Subject of this Answer:
getting an agent
Question answered by ThedaBera in Theater Acting
jonross2 asked this question on 6/22/2000:
Hi, my name is Jon Ross. I am 19 and a sophomore at Columbia College. I want to know how can I get an agent and how much will it cost?
Getting a good agent is probably the most important thing you can do for your career. It can also be one of the hardest things to do. But you CAN do it! At this point you are probably concerned with getting any agent, but trust me getting a good agent is what counts.
The most important thing I want you to know though is that any agent who ever asks you for money up front is a fraud, and someone you should run screaming from! Ditto for any agents who insist you use a specific photographer, chances are they will be helping themselves to a good chunk of his or her fee and you will never see a days worth of work.
A good agent should be a bit hard to get. They will have been out in the world beating the bushes, looking for really good actors, and will also be very busy getting the ones they do have work. They will work hard for you too but you must work twice as hard. You need to do everything you can to remind them that you exist in as pleasant a way as possible so that when they go through those breakdowns (the lists of roles curently casting, that get sent out to agents all over the city every morning) they will think of you and send you out. When you have had a hundred auditions or so, and you luck out and get a paying role, then they will take fifteen percent of your paycheck, but never anything before.
The first and most basic way to get an agent is to do a mass mailing. I don't know if you intend to search for an agent in your town or are planning on moving out to LA. But in either case you will need to get a list of agents. Out here we have something called Ross Reports and several other lists of local agents. You can look for these services in the main trade paper that actors read every week, (Backstage West/Dramalogue,) to see what theater and more fringe TV and Film work there is to try to pick up.
Once you have a list of agents the next step is to narrow it down to the agents who might be looking for your type. For example if you are a male sophomore in college you aren't going to send your photograph and resume to an agency that specializes in aging English character actors, or an agency that works with children or the huge name agencies who won't do much more than toss your photo/resume in the nearest bin.
Okay now that you have your list and you've narrowed it down you need to have your photo and resume ready to mail out. There are also many books that will help you with this. We have a famous bookstore here called Samuel French but I bet you could surf around online a bit and find yourself a guide of some sort. Your picture needs to look like you as you look right now, and your resume needs to follow the basic format. It's okay if you don't have a lot of professional experience, they might be looking for someone young and new. You never know. On the other hand you can always enrich or gently enhance a resume by listing any student films you may, or may not have done ; )
The nest step, after having done your mailing, is to get work and invite people to see it. I don't know if agents in your area will come to college theate,r but if they don't then you need to try to get work in local theatre, and see if you can get them interested enough to come. Also most actors I know send out postcards to agents and casting directors just to get them familiar with their work and names. If you don't have anything to invite an agent to there are all kinds of great casting workshops that will often have agency nights. These are one of the few things that you do have to pay for and I think can be worth it as long as you have made sure the people you are dealing with are reputable and have actually helped connect actors, agents and casting people up with each other.
In a casting workshop you will either be given the opportunity to do a cold reading, or a prepared monologue or scene. Have one of each ready to go just in case, and always bring extra headshots and resumes. Usually the agent will say a little something to the group and then watch all of the scenes and then if they are interested they will invite you in for an interview. Sometimes they will also meet with each of the actors individually at the workshop.
The last way I know of to get an agen,t besides doing anything wacky and outrageous to get their attention, and I don't know if that's the best course of action anyway, is to be recommended to an agent by one of their actors or by a casting director who likes your work. If you keep reading the trades and finding creative ways to get yourself seen, it wont be long before you find work that will be worth showing to an agent, or inviting an agent to see.
I think you would be doing yourself a huge favor if you got yourself a copy of your local trade paper and perhaps a copy of the New York or Los Angeles version of Backstage West, it might even be available on line at their site, in fact I think it is. There is a wonderful man there who writes a weekly column called Tom Budsman, (I think thats his name, it's on the back cover,) and he is always addressing these kinds of issues. There is also a good group on line called LA Actors Online and they have a huge archive of questions asked and answers received, along these lines.
I want to say something encouraging and perfect, but it is so late and I am so tired. I guess the best advice I can give you is to never give up. I used to get lots of, don't do it unless you can't see yourself being happy doing anything else, advice, and it wasn't helpful to me to hear that. I want to encourage you because I don't care where you live or what you look like or how old you are, if you are truly talented and dedicated and determined to make it, I believe you will! Confidence is everything in this business even if you have to fake it. Good luck to you my fellow acting cyber friend.