Breaking into Acting Part III
You want an Agent? You want a Manager?
So who and how to submit is the question? First you’ll need a listing of agents.
Option one: If you go to the home page of the Sag website: www.sag.org. Look for the word resources on the right side of the page about a quarter of the way down. Under resources is says ‘select an option’. Click the arrow next to it and then select Agent information. When that page opens up, scroll about half way down and click on ‘find an agent’. Then click on your state or the closest one to you to find agents in your area.
Option two: For those in CA. The working actors guide mentioned in an earlier blog also has a free listing of agents and gives a little more info. then the sag website which doesn’t even offer names of agents. http://www.workingactors.com/
Option three: For those in L.A., N.Y. or any area where they print reference books on agents. In L.A., for about twelve bucks you can buy a book called “The Agencies” which will give you names of agents, what they looking for in terms of look, talent, skills etc., Also whether they will consider non-union talent and so on. One caveat with this book is it tends to make mediocre agencies sound more impressive then they are. You can buy this book at the Samuel French bookstore in Hollywood or the Valley and through the publisher, Acting World Books. Their number is 1.800.210.1197.
So you have your agent information the next step is devise a strategy. You can do mass mailings, showcase for one or two agents in a workshop setting, showcase in a theater setting, network, get a referral from someone in the industry or by a friend repped by a particular agency.
For the rest of the blog, I’m going to write as if you are in L.A. or plan to be here at some point. (Not cause I’m a snob, but this is the area I’m most familiar with.)
MASS MAILINGS: Assuming you have a good professional 8 x 10 headshot (or three quarter body shot) by a professional photographer who regularly works with actors (In L.A. expect to pay around $250 to $500 for this) You can send out about fifty submissions a week. Unless you have major credits, you can eliminate the top agencies, and agencies that require strong industry referrals etc.
As far as cover letters are concerned, I recommend a BRIEF, professional letter (no more then a few sentences and no need to be cute or funny). Keep it basic.
The most difficult time of year for mass mailing to work is during ‘pilot season’ or January to April/May. Agents are the busiest this time of year. Also, Thanksgiving through the holidays is also challenging. So May to November is your best bet here.
SHOWCASING IN A WORKSHOP SETTING: This is where you pay money and can perform in front of one to four agents. You give them your picture and resume and usually have the choice of doing a monologue, a prepared scene or cold reading a scene. Monologues aren’t advisable as Agents want to see how you work off another actor. If you believe you nailed your work, follow up with a post card and if you are really comfortable with the agent perhaps a phone call. Good agents generally do not represent more then a couple of people of the ‘same type’ (Of course the exception here is female blond hair/ blue eyes, and a hot body and no I am not kidding!). So if you do great work and aren’t picked up by the agent don’t sweat it. Follow up with postcards a few times a year.
SHOWCASING IN A THEATER SETTING: Here, a group of actors rent out a theater and invite industry to see them perform scenes and monologues. The pros are, you’re not in a ‘classroom’, you are in a theater and it has a more professional feel. In addition to industry, if the theater is large enough, you can also have friends in the audience to be supportive (especially if you’re doing a comedy scene and can get lots of laughs). Many times these events are catered for continued networking after the scenes are done. The cons are, this can be more costly to you, and unless you and the other actors have good connections, it may be difficult to get industry to come to the event. You see Agents and Casting Directors get paid to go the workshop setting workshops, but generally do not for the theater.
NETWORKING AND REFERRALS: This is the most effective way to find to agent. Here are some of the ways you can network: acting classes, doing extra work, going to parties, getting a job where you’ll meet industry and other actors, and interning for a casting director. Interning, is a great idea in and of itself to see how the casting process happens for yourself. Running camera, being a reader, will make you a better actor and auditioner. You may also have a chance to talk to and get to know agents over the phone as you are booking casting sessions. You may also meet directors of projects during call back sessions. How do you do it? Buy a book on casting directors from Samuel French, call and ask around. Or check out the free listing on the working actors guide.
If a friend of yours is repped by a good agent, (and has been with them for a while) ask them to submit your picture on your behalf; this is commonly done.
If you ever do well in a project of any kind, get a written referral while you’re still fresh on a person’s mind, and if you’re comfortable, ask if they know any agents and can recommend you. Try to find the line of being respectful but aggressive.
MANAGERS: The same rules apply to finding a manager as an agent, however they are less likely to do workshops then agents, so mass mailings and through networking and contacts are the way to go here. FURTHER, BE MORE CAREFUL WITH MANAGERS. They are not regulated by a union. A manager should never ask for more then 15% of your earnings (Agents get 10%) nor charge you a fee, or make you use certain photographers etc. Managers are suppose to give you more personal attention, and groom your career. In recent years, many have morphed into agents and submit you for work the way agents do.
CONTRACTS: The contract from a sag franchised agent is standard and the same for all agents. In many instances, an agent will agree to work with you without a contract at first so you can both see how it goes. Managers can give you whatever contract they want, therefore you should have lawyer review it on your behalf. (There are managers that have formed associations in lieu of a ‘union’ agreement and formed their own standard contract.)
WHEN MORE THEN ONE AGENT IS INTERESTED IN YOU:
There are two things to consider when evaluating the selection of an agent (or manager)
1- How much clout do they have?
2- How interested and how hard are they going to work for me?
When all things are equal… You go with the agency with more clout. However, I would personaly choose an agent with less clout IF I believed they would work harder for me. Remember, agents make commission only, so if they have huge clients that make them millions, that’s who they are likely to work hardest for. Every situation is unique, you must evaluate for yourself, however these are things to keep in mind.
If you have an agent and are happy with how often you are getting you out on auditions, great… If you are not getting out at all.. Don’t leave your agent until you have a new one but after six months, start looking. If your inbetween, talk to other actors, maybe you are getting out enough to give your agent more time, and if you’re not booking maybe you should consider getting acting coaching before your auditions. (Many actors who work regularly do have private coaching)
Final note, it’s a business; agents are only going to take you on if they think they can make money from you right away. Talent is secondary to, do they have confidence in their own ability to get you auditions and your ability to book parts. There is an old expression, “Agents get ten percent and they do ten percent of the work; actors get ninety percent and do ninety percent of the work.”
Breaking into acting Part IV: You want to work??!! Lets talk about it.
PS The great Gramo is going back east so no new show until June 6th. But the 6th is looking great as we have Lloyd Kauffman, the head of Tromo Entertainment coming in. They produce, distribute indie films and Lloyd is a director as well!