Getting a good acting agent
by N J Howell
Featured For Actors:
How to make a living acting
Actor's Skill Development Pack
Monologues for Auditions
Getting a good agent may mean you start getting the roles you deserve as an actor; when you are first starting out, that prospect of acting work may overwhelm logic and you may end up with an agent that does nothing to further your career or, worse yet, may harm it. So how do you tell a good agent from one that is trying to rip you off or one that just isn't good? Here's a few tips:Earmarks of Legitimate Acting Agents:
A licensed acting agent will never ask for a fee from you, up front. They will never charge money to represent you as an actor or actress. If the agent does not believe they can find acting work for you, they should not take you on.
SAG agents receive 10% commission on jobs they book for you; non-union agents may take more. I personally do not recommend working with non-union agents who take an exorbitant fee to represent you. My rule would probably be no more than 15% although I know many charge 20% or even as much as 30%.
Repeat ..... a legitimate acting agent will NEVER ask for advance fess or make you get headshots at a specific photographer or require you to handle any of your acting promotion thru channels they specifically promote.
A legitimate acting agency does not list a ton of people in same age range and type. They want to personally promote a roster of diverse talent that fits a lot of different casting situations rather than send 10 people with the same look. Think about it. If you go to an agent's website (and I recommend this before signing) and see 10 people who look like you .... you would effectively be competing with your own agency submissions for roles. Better to work with agents who cover ages and types but don't over-saturate with similar submissions. Check out the agent's website and the pictures of actors on the wall. You should not see a lot of your age and type. An agent with too many folks who are similar may be just as limiting as one that doesn't have any good actors on board.
Your agent should pull for you: This requirement is something you just may not be able to find when you are starting out. Ultimately, once you get enough credits under your belt, your agent should be willing to pick up the phone or send a personal email and pitch you. I have not seen a lot of agents willing to do this but I do believe the best ones will. If they believe in you and know the type of roles you are best for, they also know that speaking out for a talent can make the difference when you may be a little outside the casting breakdown box but they know you can do the role.
Looking for film casting calls? Learn how to safely start working as an extra in movies
How to get a good agent: I learned (the hard way) that a bad agent is worse than no agent at all. When I went to Hollywood the first time, I didn't care who signed me as long as somebody did. I soon learned that an agent who is sloppy, and submits you for everything instead of for roles that feel like a good match for your age, range and character type, do you more harm than good in the industry. I would show up at auditions and look around me and think, why am I here for this? That's not how you wanta feel. If everyone there is 20 years younger, ya gotta wonder if your agent even read the breakdown.
Choose an Agent that gets your age/type/range: It's worth having a direct conversation with your agent, where you ask where they see you in the business. If their idea of the types of roles you would be submitted for doesn't match very well with what you'd think you would be right for, might wanta keep looking. An agent who repeatedly submits people who aren't right for the role will soon be ignored by the CD. Casting Directors have really long memories if you ever make them look bad in an audition by doing a poor job or not being right for the role. This is understandable since they are being trusted by the director, producer and/or writer of the creative project, to bring in the best talent that can be found. I've been in that situation and I can tell you, whether it's your fault or not, it may effect whether that CD calls you in for a LONG time in the future.
On the other hand, Casting Directors who like you could be your saving grace in an audition situation. I've had casting directors pull for me (one in particular) and I've been very grateful to have them in my corner. I know I've had opportunities because an astute CD saw me, realized what I could do, and spoke up for me. It's a blessing I don't take lightly and I encourage you to do your best to go the extra mile for CD's that get you, respect you and call you in often. Be there for them, in every possible way. Don't complain if they are running behind, always bring your A-game when reading for them, etc.
When people ask me how to find a good agent these days, I suggest they search online for interviews the agent has give or for comments from celebrities represented by them. Sour grapes can be felt and read between the lines. Also look to see who else they represent. As stressed eariler, if they already represent a lot of actors or actresses of your age, range and type, they may be overloading their roster which will make it harder for you to get work. Also, they'll be less open to taking on a similar person. Sometimes, approaching smaller or burgeoning agencies is a good idea, especially if you are just starting out in the biz.
When you do get the interview, calm your excitement over possibly getting signed, long enough to really notice whether or not you actually like the person. I was signed with someone that I did not even enjoy talking to at one time. This person was just sour-faced and negative, as far as I could tell. That's just not good energy. Considering how to get a good agent may be one of the best ways to start your career off on the right foot; ignoring the importance of a good agent may be one of the best ways to stall out.
Another way to get an agent's attention is to do an acting showcase or be in a local performance that the agent attends. Send a comp ticket and invitation. There's nothing like seeing an actor in live performance to peak an agent's attention; that is, assuming it's a good showcase. If there are 20 bad actors before you come on .... choose wisely.