Agents: Everything an Actor Needs to Know
When and how to get a good agent.
You don’t need an agent to get started. Start at the top and sell yourself directly to buyers. Then, once you get good at selling what you offer, you can hire other people to sell for you. But you may have to school them in how to sell you. There are some “really good eggs” out there. I have an amazing agent. But there will also be others that have a different viewpoint about how to sell you. They will need guidance.
You’ve probably already booked a few jobs because you’ve learned how to capture the attention of buyers and book work. Now you can use these jobs as leverage to get a decent agent who is going to genuinely assist you with getting into rooms. Ultimately, your agent becomes your business partner, not just someone who has your information in a file.
How to prepare for meeting with an agent.
When looking for a good, effective agent, I follow the advice of author Brian O’Neill. In his book Acting as a Business, O’Neill says you need to always be ready to answer the following questions before going into any room:
- Tell me about yourself. Why are you an actor? What inspires you? What story is uniquely your own?
- How do you see yourself? In other words, what roles are perfect for your brand and why?
- Where do you see yourself in five years professionally? Where do you want to take your career?
- Who do you know in the business the agent may also recognize favorably? Does that person know your work?
I always have answers to these questions prepared before walking into any office.
Also, be ready to tell a story about yourself that brings your personality into the room. It could be something from your acting career or personal life. I like to tell the story of how I began my acting career when I dramatically threw myself down the stairs at three-years-old. It’s a fun, engaging way to bring myself immediately into the room.
Then you need to be able to talk vibrantly about your product. Learn from the way some politicians talk subtly about themselves to make the recent roles you’ve played an undercurrent of what you truly want to communicate about yourself and who you know.
For example, if you just had a role in Workaholics, you know the casting director of that show, Alyssa Weisberg. You won’t have to out-and-out say you know Allyssa Weisberg. But it will be understood by the agent. Then you can talk about immediately about the kind of character you played because you’ve already identified how you see yourself and who you know.
How to know an agent is the best one for you.
If I’m an agent and I’m looking for a client and you walk into the room prepared, you’re coming into the room as an equal partner. As an equal, you can then look confidently across the desk and ask yourself, “Can this person get me into the rooms that I need to get into?”
- For example, if I walk into a room with an agent and I know that I’m selling myself for Disney and ABC and ABC Family, and his major clients are in Broadway shows and only on CBS shows, I think, “Uh, okay.” That’s not a good office for me.”
You must be smart about your brand and be certain you find the right agent to be the best partner for your business. As an actor who has clearly defined your own brand, you are the very best seller to represent yourself to hiring producers and casting directors because you are completely invested in selling your unique, specialized brand. And you are the only brand you are selling.
Be responsible, brave, and advocate yourself. An agent is there to assist you but doesn’t do it for you. It’s up to you to interview agents to find the one that will support you best.
How to work with agents and managers effectively.
Theoretically, the difference between agents and managers in “storybook land,” is managers are supposed to guide the trajectory of your career, so they are not just pointing and clicking which is how agents submit you for projects. But it’s never really like this.
So, when I meet with managers, I am thinking more about being myself. I’m owning my own brand and career’s trajectory which is how I end up booking what’s right for me. In that spirit, I once had an agent tell me, “You don’t need a manager, you’re your own manager.” Which is quite true.
Agents are the people who are supposed to be franchised to the union which means they can negotiate a contract for you if are a union member. And a good agent can mean that the casting directors answer the phone when your agent calls.
Agents and managers can double submit you for the same role and pitch you as well. So, they can either electronically pitch or they can pick up the phone and verbally pitch. And then your agent, or if you’re a higher-end actor, your attorney, negotiates the contract for you. (note: Valorie said “not quite.” Please elaborate)
That’s the difference between agents and managers. And it doesn’t matter which comes first, the chicken or the egg.
When to get an agent.
This is not to say you shouldn’t EVER hire an agent. Just be patient and wait until you have booked your own work. Then, as an actor with a body of work in tow, you’ll get a much better agent who will ultimately be very helpful to your career.
But be a shark at first!
In other words, if you’re standing still, you’re going to find an agent who is also standing still.
But if you’re moving on your own like a shark that always moves forward to breathe, you’re going to meet another shark that is also moving forward. This will be an agent who, just like you, is on the hunt already swimming through deeper water. THAT’S a good agent.
What you’re looking for are people to put on your team who are going to understand how to sell you.
Because I’m challenging the protocol of the agent-actor business relationship, if you come through the Actors Fast Track system sometimes you’re going to run into trouble getting an agent or a manager due to the new mindset you’ll develop. You’ll play as an equal and some of them aren’t used to that. But when you do get an agent that understands your determination and self-reliance and knows that you are standing strong in your career, you’ll have someone on your team who can get really you the results you want.
Join the GET AN AGENT challenge https://www.facebook.com/groups/1549901135320078/ Prizes will be given on July 23rd at our 5th Annual Summer games http://www.theaftgames.com
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