If you are looking to be an actor, writer or a director in Hollywood, you will have to get an agent. Especially if you are hoping to be working on major films and television series. It’s an inevitable step to success in the industry. An agent is a point person of connection, they have a series of contacts including casting directors and creators which they pitch you to be seen by for their upcoming projects. They are your teammate, representing you and your artistry. They will most likely be the ones introducing your work to the gatekeepers, so it’s vital to find someone who not only understands who you are as an artist, but sees what you could be beyond the present moment.
There’s a process creators need to go through to go about finding one.
1. Research and identify the type of agent you want to work with. Consider what area of the industry you want to work in (e.g. film, television, theater) to hone in on the type of representation you are looking for. A fantastic resource is IMDb Pro. There’s an annual fee of around $200.00, which gives you more nuanced/detailed access to the partnering framework of industry professionals. You’ll be able to look up all your favorite actors/actresses and see who they are represented by and what each of those agents/managers represent. Check out people who not only inspire you, but people who are not far off of your own experience to see how they are doing it. (PRO TIP: You can write off this $200.00 as a business expense if you are filing artist taxes. **Obviously consult your accountant as all accounting situations are different.)
2. Using this resource, make a list of potential agents to contact. Look for agents who have a track record of representing clients in your field and who have a reputation for being successful. That being said, there are certain big agencies that only represent massive clients, so by all means shoot your shot, but make sure you find a list of smaller agencies too. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and don't be shy to ask your friends either, for their recommendations. Nothing speaks better than personal experience and when you are starting out, experience is going to be your best teacher.
3. Create a professional portfolio. This should include your resume, headshot, and any relevant work samples or materials that showcase your talent and experience. If you don't have a demo reel, but yourself on tape doing a couple contrasting scenes or send over a scene from recent classwork.
RESUME/RELEVANT WORK: If you are just starting out and all you have are school plays to list, LIST EM. In order to be represented, agents have to know what they are representing. They are also understanding of how to develop talent and where people are at in their careers, so if you don’t have any film experience, put yourself on tape. We all have HD cameras built into our smartphones, so find some scenes from film/tv and try them out for yourself. The internet is LOADED with scripts, so go play with a bunch of them to see what highlights you best! There are also a number of Reader platforms (like WeAudition) that have a roster of actors ready to read the scene with you while you film. We all have to start somewhere and this will not only give potential agents/managers a flavor of your talent but it will also show them your drive and ambition.
HEADSHOTS: Once again, look up people you admire and respect and see where they got theirs done. If there’s a particular style or coloring you’re drawn to, follow the photo credits to find the photographer. Instagram is a fantastic resource for this. No one can resist posting their latest shot.
Good photographers can charge a range of prices from $200.00-600.00, so make sure you like their work. Most offer a variety of packages and times, some even include hair and make-up artists, but no matter who you choose, the most important thing to remember is to look like you. Look like you at your best. You can’t change your face once you meet in person, and it’s a red flag for agents if you look different from your headshot. (***PRO TIP: This is also an expense you can right off on your artist taxes).
WRITE A SHORT INTRO: Like any job, the cover letter (body of the email you send) should introduce yourself and explain why you are interested in working with that particular agent. Also, provide a brief overview of your accomplishments. Make it quick and personal. These are busy people who don’t have the time to be reading novellas. Especially if they are expected to watch all of your materials. Do yourself and them a favor by getting to the point. They know this is how the business works. Agents can also smell a copy-paste chain email from a mile away, so while you're using brevity, make sure you include what has compelled you to reach out to this specific person. Is it that they’ve helped foster the career of an actor that inspires you? Or that you’ve heard incredible things about them from the community? Do they champion artists like you? Whatever it is, tell them.
REACH OUT TO THE AGENT. The world has become electronic and agents prefer to receive queries via email. So send your cover letter as the body of the email to the address provided on the agent's website or the one that’s listed on their IMDb profile. If you have a personal contact already represented by the agency or agent who is comfortable sending your materials on your behalf, that’s also a much more certain way for the agent to review your package. Whichever way you chase, send it off!
FOLLOW UP if you don't hear back. If you don't receive a response within a few weeks, it is appropriate to follow up with a brief email to inquire about the status of your submission. People are busy, and things slip their mind. Don’t be afraid to do this. The industry is one where you will get more no’s than yes’ so keep trying. Google will also be your best friend. There are scams out there: class scams, school scams and agent scams. So make sure you do a google review search first. I know the actors unions like SAG AFTRA (USA) and ACTRA (Canada) have a list of accredited agencies.
Consider working with a CASTING DIRECTOR or MANAGER. While agents are often the most desirable representation, casting directors and managers can also be helpful in getting your foot in the door and connecting you with industry professionals. You can follow the same process for managers, get hired as a reader for casting directors, or take classes that have showcases where they invite agents to view the class's work.
Keep learning and growing as an artist. Taking training or classes can only help you improve your art. If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert, class is a great way to get closer to the goal. Audit and try a few out. See what teachers and styles serve you best. Even if you do secure an agent, it is important to continue working on your craft and building your skills and experience. This will only serve you when an audition comes your way and increase your chances of success.
If you learned something new about the film industry, and if you’d like to learn more, sign up to KINO. We’re Democratizing Film – ask us how!