With so many agents to choose from, it’s wise to spend time on researching which ones to target. Of course, you’ll get ideas from teachers and friends, but you should also spend time looking at websites – unless you’re prepared to spend a small fortune on postage and other costs.
Note: A significant proportion of agencies require approach via the postal system. Some don’t have publicly available websites and, of those who have, some only provide limited information. Some very good ones don’t want their client list published for all to see. Such agencies are wary of other agencies knowing too much. So although a client list is useful it’s not the be-all and end-all.
Good and bad agencies
I suggest that a credible actors’ agency should have:
- a good range of clients – covering the age spectrum
• a credible male/female ratio of clients – across that age spectrum
• professional-quality photographs
• a reasonable client to individual agent ratio – I suggest around 40:1
I am suspicious of agencies that:
- offer other services – photos, showreels, workshops, etc. – especially if these are conditions of representation
• represent models and/or children and actors – generally, the work they broker is for photo-shoots and extra work
• ask for up-front fees of any kind – however small, even if‘refundable’ – apart from co-operative agencies
• list their clients by first name only – a convention usually used only by models’ and extras’ agencies;
• list clients on their websites whom they no longer represent. I think it reasonable to allow a week for removal of such an entry (you can check who an actor is currently being represented by via Spotlight’s website)
• have spelling mistakes and grammatical errors on their websites and other published material
• go over the top in promoting themselves
• are new and don’t give any kind of pedigree – i.e. background – to their owner(s). There are no formal training courses for agents. The good ones learn through working for other credible actors’ agencies.
After doing your research, you will still be left with quite a long list. If they don’t make it clear on their website, it can be a good idea to phone round (using your best telephone manner) to enquire whether they are taking on new clients at the moment. (You’ll probably get a lower response rate if you use email.) Be prepared to receive short shrift from some, as agents (and their assistants) get very fed up with such phone calls. However, you might strike lucky if an agent has lost a few clients recently, for instance.
Write to your target list; never email unless specifically requested as many will only accept postal submissions, let alone turn up unannounced on an agent’s doorstep. Send your CV and photograph and tell them when and where they can see your work. It doesn’t have to be a leading role; agents are not necessarily blinded by who had the most lines. A few agents will accept showreels, but check before you send one.
Don’t expect an agent to come to see you in a production if you’ve tried to invite them at the last minute. They are very busy people, out on business seeing clients in productions and so on almost every night of the week, and will be booked up well in advance.
Note: Many agents won’t take you on unless you are in Spotlight
– if you’re not it makes it much harder for them to market you.
Meeting an agent
If an agent invites you to come and see them, approach the interview in exactly the same way you would an interview with a casting director or director. Dress comfortably and well, and don’t be late. The major differences will be that (a) you almost certainly won’t have to do a speech or reading (but I have known agents ask for a speech, so be prepared), (b) you could be constantly interrupted by the phone and (c) you could find as much attention paid to a laptop, iPhone, iPad, etc. as to you.
When meeting a potential agent, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are hoping to be ‘represented’; you’re not suing for work. Ask how long they’ve been in operation (unless they’re obviously established), the fields of work they operate in, number of clients, rates of commission, their attitude to low-pay/no-pay work, and so on. In short, try to build an overall working picture of the agency and their professional clout.
Unless you are a well-established actor, an agent won’t take you on until they see you in a production. I know of several instances where agents have said they are interested in an individual but haven’t formally taken them on until the required showcase. This can take time, so be patient. And, of course, they have to like what they see before making the commitment.
Being invited to go and meet agents who have seen your work doesn’t mean that they are certain to take on. It often happens that they will say: ‘Not at the moment, but keep in touch.’ It could be they have someone very like you on their books, that one more person will just tip the agency into being too big to handle, or some other good reason that is finally not your fault. You just have to go along with this decision. Don’t get frustrated, and do ‘keep in touch’. If you are in this position, you can always consult them about the suitability of a particular job offer. You might also be able to ask them to negotiate an offer for you; they’ll normally take commission on it, even if you don’t finally get taken on.
: From An Actor’s Guide to Getting Work
, Fifth Edition, Methuen Drama (Bloomsbury)
By: Simone Dunmore