CIT Flashback Friday – Booking a Job Without an Agent

Your acting career is a business, and you are the owner, president, and CEO

Our Cast It Talent Flashback Friday article is one that is useful to any working actor without representation–How to book a job without an agent.

Even with a team of agents, managers, and lawyers, booking an acting job is no easy task. Your reps submit you for projects, which hopefully lead to auditions; you then have to prepare and nail the audition; then, if all goes well and you happen to be the best fit for the role, you get an offer. The casting process doesn’t end at the offer, and it is then up to your entire team of reps to negotiate the best possible deal for you. Needless to say, booking an acting gig (especially a substantial one e.g. studio features, series regulars, etc.) takes a village. As a lone actor without representation, finding work, let alone negotiating a deal can sound daunting, but it’s absolutely doable, and can actually help boost your career if you play your cards right!

Finding a job

How do actors find jobs without representation? That is the age old question, and is a constant issue for actors. We have already written several articles detailing various strategies and tips on finding acting gigs, but just know that the opportunities are out there! Having a Cast It Talent profile (see Why Join Cast It Talent?) is a good method, and allows you to submit your materials to the plethora of projects and roles available on the site, on top of the national casting calls that are frequently released. Participating in casting director workshops is another popular method, and although these should be viewed as practical, learning exercises, actors that impress in these workshops are often called in by casting directors to audition for their projects. Casting directors, after all, are always on the lookout for fresh talent (seeActor Workshops). Another understated tip is to just ACT! Work begets work, and actors that spend their time acting (regardless if it’s paid work) find themselves open to more opportunities. Whether you are acting in a class, casting director workshop, running lines with a friend, or starring in your own webseries, constantly working on your craft will open you up to new experiences and connections, which will absolutely help you in finding that next job. That friend whose short film you volunteered to act in could end up being the next breakout director that offers you a role in a full length feature! (see Go from Auditions to Offers).

Closing the deal

Doing a good job in the audition room is the easy part. As the actor, all you have to do is be prepared, follow all the appropriate casting “rules” (see Rules of AuditioningHow to Kill Your Chances) and give a fantastic audition! Any actor, with or without a rep, can do this. The tricky part comes if you get offered the job. If you don’t have a rep, you will have to review all the various contracts, agreements, and deal points on your own, which can be murky territory for the inexperienced actor. If you’re a union member (SAG-AFTRA, AEA, etc.) you can always refer to the guild’s rules and guidelines with regards to a job. If something about your offer seems off or strange, just refer to your union for a conclusive answer. Depending on the contract type, the applicable union will specify exactly what kind of compensation you should expect, details about travel and lodging, dressing rooms, etc.

Small roles on television series or studio feature films are fairly cut and dry – you will get offered a specific agreement which will outline the exact rate of pay, days of work, and all of the main details regarding the job commitment. There’s typically no wiggle room in these deals because if you don’t accept the terms of the role, casting can easily find a replacement actor that would be more than happy to fill in. In these situations, the best you can do is review all the details and agreements carefully, and make sure they are up to union standards.

Although most actors without representation often find themselves booking these smaller types of roles (television co-stars, feature film day players), it is not unheard of for unknown, unrepresented actors to land huge breakout roles in studio films or a series regular role on a TV show. Precious was Gabourey Sidibe’s first real acting job, for example, and there are plenty of series regulars on TV shows who landed their roles without the typical team of agents, managers, and lawyers. If you happen to be one of those extremely talented and lucky individuals to land a huge role on your own, it then might behoove you to approach the negotiating process with a bit more scrutiny. Deals for TV series regular roles and studio films (especially if the movie is part of a franchise) can be very complex, and can run the gambit of points like sequel options, merchandising, exclusivity, and a bevy of other legal details. In situations like these, you should definitely seek outside counsel, and hiring an entertainment attorney would probably be your best bet. If there’s a high-powered entertainment law firm that you’ve been dying to work with, contacting them and asking if they will rep you on a deal is a great way to get them on your team! Normally, cold-calling an entertainment lawyer and asking them to rep you doesn’t really lead to anything fruitful, BUT if you come to them with a high level deal, you will immediately spark their attention. Note, this strategy is really only applicable for deals of significant profile or substantial monetary value. If you book a co-star on a sitcom, and then cold call an entertainment lawyer to do your deal, you will probably get laughed at.

CAVEAT–if you are signing on to work a non-union acting job, you need to especially make sure to review everything with a fine toothed comb. If you’re not a member of a union, you aren’t guaranteed or protected by their standards and policies, and you would essentially be at the mercy of the production. Because of this, it is crucial to be hyper aware when considering a non-union job, and you should never agree to anything you’re not comfortable with (see Working Non-Union Jobs).

Going forward

The goal for any up and coming actor is to eventually build a team of representatives. Even though it’s possible to book work and advance your career on your own, it is extremely difficult, and next to impossible to take your career to the “next level” without a team behind you, pushing you to the top. Your acting career is a business, and you are the owner, president, and CEO. Like all businesses, you start out small and doing all the work, but as your business expands and takes off, you need to hire employees to help support you so you can continue focusing on the big picture of your business, i.e. furthering your career (see Your Own Personal A-Team).

 

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Anthony