Doing the Impossible: Getting an Agent

While it’s not impossible to be cast in major projects without an agent, it is significantly more likely and easier with the help of an agent and talent agency. To understand why it’s easier to get auditions with the help of an agent, it’s important to understand what an agent actually does. Agents work for you, their client, as a liaison between you and the casting office to get you in the room with some of the entertainment industry’s best casting directors. They go up to bat for you, literally “pitch” you for projects that they feel you would be perfect for. They use their own networking abilities and contacts within the industry to ensure your success. Casting directors and talent agents generally have working relationships – they have worked together to book other clients and have known each other for years. Agents use those relationships, contacts and interest in getting you out there to get you in the room – and it’s beneficial to them to do so, because if you get cast – they get their commission.

That being said, it brings us to the age-old question – “How do I get an agent?” Like many things that happen in this industry – it’s not totally clear cut and there’s no specific answer to how it can happen for you. However, it’s important as an actor to, first and foremost, remain positive. You are bound to hit many closed doors in this pursuit and possibly be rejected more times than really fair. Believing in yourself and believing in your skills, though, can help you keep that positive outlook as you get rejected.

Moving forward, it’s important to note the following things before you begin your search:

1. Headshot: Your headshot is the first thing a potential agent will see of you, so it’s important that it’s professional looking and flattering. Clothing should be age appropriate and conservative (not distracting) and (for ladies) makeup should be modest. You should look like YOU in your headshot; you should feel comfortable and feel like you’re presenting who you are as a person. Headshots are not for showing what kind of character you COULD play – that should be saved for your auditions. Read our article Headshots for more tips on headshots.

2. Materials: Along with your headshot, you should have a resume that details your past productions, and if you have enough video material – a demo reel. Resumes should outline all acting experience you have that is relevant to your ongoing professional career – including commercials and shorts. If you want more specific ideas about fixing up your demo reel, check out our Demo Reel Tips blog post.

Now that you have your headshot and resume (and possibly, demo reel), where do you go from here? The answer is simple – get yourself out there. Most likely you’ve already been doing some of this stuff, but if not – sign up for some acting classes, go out to entertainment mixers, and peruse the hundreds of roles and open calls that you can submit to on Cast It Talent www.castittalent.com.
While these projects and opportunities may feel small and difficult (especially when your goals are much more ambitious), it’s important to put yourself out there to meet other actors and to get your face and talent in front of casting directors. You never know who you might befriend a fellow actor might have an agent that’s looking for new talent or you might be a favorite in the room with a casting director and they may recommend you to an agent. You also may be in a production of some sort and there might be an agent in the room that likes your work and your look.

While you’re putting yourself out there in the room and with peers in the acting community, hoping to get your ‘in’ for an agent that way, you should also reach out to agencies in the old fashioned, sort-of-painful way – by sending your picture and resume to various agencies via email and hard copy. This is a tedious and mundane and sometimes expensive task – but it really does help get your name out there. You may call agencies as well – it definitely doesn’t hurt to do so. Following up is fine, however, make sure you’re respectful towards the offices you call and don’t call repeatedly or try any “stunts” to get a meeting that’s not wanted. Pretending to be a personal friend of an agent to get them on the line will not endear you to them! People always try stunts like these and it never works out in their favor. Understand that while you’re trying to achieve a goal, the places you’re inquiring to are businesses – and they are busy, too.

Often, though, it’s just plain working that gets you an agent – going to acting classes, appearing in acting showcases, going to open calls, and auditioning for low-paying and no-paying projects. With exposure, you become more of a commodity in the entertainment industry. The more your face is out there, the more likely they will opt to take a meeting with you – because they’d seen you in a play with their client or saw a short film that you were in.

It’s certainly not easy to get an agent – it might even be the most difficult part of your journey. However, working hard and staying positive will help you in your pursuit – and since the internet and communication are so easy to access these days, it might even be easier in the long run.

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tara McGrath started her career in entertainment mainly because she couldn't see a life where she wasn't surrounded and inspired by actors in some way or another. After graduating from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film with a degree in Screenwriting, she worked for a year at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Interning under their casting department with casting directors Carrie Gardner and Jim Carnahan, she assisted in casting such productions as Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Fox's hit show, Glee. From there she moved 3,000 miles to Los Angeles and for the last year has been working for a well-known boutique talent agency in West Hollywood. She has also worked as a reader and marketing assistant for the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition and has worked on independent features as both producer's assistant and P.A.

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