I’ve met thousands of young actors over the years. One of the most commonly asked questions is “How do I get an agent?”
This is not the most important question! I know this might be tough to read, but hang in there with me…
The most important question is “Am I ready for an agent?”, and more specifically: “What type of agent am I ready for/ what type of agent do I need?” There’s an array of agents that cater to different needs. There are agents that deal strictly with Background Performers, agents that only represent actors commercially, to day-player roles all the way to guest stars and leads. There are boutique agencies and larger agencies that have multiple agents across multiple departments. Finding the right fit for you at any given time will be instrumental to your success. So, with this being said, first and foremost:
You've got to be realistic and honest with yourself. Ask yourself:
1/ If I were to look at my resume would I take a chance on me?
2/ Do I have a professional headshot and demo reel that clearly showcases how I might be cast in a current TV series/film while also showcasing my uniqueness?
Does my headshot/reel make me stand out from the crowd?
3/ Do I have legitimate training on my resume?
4/ Am I emotionally prepared? Do I have sufficient intel to make that decision? Will I be able to withstand the pressure and take the blows of more rejection than validation? It is one thing to get an agent it’s another thing to be ready for the audition.
Consider the following hypothetical:
Congratulations - you got an agent! Now what? Are you ready for that audition? If you’re not ready and your first professional audition exposes you as “not ready for primetime” that Casting Director may make a call to your new agent and say “Why the hell did you send me this actor? They weren't ready!” When you go out for an audition you are not just representing yourself, you are representing your agency as a whole. The credibility of that agency and that agent are being measured. There's a lot at stake when they put you up for that audition. Do you belong in that room? You may be good enough to belong in that room, but the nerves when you hit the mark may debilitate and cancel what talent and craft you have.
It’s therefore not just a case of being “good enough” to be in the room, but a case of can you handle it? I've seen a lot of actors who are good enough to be in the room but then crumple under the pressure. I’ve witnessed the vicious cycle of Casting giving negative feedback about an actor to their agent and that actor getting dropped, numerous times throughout my career. Think twice and then one more time: Be honest! Are you ready?
Ok, so you have examined yourselves carefully, consulted with friends and your coaches and it’s confirmed - You are ready! Here are your next steps:
HOW TO FIND AN AGENT
First and foremost, talk to friends who have agents. Ask around. Discuss this with other actors in your acting classes (remember you have to keep training). They may be willing to introduce you to their agent. Do your research! This may be the second most important decision you will make after answering the question “am I ready”?
Part of your research should include a look at the ACTRA website and the TAMAC website to make a list of the available agents.
ACTRA and TAMAC will have a list of the most reputable agencies in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal etc. This is a great list. (Note: not all reputable Agencies are signatories to the TAMAC charter)
Start exploring the different agencies websites & do a deeper dive on iMDB Pro to see if they fit your criteria. Things to look for in helping you make your decisions are as follows:
1/ What is their mandate and/or business model? Does it match my experience level and my goals?
2/ Who is on their roster and do they have anyone like me?
3/ Are they expanding or contracting?
4/ What is their submission policy?
Select a small sample of agencies that fit your criteria to email. In this email attach your headshot, resume and reel. Write a simple 2-to-3 line opening statement. Keep it simple. This is not the time or place to gush! Make sure each submission is tailored specifically to the agency you are reaching out too.
The process will often (although not necessarily) be a long one. There is a good chance you will receive an automatic response. This auto response will give you a clue as to the next steps. The email may simply state that they’re not taking on new clients at the moment. They may request more material or even send you sides that they want you to put on tape. They may request a meeting (at the moment it will likely be a virtual one.)
Congratulations you are almost there. You got the meeting!
DUH! IT’S A RELATIONSHIP! TREAT IT ACCORDINGLY
So, you got the meeting, and they appear to be interested in you. This doesn't mean you should be completely committed to them. No matter how desperate you feel, no matter how badly you want an agent, you have to remember you are interviewing each other. You have to see if they’re a good fit for you.
Like any first date, you kind of know whether it feels right or whether it doesn't very quickly. Do not let your desperation make you see something that is not there. How many of you have had a short romantic relationship where you see red flags early on but decide to ignore them. When you break up you finally admit to yourself, “damn, I knew this was a bad idea on the first date but I did it anyway.” Our need often blinds us to common sense and rationality.
Have your questions for this agent meeting written down. Prioritize them. They will respect that. Respect will start at first contact. It always starts from the first time you meet somebody under any condition. You can improve it or diminish it along the way. After that first encounter your integrity and dignity must remain intact. You are looking for an agent to represent you. In any relationship without respect there is no relationship. We can’t trick people into taking an interest in us or loving us. It is vitally important that you remember this.
There are few questions you should be asking a prospective agent and a few questions you should be asking yourself internally. Some of these questions are a repeat of what you were asking when you made your first selects.
1/ How many actors do you have on your roster?
2/ How many actors like me do you have on your roster?
3/ Do you have relationships with agents/ managers in other large markets (Vancouver, Toronto, NY or L.A.)?
4/ Are there any administrative costs upfront or yearly fees? (Hint: there should NEVER be)
5/ What is your plan or strategy for helping me get work. (Different agents have different business models. Some start you slow and groom you from commercials, actor roles, principal roles, etc. Others start you at the top and hit the ground running).
6/ How do you see me and what kind of roles do you plan on sending me up for?
7/ I’d love to discuss where we want to be 1 year and 5 years from now.
8/ What is the preferred means of communication: call, email, in person/ZOOM? Weekly? Monthly? Only when I book or if there’s a problem?
9/ Will you be my main contact or your assistant?
10/ Will I be getting feedback from you regarding my self-tapes or class work
Internal questions to ask yourself:
1/ If I don't get an audition in three to six months would I feel comfortable calling them to discuss it?
2/ If I was on set and things weren't going well, would I feel comfortable calling my agent and believe they would have my back?
In conclusion, I’ve tried to distill this process down into something that can be bite sized. I think the most important thing to remember, as emphasized heavily above is it comes down to relationships. It doesn't really matter whether this with an agent, an employer, a husband, a wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or a neighbour. It comes down to how you attend to the relationship. I would not treat a relationship with an agent any differently. The foundation of any relationship is founded on mutual respect and honesty. A relationship needs clear and mutually agreed upon avenues of communication with boundaries clearly set.
Be honest and true to yourself and be prepared to celebrate the consequences of being who you are or pay the price of pretending to be someone you’re not.