Finding an agent
Agents represent talent such as actors, extras, models, dancers, and performers.
They usually focus on screen work (e.g. films, TV dramas, and TV commercials) but they can help with theatre roles, and can sometimes specialise in voice work.
Agents can help you find work, negotiate a fee, and look over the details of a contract. They take commission on any fees they negotiate for jobs successfully booked.
Agents fall broadly into three categories:
- Extras’ agencies - sometimes manage featured extras or up-and-coming actors.
- Agencies for mid-career actors - people who make their living as actors. They take people breaking out of featured extra roles, who are showing potential to do guest leads, and try to represent top-end actors too.
- A-list agencies - represent film stars and well-known TV actors, many of whom will work on stage too.
A good agent will:
- Help you find work
- Help you make casting choices
- Stick up for you and support you
- Advise you on what photos to have in your portfolio, which industry databases (e.g. IMDb.com) to appear in, and keep your CV up-to-date
- Help you meet people in the industry
- Assist with organising contracts and signing them (crucial for the big jobs)
- Protect you so you are fully informed about an audition, including how to look and act, and anything else you need to know, such as reasonable payment for any work.
How to find an agent
The first step is to pitch yourself at the right level. Look at what you’ve got on your CV, and ask yourself where you fit based on your experience.
Your agent should have the connections to get you auditions for the right type of work, at the appropriate level. See who else they have on their list (if you can, or ask around) and find out if you are similar to the people they represent. Find out if the actors on their books like their agent, find them approachable, and feel like they’re getting a reasonable number of auditions.
Most agents will have a website, with details on how they want you to apply. Some will require professional headshots and a full CV, and some will ask you to fill out an online form.
How to work well with your agent
1. Don’t nag them
There is a fine balance between keeping in touch and making a nuisance of yourself. You are completely within your rights to call your agent and say: ”Hi, how are things? Much work going?“ but not every day!
If you are an extra, chances are they will have a lot of people on their books and the more time they spend on the phone to you, the less time they have to chase work. Also, if you get a reputation for being a nag, there is a good chance you will be put to the bottom of the pile as you’ll be considered too much of a pain to deal with.
If you call, try and offer some new information, e.g. a new course that you’ve completed, or an invitation to see you perform.
2. Behave professionally at all times
Be as professional as you possibly can. Even if the role is small and seems unimportant in the grand scheme of things, your professionalism or lack of it is always remembered, not just by agents but by production companies or casting directors. If you’re late, haven’t learnt lines, didn’t dress to the brief, or didn’t return phone calls quickly, it reflects badly on you.
On the other hand, if you’re polite, to the point, respond quickly, listen to instructions, and ask clever and relevant questions, you’ll get a great reputation.
Be friendly but professional with your agent - they don’t want to know the personal dramas behind why you can’t make it to an audition. If they are any good as an agent, they’ll be far too busy to listen!
Your role (as the talent) is to be easily contactable, absorb information, turn up on time and do your very best at the casting or the job. Keep in touch, and let people know as soon as your availability changes or if you’re running late or have a problem.
What information do I need before approaching an agent?
- Photos are essential, including good headshots
- Copies of any screen work - in showreel form when you have enough material
- Copies of great reviews/press mentions
- Audio reel of any voiceover work
What will my agent’s role be?
Your agent submits your details (possibly just a name if you’re well-known, but more often your photo, CV, or online profile link) to a casting director or producer looking to fill a role.
If the casting director wants to meet you, the agent will gather all the details and set up the meeting. If you get the role, the agent will do the deal for you.
If you don’t get the part, the agent will sometimes get feedback on how you went, which can be useful.
Will I get work?
No one can guarantee that, but if you work on gaining more experience, network and keep on trying, then your chances of success will increase greatly.
How much do I get paid & how do I get paid?
Pay will vary from hundreds to thousands depending on the job, how much exposure you get from the job, who you are (high profile actors get paid more) and how big a budget the employer is working with - it is part of the agent’s job to get a handle on whether the amount offered is fair to you as an actor, at whatever stage of your career you are at.
Payment is usually directed to the agent, who deducts their commission and then deposits the rest into your account. It's part of the agent’s job to chase up payment on the actor’s behalf.
Will I need to sign anything?
If your agent wants you to sign a contract with them, don’t sign it on the spot; take it away to read, and if in doubt, call Equity or a similar union. The contract should be a mutually beneficial agreement that either of you can verbally terminate when it ceases to work.
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