Am I Ready to Get An Agent?
You’ve heard through the grapevine that the only way to get seen for any major roles and network shows is to have an agent. And while that’s true, getting an agent isn't the first step in building an actor’s career. Unfortunately, one of the first mistakes we see actors make is submitting to an agent prematurely. In this industry, agents work for free until you book a gig. The only way they can be assured of your success is to know that you've got a proven track record for booking. Agents have to have the best quality materials to pitch you and know you’ve got the goods to back it up and deliver a strong performance.
First impressions count. Submitting prematurely will make the wrong impression. Before you hit submit, spend some time getting all of your best materials together. Do a double check and assess if, in fact, getting an agent is the right move for you. While there are always some anecdotal exceptions, we want to focus on how to make you most desirable in the eyes of an agent. (And make you the most pitchable, in-demand actor in as you audition, too!)
THE OFFICIAL CHECKLIST:
Here's our official list of actionable steps to take before submitting to an agent. Here are seven steps to building a competitive agency submission.
Notice: Each step builds and includes the previous. You should continue to do each of the previous steps WHILE you pursue the next.
1. GET EXTENSIVE TRAINING
If you are pursuing acting as a profession and are expecting to get paid to act, then you have to have a strong skill set. Simply put, you gotta know how to perform consistent, believable work. The way to do that is training. If you’ve taken less than a year of classes, then you aren’t ready. The craft takes years to be proficient and a lifetime to master.
Actors should have experience with: Scene Study, On-Camera Acting, Audition Technique, Improv, and be in a studio working at least once a week consistently for 2+ years before getting a rep. Yes, if you are only looking to work commercially or if you are a young actor, you might be fine submitting sooner. But if you are 18+ and you’ve not honed this craft to create a consistent process as an actor, getting an agent is premature. Priority #1 is to learn the craft, inside and out.
2. BUILD YOUR RESUME: AUDITION FOR EVERYTHING
You should have some student and/or independent credits on your resume before you submit to an agent. Remember, agents only make money, when you book. So if you’ve never booked before, you’ve got no way to guarantee that agent will make any income if they sign you. Your resume is your track record of relationships you’ve built in the industry. And it tells agents you’re a proven commodity that is in demand.
Get everything you can on your resume: films, plays, web series, stage readings, musicals, and theme park performances. Even without an agent, you can still self-submit via Actors Access or Casting Networks and Audition for everything. (Music videos, PSAs, background roles, and Commercials won’t go on your resume but can still help you learn about the industry). While you won't ever be done training, working in the field can be one of the best ways to continue to hone your craft. (Make sure that your #resume follows industry standards!)
3. GET PROFESSIONAL HEADSHOTS
One of the primary tools you have to have is your #headshot. It's your logo. It's your calling card, and most importantly it is how your agent submits you for work. If you don't have a headshot, you literally can’t even get into the audition room.
Your headshot has to be high quality, shot by a professional headshot photographer, has to be current, and has to represent you right now. It also has to follow the current industry standards and show us how to cast you next. If you are submitting for theatrical representation, you are going to need more than one #headshot to show us your most castable types you play. (Not sure what types you can play? Talk to an acting coach.)
4. BUILD YOUR CASTING PROFILES
The main way agents will submit you for work is through your casting profiles. Be sure you create a full profile on Actors Access, Casting Networks (and optionally: Backstage). Be sure you’ve uploaded your current headshots, filled out your resume, special skills, measurements, and contact info on these platforms.
-- PAUSE HERE --
If you’ve been following along, you’ve got
A competitive resume of credits
Casting profiles you can use to submit for auditions
So that means you are prime to be self-submitting! The gap from step 4 to step 6 might take a hot second, and that's okay. This is where you focus on steps 1-4. Keep training. Keep Auditioning. Keep booking gigs. Update your resume & profiles with each class and booking. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
5: GET IN THE FIELD
As you build these competitive tools, you move into a position to start booking higher tier projects. Actors at this stage can land paid gigs and level up credits from student films and shorts to indie features and SAG-AFTRA projects. You should be actively out in the field crushing it before rushing to get an agent. Continue to get yourself working and building a career to be proud of, and start targeting projects that will get you IMDb credits and footage. (For more information on #self-submitting go here)
It's also important to note that you should feel like a pro at self-submitting and self-taping. The majority of initial auditions are all on tape so you want to master your #self-tape game so that your future agent can submit you with the confidence that your self-tape auditions will look sharp and follow industry standards.
6. GET FOOTAGE & UPLOAD TO YOUR SITES
Here are two scenarios that will put you in a good position to sign with an agent:
Scenario 1: You have a Demo Reel. You’ve got a compilation of theatrical (non-commercial) footage. You have a reel that's been professionally edited, that shows you at your best acting and best quality/tier of work. The #footage looks good with no distractions. It's got more than 1 clip, and runs between 90 seconds to 2 or 3 minutes long.
Scenario 2: You have Acting Clips. You have a few short scenes or monologues recorded on an HD camera with professional lighting and sound quality. You maybe used a studio or a comparable self-tape set up. You got coached on this material and each clip shows knockout performances and your best acting. Each clip is under 60 seconds long. (Ideally one comedic clip, one dramatic clip, and one commercial clip)
Your best bet at having a competitive agency submission: Scenario 1.
When it comes to landing an agent, the best position you can be in is having polished, completed footage all packaged into a strong Demo Reel. When it comes to getting a top tier agent, it's a requirement. Period.
Not as competitive, but still possible is Scenario 2. We see this a lot with young actors or actors who have a Theatre degree and some film credits but just haven't gotten footage yet. It’s not the ideal but, in some cases, these Actor Clips will do the trick. It might mean your package is less competitive. (Depending on your market, agents turn away actors every day who DO have demo reels, so be prepared for that possibility). As long as you’ve got really strong training to back your work, and on-camera credits on your resume, it's absolutely possible to land an agent with high quality Actor Clips.
Next, once that footage has been edited, upload those clips to your online casting profiles (Actors Access, Casting Networks, Back Stage) & be sure to upload to Vimeo or Youtube so you have a link handy to share.
7. PUT YOUR PACKAGE TOGETHER
If you’ve followed along so far, you should have nearly everything you need for a really killer package. But it needs some finessing before you submit to an agent. You might have a completed resume, but is it following industry standards? You might have an Actor's Access account, but is it filled out properly? Are all of your Acting Clips and Demo Reel labeled correctly? Have you created vanity links for IMDb and Actors Access? Do you have an Actor Website? How is your Cover Letter? Do you know who you want to submit to? Each agency will represent different kinds of actors, both at different tiers in their career, and types of work (Print/Commercial/Theatrical /VoiceOver, etc...). You also want to take the time to assess that each element of your actor package reflects the types that you play and show us how to cast you next.
Honestly, there is SO much to cover in this section, we can write an entire blog post on this subject alone. But the thing here to remember is HAVING materials isn’t enough. How you submit, is just as important as what you submit. You need to take the time to get a package together and curate it to the specific Agent you’d like to submit to. (For more details about Agent Targeting, we highly recommend Bonnie Gillespie's video here) There's an entire process when it comes to researching and submitting to an agent, and what questions to ask when you land a meeting. But we will leave that for another post.
We hope that you feel inspired and empowered by all theses resources to navigate all package prep pretty nicely but if you need some extra help sorting out if your materials are up to snuff, feel free to get an agency prep consult with us at the studio here.
Regardless of whether you choose to start submitting to agencies, these steps are necessary for getting you on the path to a professional career in the industry. And these steps are so crucial, because you will have to continue the hustle of training, self-submitting, and updating your materials after you land an agent. That sort of hustle is absolutely necessary for longevity. And getting an agent is only one small part of that path. When you are ready, we want your submission to stand out, to be competitive, and to show your potential reps that you are a strong actor (you are trained), who’s built your own momentum (you are hustling and landing projects), and who understands exactly how they should be cast (brand awareness).
When it’s the right time, we want you to snag an agent that’s going to be the best fit for you as a storyteller. Focus on learning how to be the storyteller first. Build a body of work you can be proud of, and get the goods to back it up. When you are ready, submit with confidence.
Clare Lopez is an Actress and Director of Education and Outreach at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. She is deeply passionate about supporting fellow actors in their craft, and loves using storytelling to educate, elevate, and empower others. Email Clare