How do I get an agent?
(7-10 min read; this post has recently been updated)
It's a simple question yet has a pretty complex and loaded answer. This is more geared toward the new actor. Or the curious types. I hope you're both. It's a bit of my story and common sense. I am not an expert.
I am also writing this from my desk in my apartment, as I work from home during the devastating reality that is COVID-19, I am finding myself reflecting and wanting to share knowledge. I hope this helps you. If not, that's okay. If it does, share it ;)
If you've ever asked yourself, 'How do I get an agent?' you aren't looking in the right place. You aren't talking to the right people. Stop talking to yourself and get plugged in. Here's what I mean.
Nothing ever came to anyone who waited around for it. Hustle! If you've ever played a sport, you know that you can't show up to play a game without having gone to a single practice or studying past games. It's no different in this business. Show up every time.
An actor can’t possibly be discovered if they aren’t visible. If they don’t have something that represents their work, who they are, their mission, their ‘thing’, or what kind of actor they are – they're not going to get noticed by anyone in the industry. To an agent, they don’t exist. That sounds insensitive but very true. They WANT to see the actor. Let me tell you why.
Agents have a language. Actors have a language (we’re weird, I’ll admit).
Agent-speak looks like this (forgive the breaks between dialogue):
This isn't all reality, but it is something that has most likely happened in the movies or in your nightmares. I wanted to bring to your attention HOW it happened. I've had similar meetings, but I'm Type-A so ...
DANI is waiting patiently. She is early, present, tragically hip, and hopeful. MS. AGENT walks in, projecting preparedness, purpose and direction. She looks like she’s ready for anything. DANI doesn’t have a resume, portfolio, business card, or headshots. She’s assuming that it’s just a meeting. Just a chat. Nope. It is never just a meeting. It’s never just a party with industry professionals. It’s opportunity calling. And she missed this one.
YOUR FUTURE AGENT IS BUSY
Agents have packed schedules. Structured meetings. Agendas. Lists. Emails to read and answer. Casting agencies and directors they're waiting to hear from. They’re basically wonderful Type-A creatives on steroids and they are money-making machines. We want them to be this way. And happy. Therefore, getting their attention and having them make time for you can be a challenge. If they see your materials, they ask themselves if they need you, your particular brand, on their roster among their other pixie-haired, twenty-something hipsters.
This is a business about storytelling and there are millions of young women who can play the part of DANI. The agent gets paid when the actor books the work then does so well that the director wants them for more parts, and casting directors start looking at the agent's roster more. When the actor gets paid, the agent gets paid. When you get noticed, they get noticed. It’s a great relationship when it’s working.
Be visible to your future agent: Knowing my budget wouldn’t allow for taking classes at the time, I audited a few acting classes, always learning something new. I met interesting people. I found an actor who was doing a special on basic headshots at the time who was also a newbie – and I said, ‘why not?’ and got the photos. They turned out great for my first acting headshots. At that time, I didn’t know what commercial or theatrical headshots were, but it helped me realize that I needed to be smarter.
SOCIAL MEDIA, COMMUNITY & RELATIONSHIPS
This section is not about how to build your own content. That's an entirely different topic. This is how I built a network, found friends I could rely and vice versa.
Community is important. People are walking information hubs. If you join an acting class make sure to tap into their best resource: their knowledge of the industry.
In the beginning I saw a posts on Facebook from a film student at a local arts school. They were casting for their short film and needed someone last minute and I self-submitted. I sent a self-tape and booked it. Another actor was working on content and needed me to be a one-liner actor on a day shoot on their short film. I showed up. Got involved. Got referred to do more short films and even some modeling.
I made friends with photographers. Relationships are important. Good work is also important and reliable people are even harder to come by.
Post on Instagram and re-post to support those projects you've been on and follow the work of those you'd like to learn from and emulate. Keep learning about their methods to sharpen your own.
When I started, I was getting experience and meeting new people left and right. Forming bonds. Being real. I wasn’t getting paid, I was training on the job. Every set was a classroom.
As actors, we’re always learning. Say yes to work that will teach you something. Be open and let your brain be a sponge. Get involved.
As a hopeful several years ago, I submitted to a handful smaller agencies first not knowing what to expect. Didn’t hear anything for weeks. Then I submitted to a few others in the area, thinking I’d try, and didn’t hear anything for two months. I wasn’t feeling great about myself. Wondering if I just wasn’t pretty enough, if my hair was the wrong color, or if I was kidding myself in this industry. All the while I was working and looking for more acting opportunities.
One of the smaller agencies finally reached out and set up a time for us to meet at their office. I was so excited! I was going to book a big role and be whisked away to Hollywood before I could blink. Yea - I wish. That rarely happens. Like one in a million. Or billion. Pick one.
The truth is that even though I eventually signed with my first agency, there was still so much work to be done and not knowing enough about the industry going into that situation wasn’t great. They treated me well and explained that I’d be submitted for gigs, but the rest was really up to me. Again - be a self-starter.
ONGOING TRAINING & EXPERIENCES
Now you have an agent, but what are they doing? You haven’t heard from them since you signed with them a week ago. If they’ve given you a list of things to do – do them. If you can’t – explain why. Ask a friend for help if you require it. Don’t send the agent an email saying, “I can’t do this” and wait to hear back from them. They are not there to hold your hand or tell you how to act. Be resourceful and do research. Google is your friend.
If you can, join an acting class.
Join a reputable Facebook group that helps local actors.
Ask questions. ALWAYS ask questions. You should be annoying your teachers with how many questions you ask. Your Google history should be a long list of actor’s resources, websites, articles, groups, and how-to and do-it-yourself blogs.
Don’t wait around. GO after it.
If you do not go after the answers or the dream, ask yourself if you really want it. If you want it you will do the work. If you don’t do the work, you wont ever know if you had a chance.
Again, as I work from home during the devastating reality that is COVID-19, I am finding myself reflecting and wanting to share knowledge. I hope this helps you. If not, that's okay. If it does, share it ;) We are all in this together and will make it through.
I believe in you, but you have to believe in you before others do. Now is the time to form the 'why' to your work and get goals set. Small ones first and then the large goals. Day by Day.