Are You Ready For Representation?

Being an actor is like running a business. You are the CEO, and are in charge of building and growing your company and brand. Like most new businesses, you start small and once you have enough work and income, you can expand the company, which will eventually entail hiring additional employees. In the case of acting, the extra people you add to your “company” are your representatives–talent agents, managers, attorneys, publicists, and whomever else you find essential to your team. Because building your acting career is like growing a small business, strategic timing is everything. You don’t want to expand too quickly if you aren’t able to support the extra growth and pressure, and you don’t want to move too slowly if business is booming, lest you miss out on key opportunities.

Right off the bat, one of the most common misconceptions new actors have when they move to LA to start their careers is the idea that they need to have a team of reps–specifically an agent and a manager. These actors think that the only way to start auditioning and making money is to have a team of people working for them–pitching them for projects and getting them through doors. While having someone do this for you sounds good in theory, it isn’t always the case in this industry, and here’s why: if you’re a new actor who just moved to LA, you’re going to have little-to-no experience in the ways of Hollywood. Most likely, you won’t have any decent acting credits to your name (sorry, student films or plays when you were in college don’t count), you won’t have very many connections (both personally and professionally), Los Angeles will be a new and strange city to you (assuming you didn’t grow up here), and you’ve probably never experienced the LA auditioning scene, which is literally a world in and of itself.

Assuming the aforementioned holds true for you, why would finding an agent/manager, i.e., growing your business, be the first thing on your to-do list? It takes time to get acclimated whenever you move to a new city, especially one as large and sprawling as Los Angeles: add in the fact that you’ll have to quickly learn how to navigate the everyday traffic in order to get to auditions and meetings, and you have a recipe for a whole lot of manic craziness. As an actor, your first priority should always be YOU. You need to learn the city, the people, and experience first-hand what it’s like when you have to ask your co-worker if they can cover your shift at the restaurant so you can make a last-minute audition in Santa Monica during the middle of rush hour traffic. All of that takes time and patience–lots and lots of patience. It’s also important to realize that auditioning in Los Angeles is a complex maze rife with traps and pitfalls, which, once again, will take time for you to learn to navigate. I don’t care if you went to Juilliard and studied acting for 7 years, nothing short of actually living and auditioning in LA (or New York) will help prepare you for Hollywood.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Well, how am I supposed to get auditioning experience without a rep?” The answer to that is you don’t need a rep–at least, not when you’re first starting out. Once you’ve assembled your standard acting materials (headshot, resume), sign up for services like Cast It Talent, online services that not only allow you to upload and manage your materials, but also submit on a wide variety of projects and breakdowns. Self-submitting yourself to projects and breakdowns is Hollywood acting 101, and you have to be diligent and persistent about it. There are always plenty of short films, new media projects, theatre, and low-budget indie films out there that are open to casting fresh and unknown talent. When you do start to get auditions, treat each one like you would any other important job interview. Take it seriously, be professional, do your homework, and learn as much as you can from the process. It doesn’t matter if you’re auditioning for a webseries or a studio film–treat each opportunity and the people you meet with respect, since you never know where people will end up in a few years. That student director you met on a short film could be helming the next Sundance breakout feature.

Along the lines of preparing yourself, one aspect that is often overlooked is how your personal life affects your professional one. It’s important to be aware how you’re doing as a human being–you are, after all, your own business. How are you adjusting to the new city and life? Do you have friends, family, and a support system you can rely on? Are you able to financially support yourself? Although things like whether or not you have friends or if you have money in the bank may seem like non-sequiturs, they are crucial for a healthy and happy actor. Having friends and contacts, especially ones in the entertainment industry, are essential for the up-and-coming actor, as there will be countless times when you will need to bounce ideas off of someone, or ask for advice when choosing headshot photographers or acting coaches. Having a stable source of income is also important since starting an acting career isn’t cheap–you need money for headshots and acting classes, on top of all your personal expenses like food and paying rent. The less time you spend worrying about money or stressing out over your personal life, the more time you can spend on your craft and becoming the best actor possible. This part of the journey is definitely one of the most grueling ones (in case you didn’t know, being an actor is HARD). Just know that as long as you continue putting good work out there while fostering solid business relationships and connections, you’ll eventually get seen by the right person who will help open the door to the next phase of your career.

So now the real question is, when exactly is the right time to add representation to your career? Unfortunately, like many things in the entertainment industry, there’s no hard or fast rule, and it’s not like you’ll wake up one day and suddenly feel “ready”. However, when contemplating representation, the best thing you can do is take a focused look at where you are in your life–both professionally and personally. Go through a mental (or literal) checklist to see if you’ve got your bases covered. Are you in a solid acting class? Have a steady source of income? Been getting good feedback from auditions and casting directors? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself. Another telltale sign that you’re ready to take your game to the next level is if your career starts to plateau, i.e., despite doing all the right things for yourself, you’re not really gaining any more ground in your career. You’ve been getting yourself a decent number of auditions through self-submissions and networking, and you may have even booked a good number of jobs, yet despite that, the momentum from your efforts never really go beyond a certain point. It is in situations like this where having a rep can truly make a difference, as sometimes all it takes is one extra push from someone other than yourself to help turn the tides in your favor. If this applies to where you are in your career, then you very well might be ready to take the next step in growing your business.

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