So, you want to start acting professionally. What a lot of people forget, is that the film industry is a business, and like any business you must work your way up.
There are two kinds of agents. There are commercial agents and there are theatrical agents. As a talent starting off in the business, even if you hate the idea of commercials, it is your most successful route into an agency. It is also the most likely way of getting your union status secure. To explain that a little more in-depth; when a production company is looking to hire for Film or TV as a union project, they must follow union rules. Those union rules require union actors. Production is heavily fined for hiring a non-union talent for a union show. Productions will hire non union and pay those fees when its something super super specific. Like needing a 400-lb woman willing to be ridiculed. Or hiring Kobe Bryant for a cameo (before Kobe became union qualified). Young kids are accepted as OK to hire, if they have the budget to look outside the union world. However, in commercials they really don’t care if you are union or not. It is only extra paper work for them because they are not financially hit in order to hire a non-union person.
Here is why you need to understand the above: agents usually will not send out a lot of non-union talent to casting directors. On occasion they do. On occasion there is a large cattle call of every single possible person for a TV show or Film, but the odds are not in the favor of non-union talent booking the role. Theatrical agents need union talent. And unless you have union status you need to focus on commercial agents. The only exception to this is youth. By “youth” I mean toddler ’til about 10.
With that said, if you have no agent and no union card, you need to focus on agencies that have both a commercial and a theatrical department. If you do well on the commercial front with loads of call backs you may get sent on a theatrical from time to time.
Here is what you do….
You look over lists of agencies. you can find these lists on the myactingsite.com resource page. You can also go to Sammuel French book store and buy one of the seasonal books they release every few months with the most current agents and where they are. Actor’s Access also has a good list, but my personal favorite is at the Sammuel French Bookstore because those books break down the agencies each agent and any and all contact information they can give you from addresses to phone numbers to email addresses.
Now, there is an extremely common lie out there. That lie is that you should not call or email agents. And it is one of the most insanely stupid concerns I can think of. You need to be professional in what you do. You need to present yourself in a professional manner. HOWEVER, there is no sin in reaching out to an agent. Just be smart about it. There is not a snow ball’s chance in hell that, if you’ve never worked a professional job, and do not have some sort of actual connection to Brad Pitt’s agent, that an agent will waste their time meeting you, or accepting your call, or spending 15 minutes giving you tips on how to be a successful actor. So don’t waste your time on that kind of thing.
What is commonly suggested is taking your headshot and resume and mailing them out in envelopes with a simple cover letter. This is very expensive! And personally I never recommend it. Get that list. 90% of agents (commercial and theatrical) have a submissions email line. It is faster, it is cheaper, and it is just as effective.
The 10 Steps to Getting an Agent:
1 – Get a headshot and resume put together.
2 – Get into an acting class and network to other talent who have agents. Ask them if they are willing to pass your information along to their commercial agent.
3 – Get a list of agencies, and email submissions to all with a commercial department. Send no more than 2 images of yourself with a very quick and easy-to-read note that reads something like “I am looking for a strong commercial agent. You have a very good reputation and I would like to meet with you to see if we are a fit. Please contact me next time you are setting up meetings with new talent.” And include your name and phone number. If you email this to an entire list of agents you are likely to have a bite from at least one of them.
4 – Repeat steps 2 and 3.
5 – If you have done the above at least twice within a months time then start setting aside money and make a select list of agents to snail-mail headshots to.
6 – Repeat steps 2 and 3.
7 – Call agents with commercial departments and ask if they have any dates set where they are looking at new talent for their commercial departments.
8 – Repeat steps 2 and 3.
9 – Get a new set of headshots if the above has not worked. And repeat steps 1 through 8.
10 – If you do not have an agent at this point you need to start walking into doors of smaller agents and dropping off headshots with reception in a cheerful and determined fashion.
If you do not have an agent after these 10 steps then you are doing something wrong. With all the talent I have worked with 90% will have an agent by the completion of step 3.
In the next blog I will take up union actors and getting agents that work for you.
Here is a short list of commercial and youth agents within Los Angeles. Start your steps now!
Here are some agencies that are more open to taking developing actors:
Top Youth Agencies:
Coast to Coast
Amsel, Eisenstadt, and Frazier
Top Commercial Agencies(*=definite winners):
KSR *-Alicia Ruskin
Abrams *- Mark Measures
CESD *- David Ziff or Adrienne Berg
Diverse *- Wendy Morrison
Coast to Coast * -Hugh Leon
Daniel Hoff * – Daniel Hoff
Commercial Talent * – Neil Kreppel
Commercials Unlimited – Richard Reiner
Innovative Artists * – Marcia Hurwitz or Cher Van Amburg
Independent Artists- Jenine Leigh or Laura Fogelman
Bobby Ball-Mike O’Dell
Flick Commercials- Tina Kiratsoulis
DPM – Daniel P. Mulheran
DDO – Marlene Sutton
Venture IAB – Noel Palm
Sutton, Barth, Venari * -Pam Sparks
Arlene Thornton and Associates – Tracy Mapes
Pantheon * -Patricia Dawson or Pierre Gatling
Beverly Hecht -Teresa Valente-Dahlquist
Don Buchwald and Associates *- Kristy Dax
M. Greene and associates – Jim Lighte
AKA * – Doug Ely
Amsel, Eisenstadt & Frazier -Gloria Hinojosa
Brady, Brannon, and Rich * – Judy Rich or Pat and David Brady
Brass Artists – Jack Ianacci
Aqua – John Kolinofsky
Special Artists Agency – Alexandra Gucovsky
Amatruda, Benson, and Assoc. -Kimberly Gola
Angel City – Gwen Davis
BiCoastal – Greta Hanley
Clear Talent Group – Tim O’Brien
Lemon Lime – Robin Harrington or Chaim Magnum
LA Talent – Pam Loar or Mike Casey
LW1 – Sean Robinson
Mavrick – Brad Diffley
Momentum – Garry Purdy
NTA*- Nancy Luciano