(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on April 28th, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)
You’re a great actor, ready to be the next Robert Downey Jr. or Natalie Portman, you just need someone to help get you in the door. You want an agent or manager? Keep reading…
First you’ll need listings.
Option one: If you go to the home page of the Sag website: www.sag.org. Look for the words “Guild Info.” in the center of the page towards the top. Scroll your mouse over Guild Info and then click on agency relations. On your left there will be an option, “Find an Agent”. You can scroll down, click on your state and find agents if any in your area. Sag does redesign their website from time to time so if you can’t find it shoot them an email.
Option two: For those in California. The working actors guide has a free listing of agents and gives a little more information than the sag website which doesn’t offer names of agents. http://www.workingactors.com/
Option three: For those in Los Angeles, New York or any area where they print reference books on agents. In L.A., for about twelve bucks you can buy a book called “The Agencies” which will give you names of agents, what they are looking for in terms of look, talent, skills, and whether they will consider non-union talent and so on. One caveat with this book is it tends to make mediocre agencies sound more impressive than they are. They also sell similar books with management information. You can buy these books at the Samuel French bookstore in Hollywood or the Valley or through the publisher, Acting World Books. Sam French website: http://www.samuelfrench.com Acting World # is 1.800.210.1197.
For the rest of the blog, I’m going to write as if you are in Los Angeles or plan to be here at some point. (Not cause I’m a snob, but this is the area I’m most familiar with.)
So you have your agent information the next step is to devise a strategy. You can do mass mailings, showcase for one or two agents in a workshop setting, showcase in a theater setting, network, get a referral from someone in the industry or by a friend represented by a particular agency.
MASS MAILINGS – Assuming you have a good professional 8 * 10 headshot (or three quarter body shot) by a professional photographer who regularly works with actors (In L.A. expect to pay around $250 to $500 for this) You can send out about fifty submissions a week. Unless you have major credits, you can eliminate the top agencies, and agencies that require strong industry referrals unless you have one.
As far as cover letters are concerned… I recommend a brief professional letter, no more than a few sentences and no need to be cute or funny (unless you’re sure its funny)… Keep it basic. If you have a referral, mention it right away. If you research the contact (agents and managers are on linkedin and facebook too!) and you find a useful nugget of information you can incorporate, great. But there is nothing wrong with short and sweet.
The most difficult time of year for a mass mailing to work is during “pilot season” or January to April/May. Agents are the busiest this time of year and their talent rosters are settled. Also Thanksgiving through the holidays is also challenging. So May to November is your best bet but don’t let that discourage from submitting at other times just temper your expectations for a response.
An alternative to mass mailing is to join IMDBpro. This is a website that has a free and a paid version. With pro you have to pay for it but it gives you a lot of contact information for agents, managers, stars, publicists, production companies and more. Further, with pro you may be able to contact some to all of the agents and managers on your list via email thus saving you time, money and trees as opposed to mailing. Here, I would post your resume into the body of the email and or I would provide a link to a site like now casting where you can have your pictures and resume already posted.
Some people are understandably paranoid about opening email attachments from strangers so by posting in the body of the email and giving a trusted link you help your odds of not being deleted before being seen. Last word on imdb is they often offer a free two-week trial, so you can use and cancel at least once without it costing you anything. See http://www.imdbpro.com You can surf free imdb @ http://www.imdb.com.
SHOWCASING IN A WORKSHOP SETTING – This is where you pay money and can perform in front of one to four agents. You give them your picture and resume and usually have the choice of doing a monologue, a prepared scene or cold reading a scene. Monologues aren’t advisable as Agents want to see how you work off another actor. If you’re going to do a prepared scene make sure you own it! The Agent will assume you have had all the time in the world to get it ready so it better be brilliant. When in doubt, even if you know it by heart, have the script in hand and pretend to do it as a cold read. The same performance will now be more impressive because the agent will not think you had as much time with the material.
If you believe you nailed your work, follow-up with a post card and if you are really comfortable with the agent perhaps a phone call. One reason (of many) an agent might pass on you is good agents generally do not represent more than a couple of people of the same look (Of course the exception here is female blond hair/ blue eyes, and a hot body, and no I am not kidding!). So if you do great work and aren’t picked up by the agent don’t sweat it, follow-up with postcards a few times a year. Needs change.
SHOWCASING IN A THEATER SETTING – Here, a group of actors rent out a theater and invite industry to see them perform scenes and monologues. The pros are, you’re not in a “classroom”, you are in a theater and it has a more professional feel. In addition to industry, if the theater is large enough, you can also have friends in the audience to be supportive (especially if you’re doing a comedy scene and can get lots of laughs). Many times these events are catered for continued networking after the scenes are done. The cons are, this can be more costly to you, and unless you and the other actors have good connections, it may be difficult to get industry to come to the event. You see Agents and Casting Directors get paid to go the workshop setting workshops, but generally do not for the theater.
NETWORKING AND REFERRALS – This is the most effective way to find an agent. Here are some of the ways you can network: acting classes, doing extra work, going to parties, getting a job where you’ll meet industry and other actors, and interning for a casting director. Interning, is a great idea in and of itself to see how the casting process happens for yourself. Running camera, being a reader, will make you a better actor and auditioner. You may also have a chance to talk to and get to know agents over the phone as you are booking casting sessions. You may also meet directors of projects during call back sessions. How do you do it? Buy a book on casting directors from Samuel French, call and ask around. Or check out the free listing of CD’s in the working actors guide.
If a friend is represented by a good agent ask them to submit your picture on your behalf. This is commonly done.
If you ever do well in a project of any kind, get a written referral while you’re still fresh on a person’s mind, and if you’re comfortable, ask if they know any agents and can recommend you. Try to find the line between being respectful but aggressive.
MANAGERS – The same rules apply to finding a manager as an agent, however they generally do not do as many workshops as agents, so mass mailings and through networking and contacts are the way to go here. F urther, be more careful with managers . They are not regulated by a union. A manager should never ask for more than 15% of your earnings (Agents get 10%) nor charge you a fee, or make you use certain photographers, etc.
Managers are supposed to give you more personal attention, and groom your career. In recent years, many have morphed into agents and submit you for work the way agents do.
CAUTION – Two of the things reps will use to screen you out: Except those that state they will accept non-union, is whether or not you are a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). And whether or not you have a reel of yourself performing. Briefly, the three ways to become SAG eligible are by getting a speaking part in a SAG project (which is hard to do if you’re not SAG). join a sister union, AFTRA or EQUITY, be a paid up member and a book a speaking role through them, and working three days an extra where you acquire three SAG vouchers.
As for putting together a reel. There is networking, casting notices on Backstage West, actors access, nowcasting, Craigslist, and so on. You should be submitting yourself as much as possible. However, if a casting notice looks sketchy or is in an unprofessional location or time, bring a friend or don’t go if that is what your instincts tells you.
HELPFUL LINKS – I may say more on the below in a future article, but for now…
For submitting yourself for indie projects/building your reel
https://www.nowcasting.com (you can also upload pictures & resume & create a free profile)
http://www.actorsaccess.com (you can also upload P & R and create a free profile)
http://backstage.com (also has good articles and other actor resources)
New episodes (where you can im in questions live) @ http://thestream.tv
CONTRACTS – As of this writing, the contract that a sag franchised agent may ask you to sign is standard and the same for all agents. In many instances, an agent will agree to work with you without a contract at first so you can both see how it goes. Managers can give you whatever contract they want, therefore you should have lawyer review it on your behalf. (There are managers that have formed associations in lieu of a “union” agreement and formed their own standard contract)Final note, it’s a business, agents are only going to take you on if they think they can make money from you right away. Talent is secondary to do they have confidence in their own ability to get you auditions and your ability to book parts. There is an old expression, “agents get ten percent and they do ten percent of the work…actors get ninety percent and do ninety percent of the work.”
Published by Jeff Schubert
Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…