As quickly becomes clear on entering the acting industry and attempting to work professionally, very few actors are successful without the support and expertise of a professional agent.
Agents represent actors for professional work in any and all mediums. While some agents specialise in theatre, film and TV, commercials, voiceover etc, and an actor may have different representation for each sector, many agencies cover everything. There are large agencies and small ones. The biggest agencies may seem to book more jobs but they also have more clients while a boutique agency may offer a more personal approach. There are traditional agencies with dedicated agents and co-operative agencies which are run by groups of actors. It is up to you to decide what type of agency is right for you.
You also need to be clear about what an agent is for and what they do. Agents are there to connect you with professional acting work. They put you forward for casting calls, promote you and use their network to hopefully get you auditions. Agents do not ‘get you work’; that part is up to you! Aspiring actors must understand that this is a very competitive industry with every part in every play, film or TV series vastly oversubscribed. While experiences with agents do vary, for the most part agents may be doing everything within their remit but you simply aren’t getting seen for other reason; perhaps it’s your headshot, your credits, your look. Therefore it is important to remember that an agent is only part of the process; you need to be proactive in seeking and making work.
While agents are interested in new talent, their first responsibility is to the clients already on their books. Therefore you have to convince an agent that not only are you a good commercial prospect but that you complement and add to their existing pool of talent. To help you get started, here are YAFTA’s top tips for getting an agent:
Don’t just dive in and start emailing any agent you’ve ever heard of or mailing out to everyone listed in the Actors’ Yearbook! Start investigating who represents the actors you like and the actors who do the type of work you want to do. Ask for advice and recommendations; this industry is unregulated and sadly there are many fake ‘Talent Agents’ who prey on inexperienced actors. Reputable agencies work on commission from the jobs you book, they do not take money up front. Make a shortlist; you can always apply to more later but focus your attentions in the first instance, it’ll make the prospect and process more manageable. Also make sure you have something to say; newly graduated, a screening or performance, new showreel/headshot/credits etc!
Do your research.
Check that your favourite agents don’t have anyone who looks like you on their books; you’ll be in direct competition and won’t even be considered. Even better, find an agent with a gap that you can fill, whether that’s in terms of your looks or skills. Then find out how they prefer to be contacted; email, letter, contact form etc. If you are inviting them to a screening or show give all the important information (including if comps are available for industry) and if it’s not far from their office, point that out! Remember, busy agents are unlikely to travel far to see someone simply on the actor’s own recommendation!
Keep it brief.
To be effective your communication needs to be read, so to encourage a busy casting director to take a look make sure your letter or email is clear, concise and spellchecked! Ensure your CV is well laid out and include direct links to your Spotlight and showreel. Don’t skimp but don’t waffle. A brief introduction about who you are, your unique selling points and your casting type should be followed by any relevant, recent credits, upcoming projects/premieres/productions and finally the relevant links. When attaching CVs and headshots be certain they are of a manageable size for email. You won’t do yourself any favours if you clog up their inbox!
Demonstrate your value.
Many of us, especially in Britain, are quite reticent when it comes to selling ourselves, but a letter to a prospective agent is no time to be shy. Stick to the truth (it’ll only end badly if you don’t) but portray yourself in the very best way possible. Showcase your credits, experience, skills and what makes you an attractive prospect as a client. What will you bring to the agency? Is it something they don’t already have? What are your unique selling points? You need to prove you’ll be a commercial asset to the agency and this is your sales pitch!
Contact agents in the way they prefer to be contacted. Of course you can mention a client’s recent success that you saw via following them on Twitter but don’t send invites to performances or ask them to check out your showreel via social media, it just looks lazy! Also do try to resist the temptation to do anything weird; you want to stand out but for the right reasons, sending a plaster cast of a foot inscribed with the words “Now I’ve got my foot in the door…” isn’t what you want to be remembered for. (True story!)
Address your letter to a specific agent or group of agents who work together rather than simply to the name of the agency. Say why you want to be represented by that particular agency and reference their business particularly, their clients, their work. If you are sincere in your reasoning (assuming you aren’t writing anything along the lines of “your clients are well famous and I want to be a star”) you won’t come across as simply trying to flatter them. Finally, do not under ANY circumstances send a blanket letter. That’s just rude as well as lazy!
Be patient. The sad truth of the matter is that agents are inundated by letters and emails from actors looking for representation. This means if you aren’t suitable you are very unlikely to receive a response. That said, some agencies will take the time to send a letter back returning your headshot and CV. Some may even send a personal email though this could be months later. Try not to be disheartened. Keep working and keep trying, the perfect fit is out there!
We hope these tips are a helpful guide when contacting agents you are interested in. There are a number of ways to connect with agents in addition to writing letters or emails. Agents will generally attend only the showcases of the major drama schools but may accept an invitation to a play or screening if you are a viable prospect, many also take part in masterclasses and Q&As which give you an opportunity to meet and ask those all important questions.
The YAFTA Talent Agency is open to both students of our acting classes and non-students. Experienced actors already in possession of headshots, showreel, CV, credits and a Spotlight profile (which requires five professional, paid credits) are welcome to apply to the agency at any time. Without these essential tools it is near impossible for any agent to represent you for professional work.
If an agent offers you representation without any of these and without a meeting or at least a detailed phone conversation, be wary. We might be repeating ourselves but this is very important: a reputable agency will never ask for any money up front. Agents earn through commission. Agencies charging joining or registration fees should be reported to Equity, the performers’ union.
YAFTA students will be seen by the YAFTA Talent Agency team twice a year during their assessments for each syllabus grade. Adult actors will generally not be considered for representation until they have passed the Advanced certification by which time they will have obtained all the required tools. Child and teen actors who show exceptional acting skill, commitment to the craft and a professional attitude will be considered without. On joining the agency actors are required to obtain professional actor headshots, a showreel and, ideally, a Spotlight profile.
Good luck with your agent search and see you on screen!