So you know what you DON’T want, but what DO you want?
You want a representative who has great relationships with casting professionals and who has a positive reputation in the industry. You can research agents and managers on IMDB Pro (which you should have a membership to anyway so that you can have a complete profile on IMDB). Look at who is on their roster: do they have anyone like you? Are their clients working? How many clients do they have?
If you have an agent do you need a manager?
That depends. If your agent is getting you out, you may still want a manager if you can find the kind of manager who will really add something to your team–someone who is doing MORE than just submitting, who is getting you general meetings with casting, who is helping you mold your brand, who is looking for projects for you. If you are meeting with a manager you want to be sure and ask them about this also, how do they work? How are they different from an agent? Do they know your agent already?
If you already have a manager, do you need an agent?
Possibly, it depends on the manager, again. Many managers work the same way agents do these days. If you have a manager like the one described above, yes, you do want an agent so that your manager can focus on these other developmental aspects of your career. And if you are just starting out, non-union, very young, and are what is called a “developmental” actor, then the manager can help by setting up meetings with agents as well.
If you do a mailing to agents or managers.
Do your research first so you are not submitting blindly. Submit to agents that work with actors in your age range and whose actors are working. Mail to 3 at a time. The cover letter should be short and sweet, it is not likely to be read unless they really like the headshot, and even then it may not get read. What matters is the headshot and resume. Follow up by email after 3 days. If a number is listed, call after 5 days DURING OFF HOURS when you know you can just leave a message. 7 days after your first mailing, drop off another copy of the headshot and resume with a sticky note: “seeking reps” for the SPECIFIC agent you are targeting. After 7 days, move on to the next 3 until you have meetings set up.
If you do a showcase with agents or managers.
You must first of all be prepared to keep the contact information they provide. Don’t expect to be able to look it up later. Although if you find yourself in a bind most agent and manager emails are listed on IMDB Pro. They may give a private email in the workshop and the facility is most likely not permitted to repeat that information.
If they ask to see a reel, send them a link (NOT an attachment) to the email address they have given. Most prefer this method. And most prefer an email to a phone call.
If they specified another method to follow up with them, follow their instructions.
If they say “keep in touch” for possible future representation, follow up within 2-3 days with a postcard and/or email. Keep it brief. Just a reminder of who you are and that you are interested in meeting with them, and that you are following up “AS PER YOUR REQUEST.” Most reputable workshop companies will be doing these showcases in May and November when agents are looking. Then in the following weeks, agents and managers are updating their roster and weeding out actors they no longer want to represent which leaves room for new ones. Do continue to stay on their radar!
If they say they would like to meet with you, follow up right away, in the fashion they indicated in the showcase. Always keep communications brief, positive, and professional.
I will say, I myself did 6 of these when I was looking for an agent about 10 years ago. At the time I had 1 co-star on my resume. I was 35 but I still looked late 20’s. I play white-collar professionals, moms, basically, I’m cut out for a series regular in a 1 hr. drama. I’m not a bombshell a la Pamela Anderson, but I’m not a character actor either. And I’m brunette. So there’s a lot of me. That means it’s not going to be so easy to get me auditions.
What I heard from agents at the time was a lot of this:
“Send me your reel” (and then they’d never get back to me)
“Great job” (but I have someone like you with better credits)
“Check with me for future representation” (when you have better credits)
BUT eventually, the (very small boutique) agent I was with at the time moved to one of the (bigger, better) agencies I had showcased for. Because I had already seen the head of the agency she was allowed to take me with her and I ended up with a pretty good agent until the strike in 2007 closed them down. So, my point is that you never know how this is going to pan out for you, and it may not look the way you expect it to.
If you are just starting out, you might want to look for an agent who is also starting up, or look to smaller more approachable agencies.
When you get a meeting with an agent what should you ask in a meeting? It is important to ask questions so you know what you are getting from them. Here are some to start:
1. Are you union franchised?
2. Which Casting Directors do you know best?
3. What does the ideal actor/rep relationship look like to you? (In other words, what are you doing for them and what are they doing for you – this is about expectations, be clear!).
What will the agent ask you?
1. Are you SAG-AFTRA? or eligible?
2. Which Casting Directors do you know best?
3. What do you hope to achieve through this relationship? (again this is about expectations, if you haven’t already asked they may ask this).
Of course, they may not ask anything at all. Which to me is a red flag unless you’ve already answered all of their questions. You also want to just notice in the meeting if this person appears professional, ie: do they have an office, do they dress professionally, do they behave and speak like a business person, do they seem knowledgeable about the industry?
Remember this is your REPRESENTATIVE and they must represent you in a way that is in alignment with your own values and in a way that helps you rather than hurts you.
At the end of the meeting be sure to ask how they would prefer you follow up with them, by phone? By email? And how much time they need to think it over IF they do not offer you representation right there on the spot.
Once you have a representative.
Once you have the right representative you must know the Do’s and Don’ts of etiquette in order to keep them.
- Don’t go out of town without telling them in advance. If you go out of town- June and late December are your options, especially if you are not a well-known actor yet.
- Don’t be unprofessional in auditions. For example, showing up late. Not cool.
- Don’t call your agent to complain about not getting any auditions. Do something to help them out or find a new agent.
- Don’t disappear. If they never hear from you they may forget you exist.
- Don’t take forever to respond to requests for new headshots, etc.
- Don’t ask for a different time for your audition, make it happen unless it is something huge and rare. Changing times makes your agent annoyed and can make everyone look bad. Make it happen, or someone else will!!
- Don’t take more than 30 minutes to respond to texts/emails/calls from them. They need to confirm quickly for auditions.
- Do be on top of your business. Give them the tools they need to get through doors, aka have a reel AND clips up on your online profiles. Have updated headshots with different looks, update your resume constantly.
- Do always “book out” if you are leaving town or otherwise engaged so your agent is not submitting you for work you can’t do!
- Do be ready to put something on tape should something perfect come along while you are out of town. You can use your phone’s video cam for this, no excuses!
- Do respond to any requests they make.
- Do reply quickly to their calls.
- Do be sure to keep them updated on casting directors you are meeting in workshops, how your audition went, if you are doing any live performance (stand up, plays, etc.) or your own projects (web series, one-woman show, etc.) If you are planning to get new headshots, or print postcards, talk to your agent about it beforehand for suggestions, or at the very least let them know you are on top of it.
- Do create a connection. You want to have a relationship with this person, the better they know you, the better they will be at submitting you. Do you share a love of animals? Fitness? Cupcakes? Ryan Gosling?