The most common question I get from actors is “How do I get an agent”? I am always perplexed by this because in all honesty, the question should be “How do I find the right agent for me?”
Listen, getting an agent is not actually that hard. If you have the training and solid materials (headshot, resume and reel) than submitting to agents should be piece of cake. Submitting is the easy part. But this is also where I see so many actors make the biggest mistake. They submit to ONE agency. Why?? Most people don’t just buy one lottery ticket or just one try on one pair of shoes! So why submit to just one agency! Haven’t we all been taught NOT to put all your eggs in one basket? I get it, it may be the one you want, the agency that you’ve been dreaming about being with for so long. But you must be smart and realistic. WHAT?? An actor who is realistic?? (I hear some laughter). But yes, it’s time to start looking at this as your career and start making the best decisions for your business. What happens if the one you submit to responds and wants to interview you and at the interview you discover that you don’t see eye to eye. You sign anyway? Yep, it happens all the time. And then that leads to YOU turning bitter and unsatisfied because you don’t like the way that agent handles things. Do not miss this next part!!! YOU NEED TO INTERVIEW THEM AS MUCH AS THEY ARE INTERVIEWING YOU! I know, mind blown! But this is so imperative. It is a partnership, a relationship. And, you know as well as I do, that a relationship does not work if both parties are not fully invested. So, the following is my best advice about agents.
First, submit to FIVE! Yes, at least five at the same time. Research these agents. Look up their website and see who else they represent. Look at their roster and see how many of your type they already have on their roster. If they already have ten of you, the chances are they will not want to add more of you, so move on. Google them and see if they have had any negative reviews. And, here is the biggest red flag; are they charging you anything upfront? RUN!!! Agents only make money when you make money! Period! Now, there will be a few that may charge you to be on their website, but they will almost always take it out of your first gig you book with them, and it isn’t much. But if they want a big sum upfront to sign you, they are NOT LEGIT. And the best research you can do is to ask other actors about their agent! Do they love them? Do you they recommend? Do they speak highly of them? And most of all, do their actors work?
Once you have it narrowed down to the five (or six or seven) that you like, then start submitting. Side notes here; please, please, please, go the their website first and read the instructions on how to submit. Do not be a lazy actor! Follow the instructions exactly! Some agencies let you submit electronically and some still want you to mail your materials to them. Do what they require. Not following instructions is the fastest way to get ignored.
Now the fun part! Two of the agencies call you in for an interview, YAY! Before making any decisions, meet with them both. EVEN IF THE FIRST ONE WANTS TO SIGN YOU. Be patient and do your due diligence. The second agency may be everything you ever dreamed of, but you will never know if you sign on the first interview. So, relax, wait and go to both interviews.
Now, the interview! The main thing here is to figure out all the things you really want in an agent before you go. Write down a list of questions so your prepared when you get there. Ask yourself what’s important to you? I would think most of us want to be with an agent that truly believes in us, right? So, if you are getting a “vibe” that doesn’t feel right to you, then it may not be the agent for you. Now listen closely, this does not mean they are not a great agency! It just means that maybe you have completely different personalities or different ideas of how to communicate and that is okay, just move on. I know you’re wondering what some good questions are to ask. Well, I’m glad you asked. Below are some questions I believe to be VERY important.
- What is your policy on turning down auditions? Some agencies will only let you turn down a few before they drop you. If you have other jobs, this may be troublesome for you. But please note, most agencies are not going to tolerate it if you turn down every other audition.
- How much of a percentage do you take? This is a big one! Agencies should take 10% of your film/TV bookings, 15% on commercial bookings and 20% of print work. This can vary a tiny bit but if an agency says they take 20% across the board, you may want to ask why. Again, do your research!
- When do I get paid? Many agencies will pay you as soon as they receive the check from production. It may take up to 30 days or sometimes 60 days. It all depends on when the production pays them. However, there are some that may only do payroll once a month so it may take longer. I have even had an agency wait 90 days, even if they got paid sooner. They all have their policies so just ask and make sure it is something you can get on board with.
- How do you decide what to submit me for? This may seem like a dumb question but think about it. I had an agency years ago that did not submit me for anything blindly. They would send me the breakdown and ask if I wanted to be submitted first. Most agents, however, will submit you for anything that fits your type. Which leads to the next question…
- What types do you see me as? Again, sounds ridiculous but if your agent sees you as a mom/dad type and you see yourself as a bad ass motorcycle riding hippie, there’s a disconnect somewhere and you need to talk about it. Agents are smart, and they typically know what kind of roles you will be called in for. If you have the right agent for you, then TRUST them! They have been doing this quite a while.
- What if I do not book anything in the first 6 months or year? This is important because there are some agencies that will drop you if you do not book within the first 6 month to a year. Why? Because if they are sending you out and you repeatedly do not book anything in a year, well, they cannot make money off of you. Listen, this is a BUSINESS first and foremost. And if you are not making them money, they are going to replace you on their roster with someone who will. But do not stress, some agencies will work with you if they believe in you and give you some lead way.
You get the idea. Above all, be professional and kind. Show up on time for EVERYTHING and do your part. Keep your materials up to date, keep training, keep a good attitude and stay positive. If you do not get an agent the first time you submit, do not stress. Maybe you are not ready. Maybe you need to get some more things on your resume. Ask what you can do to improve and they will tell you. Do what they suggest and come back in six months and try again. Stay persistent!!! Do the work and the right agent will snag you up!!!