How to Get an Agent

Apr 27, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Attitude, Representation, The business

Personal Update (a.k.a. where in the hell has Ben been…?)

Ummm, WOW. It has been way too long since I’ve written here. No worries, I will be catching up soon. In short, I’ve been busier than usual with my companies, travel, and the daily grind of an actor. I’ve been producing a web series as well which has taken a lot of time and taught me a lot of things…more on that later. I also re-did my demo reel recently, which you can watch on my website. In addition to that, I’ve been sending out my odd-size mailers, doing drop-offs, going through my Netflix queue, doing some Casting Q’s interviews, and otherwise trying to crank out my 2011 goals.

And on a completely different note, if you have any interest in traveling, if you apply for this credit card by May 6th through British Airways you can get up to 100,000 miles (check out exact details on their website). Awesome.

And now back to our originally scheduled programming…

Ok, so a little while ago (sorry for the delay, really) I did a post with some general thoughts on agents and managers. I would strongly encourage you to read that for context before continuing on the following post. Because it’s been so long, this post will probably be longer than it should, but suck it up and read on. ūüėČ

Where to Start

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of agents and managers in Los Angeles. Moreover, they range in scale from scam to Ari Gold. To be honest, anyone can get an agent, the key is getting the right agent.¬†Finding a good agent, the right agent, is in my opinion the most difficult part of the entire representation equation. You’re adding a serious business partner to your team, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my entrepreneurial pursuits, finding the right person to bring on to a company is the hardest, and most important, thing you can do to ensure success. In my previous post on agents and managers I discussed what makes a good agent, and how to begin narrowing your search in finding the agent for you.

“Seeking Representation,” the Phrase of Amateurs

It turns out that using the phrase “seeking representation” comes across as¬†extremely¬†amateur to industry professionals (who knew?!). Here’s why. Basically, everyone¬†assumes¬†that you are¬†always “seeking representation”… or at least better representation. I mean seriously, are there ANY actors out there who aren’t looking to upgrade their representation? Even people repped by the very top agencies move around all the time. Drop this phrase from your vocabulary (and website and resume and cover letter) like a bad habit (well, not really like a bad habit because those are actually hard to drop). No agent, manager, or casting director has EVER opened a piece of mail from an actor and thought to themselves,

Gee. I wonder why the heck this actor sent me a picture of themselves with information on their acting. I’m so confused. Maybe they’re trying to find a new financial planner…

So seriously. Stop telling people you’re “seeking representation.” If you want some substitute language consider using the phrase “I’m currently taking meetings” (a favorite of¬†Kevin E. West).

Ways to Get an Agent

1) Referrals

A referral to an agent is by far the most likely way to get yourself a meeting with an agent. A referral could ostensibly come from anyone: friends, clients on the roster of someone you’re targeting, other agents, a manager, etc. Moreover, the stronger the relationship of the potential rep and the person referring you, the more likely you’ll get a meeting. It also makes sense, that a casting director referring you to an agent/manager will likely hold more cred than a client on an agent’s roster. Basically, someone is putting their reputation on the line for you, and the stronger that relationship is, the more favorable someone is likely to look upon you.

So what is a referral? Brilliant question, because this is key. A referral is NOT someone simply saying you can use their name on your cover letter. I mean, I guess it’s a kind of referral, but not really. A true referral is someone walking your headshot/resume into the agent/manager in question, asking the rep how you should follow up to get the meeting set up, then informing you of how to follow up with said representative. A true referral would also be someone calling (or potentially emailing) and speaking with an agent/manager recommending that the agent meet with you and directing them to your materials. If it’s a true referral then your “friend” should also inform you once they have left this voicemail/spoken with the agent, so you know how to follow up…most likely that will mean walking your headshot/resume/demo reel into the agent’s office the next day. I will say that being able to put someone else’s name on your submission to an agency is better than nothing, but absolutely does not constitute a full on referral.

So how do you actually get a referral to an agent? Another great question! I can say that randomly asking someone you met once (or have never met) is a quick way not get a referral, piss someone off, and even if it turns into a referral it wouldn’t be a very solid one. I wouldn’t say to never ask someone directly for a referral, because I’m a firm believe that you need to ask for what you want. However, it’s a fine line. I think you should have a VERY solid relationship with the person you’re asking to refer you, and have done your research in terms of who you are asking them to refer you to.

2) Good Ol’ Fashioned Snail Mail

Send an agent/manager/agency your headshot/resume is probably the “typical” (read: often unsuccessful) way to submit for representation. This means you better have a brilliant headshot, hope that they need someone of your type, and that you’re feeling lucky.

I would also recommend employing the technique of sending pieces of mail besides your headshot/resume to the potential agent (note: in doing your research you should have specific agents, rather than just a general agency targeted). This could include a one-sheet a la Dallas Travers, a sheet detailing how to cast you, a newsletter, an odd-size mailer, or the like. The key here is that the potential rep gets your contact information, and information that would help them decide to give you a meeting (including, but not limited to, pictures of you, things you’ve booked, examples of your acting, etc.).

As with anything, persistence is key. If you’re targeting someone it probably makes sense to continue to mail them things every 6 – 8 weeks, or as you have¬†information¬†worth updating them about.

3) E-mail

Many reps have listed their email address on IMDb Pro, or prefer email. Same deal with email as everything else. Being professional, having your marketing materials in order, and demonstrating a high level of knowledge and professionalism will do wonders. Sending hundreds of random emails that start out, “Dear Agent” probably won’t get you very far, but if you find out someone prefers email and you have a brief, witty, professional email to send them…now that’s how a PvsPB reader rolls.

4) Drop-Offs

Doing a drop off means going, in person, to the agent’s office to drop off your headshot/resume, your reel, etc. Generally it’s best to make these short and sweet, and not expecting the agent to meet with you right then. You will often be dropping your materials with an assistant, but it’s much more likely that your materials will land on the desk of the agent if you go in person, than if you simply mail it.

I’m a big fan of drop-offs and have had great success in employing them. Showing up in person and demonstrating that you’re not a ‘wactor,’ that you’re fun, and that you took the time to actually show up in person goes a long way.

5) Personal Relationships

Just by living and interacting in the city, it’s likely that you will begin to develop personal relationships with agents and/or managers. Again, it can be a bit of a balancing act if this person starts to become a friend, and not just a professional¬†acquaintance. However, developing a positive relationship with someone over time is absolutely a great way to potentially find the right agent or manager. It may also be the case that you’re at a different level than your agent/manager friend, and wouldn’t make sense for you to be on their roster, even though you become good friends. Finally, mixing business and pleasure always requires extra care.

6) Social Networking

I got my first commercial agent in LA through twitter. True story. As I described in my last post on agents and managers I started a relationship with an agent through twitter, which ultimately led to her representing me. The key takeaway here is not that you can just tweet your way to an agent, but that social networking is one of many ways to begin and maintain relationships with people, including agents and managers.

7) Serendipity

As Samuel Goldwyn said, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” That said, random luck can play a major factor in getting an agent. One of my friend’s happened to witness a car accident, stuck around to help out, and one of the passengers was the agent who now represents him. Random. It happens.

8) Be Brilliant

If you work on being a brilliant actor, do all that you can to advance your career, and consistently put your (wonderful) acting talents out into the world, I have seen time and again that it can lead to landing rep. Agents and managers (or even their assistants) do go to plays, improv shows, and other places where they can see actors perform. Be there. Be patient. Be brilliant.

9) Be Likable

This one is pretty effing crucial. If and when you do finally get the proverbial meeting or run into your target agent at the mall, will they like you? Unless you’re a regular on a show or regularly booking commercials (and therefore automatically bringing in money to a new agency), a lot of an agent’s decision on whether or not to sign you will come down to if they like you. Be nice. Be kind. Treat people with respect. Be funny. Don’t have bad breath. Be likable.

10) Be Drop-Dead Stinking Gorgeous, Really Young, or Otherwise “Extra” Marketable

The younger and prettier you are, the more likely a random headshot submission is to be looked at and lead to a meeting. Being a less-than-common type that an agent happens to not have on their roster at a given time would be helpful too. Just remember, if it’s your or someone else who has an extra-easy time getting rep meetings, you still have to have something to back up your look (talent, professionalism, a parent who’s an exec at a network, etc.).

11) Showcases

As you may know, I have a very strong opinion on casting director workshops, and I feel the same way about paying to be seen by an agent. Frankly, I think actors paying to gain access is unfair, generally ineffective, and does more harm to the community than good. Get creative. That’s what actors are best at anyway, right? Find a new and unique way to encounter people on the other side of the desk.

12) They find YOU

If you consistently put out high quality work, build your career, do great work, be a good person, and live your life with positivity and passion, reps will find you. And how much better is an agent calling you up, than going to all this work to find them…? :) Go into the world. Do good work. Be¬†likable.

13) Other

In this (long, I know) post I have detailed a number of the common ways to get your work seen by agents and managers who might rep you. However, there are myriad ways to land representation, and the key is ultimately meeting this would-be rep and getting them to believe in you.

Final Thoughts

Let me be clear. This is all¬†very much about establishing relationships. I could just as well re-title this blog post “how to get a girlfriend” and everything would still be very accurate. We get people by meeting them online, are referred to them by friends, and we’re more likely to take someone seriously as a potential mate if our other friends and co-workers vouch for them. And really a lot of it comes down to a feeling…what does your instinct tell you about someone. They may look good on paper but you don’t really dig them. Maybe you meet someone on aisle 5 of Ross and fall in love for life. Such is true for dating, as it is with agents and managers.