, but don't go into too much detail about how you played Mary in your middle school's Christmas play ten years ago... here's a couple of examples of how you can structure your email:
Hi (agents name), My name is ______ and I feel I would be a good fit for your agency. I'm looking for an agent who I would have room to grow with and who would like to help me build my film and television resume. I am open to commercial work as well. My current acting coach (coach's name here) suggested I reach out to you and confirmed how highly your agency is regarded. I also gathered from my research that you represent (respected actor from their roster) and (respected actor from their roster). I admire their careers and consider myself lucky to be able to reach out to their representation and have access to the same guidance you provide, as I work towards perusing my passion. I have attached to this email my resume, headshots and a link to my demo reel. (Here you can include any special skills you have that might make you stand out.) I sing, act and am a proficient gymnast. I'm currently training with _____ and am continuing my training with _____ and improving my singing with_____ this coming year. I would love to meet with you and discuss the possibility of working together. (If you're under 17 years old, think about adding that in too.) I am currently under 17 and my parents would love to meet you as well. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my email, I'm incredibly driven and excited to pursue this career path. Please let me know if there is anything further you need from me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Hi (agents name) My name is ______ and I am currently seeking representation. I have heard great things about (agency name), and have been thoroughly impressed with your experience in the industry while doing my research. I am currently taking weekly intensive on camera classes with (acting studio and coaches name)______, and just finished their method weekend intensive. I plan on continuing my learning with (coaches name). (Here, state some things that make you different as an actor. For example, you speak multiple languages). I am half Lebanese half Russian, and fluent in both Russian and Arabic. With my ambiguous appearance, I can play many different ethnicities on camera. I would love to meet with you to discuss the possibility of working together. I have attached 2 headshots, my resume, as well as a link to my demo reel. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my email, (agents name). I look forward to hearing from you.
Talent Agent Meeting:
If an agent is interested in signing you, they'll want to meet for an interview beforehand. Due to the current lockdown in hopes to stop the spread of COVID in Toronto, (and other areas in the world) this interview might happen on Zoom or Video Call before a safe in-person meet.
Come prepared. Expect to chat about the past work on your resume, your current training, your future career goals etc. Ultimately, an agent is looking for someone that is worth their time. Someone that is ready to book the roles sent to them. Nowadays, agents will rarely hire actors off of "potential". Some things agents will look for beyond raw talent, is that you've trained with reputable studios, worked on a set (even if it's a short film or student film) in the past, or you have the perfect look that will fill a hole in their current roster.
As tempting as it might be because you want to impress the agent in front of you, it will never serve you well to lie about your credentials, training, special skills or anything else that you think will make an agent want to sign you more. Remember it is so important to build a trusting relationship with your agent, and they can only work hard for you with all of the true information.
When I first sought out an agent, it was ten years ago and I was required to do an in-room monologue for my current agent. It's possible an agent will ask you to do this, but nowadays, it's more likely that if they're wanting to see more of your range, you'll be asked to put scenes on tape and send them in prior to your meeting. (Especially since in room auditions and meetings are on hold due to COVID right now.)
Questions to ask an agent:
While you're chatting with your potential agent, questions will arise during the interview, and it's important for you to come prepared with some of your own. Consider these questions below to prepare beforehand.
How many clients do you currently represent?
How many clients of my type do you currently represent? (age, gender, appearance etc.)
Who will be my point of contact in the office?
What are your commission rates?
How do you prefer your actors to communicate with you?
What type of projects do you typically send actors out for?
What kinds of auditions can I expect to receive?
These are important for you to know, as it helps decipher which agent might be the best fit for you. Remember, there isn't one thing that makes an agent right, but a combination of things that will fit both yours, and their needs best.
Now... you wait. And here's the hard but true reality: you won't always get a response. Agents are busy, and if something about your submission doesn't stand out as what they're currently looking for in their roster, your submission will come and go. Try not to take it personally. Take it as the first taste of the type of rejection you're about to experience this industry. Again, sad but true. Let's build up that thick skin of yours! ;) Don't get discouraged and check out some other agencies.
Fellow actor and friend Luke Bilyk and I talk more about agencies in the video below:
Good Luck! Comment below, or DM me on Instagram at @joellefarrow if you have any more questions :)