If you’re like many actors out there, you’re probably using this first quarter of 2015 to research agents and managers, hoping to create a “hell-yes” target list so that — come drop season — you’re all set to send over your bullseye goodies with your rockstar cover letter, hopefully scoring a meeting with your future dream agent, because it’s so clear that you’re meant to be on that roster, right now.

Well, one of the most ninja moves I’ve seen in this department comes from Anna Borchert, whose quest for new headshots a while back caused her to use her IMDb-Pro membership in an entirely new way. At the time that she shared this with her fellow SMFA Master Class classmates, I said, “That’s brilliant.” And I still feel that way. It was a great way to map out the best headshot photographer for her goals and it’s a great way to make sure that ALL of your tools measure up at the agency you hope to call home.

What’s the tactic? Here’s how you begin: Identify your target agencies and management firms. I’m not going to walk you through that process, as I’ve done so several times before. Just follow these delicious links to get going on that.

Assuming you’ve already identified your targets or you live in a smaller market than Los Angeles — let’s say you have a list of a dozen or two dozen agencies and management firms you’re sure actively get their clients into the casting offices you’re targeting — here’s the next step: Check out their clients.

Really check ’em out. When Anna did this work, she was specifically looking at actors of her general type (not her über-specific, bullseye-level type) and age range, opening up their IMDb-Pro profiles in new tabs, heading deep into their MEDIA list to check out their photos. What commonalities could she map out from these photos? Which clues exist that may indicate WHO is shooting the majority of the young, female, ingénue-turned-leading-lady clients at these target agencies?

Ah! Finally! One of the actors’ photos — all of which were starting to look similar in style and composition — was uploaded along with a photo credit. Jackpot! Now Anna knew that, if she shot her next round of headshots with this particular photographer (a photographer that shot a disproportionate number of clients at this agency), she’d have a headshot that — when it crossed their desk in a submission package — already felt RIGHT for their tastes.


The “yes, and…” that I’d like to do off this bit of photographer-related research goes beyond photos and into the footage. Many actors have demo reel footage up at their IMDb-Pro pages. Those who don’t tend to have their footage available with a quick Google, at least.

So get to it. Start with the headshots, because this is easier. Say your number-one target agency (again, never one of The Bigs, because they’ll come get YOU when the time is right for that intersection) seems to like headshots that are done in an outdoor setting, natural light, minimal makeup, very little retouching, and an open-mouth smile. Great. Even if you cannot nail down WHO the photographer might be (but if you were to post a sample photo in a popular Facebook group for actors — like ours, maybe — you might find out), you’ll know enough about the style that the agency likes its actors to have available that you can aim for that in your next shoot.

Next, the footage. If all the available footage in your dream agent’s client roster is clocking in at 90 seconds, it may (finally) be time for you to get realistic about that 3-minute reel you’ve been clinging to all these years. If the marketing tools your “hell-yes” rep asks his “hell-yes” clients to use are skewed toward broad comedy and your reel is filled with gritty indie stuff, this is worth noting. You may think, “Oh, goodie! They have no one like me! I’ll fill a void,” when what’s more likely is that *their* bullseye is best marketed with broadly comedic footage, and the casting directors know that they’re the go-to for this type of actor.

When you come across a section of reels that are already similar to your own, ooh… maybe you’ve found a place that will feel like home without you having to do a whole bunch of editing or content creating or footage rearranging at all! What a delightful realization! The moment you see that your existing tools fit right in with what a target agent prefers his clients have available should feel exhilarating!

Because it’s at that moment that your existing target list gets all sorts o’ rearranged. The agency that is already getting actors into casting offices where you know your work would be appreciated (oh, if you could ONLY get in there, right?) is signing clients whose footage is on-par (or just a tier above) what you have NOW? Dude! New number-one target rep, right?

Remember, it’s never as much fun changing it all up to try and become what they want as it is to find the place that is already rolling out the welcome mat for you.

And if your deep-dive down the IMDb-Pro representation rabbit hole shows you that your tools are not measuring up in the offices you’re targeting, you know how to fix that, right?

Either adjust your targets DOWN a tier so you organically build toward the next level *or* build up your footage, improve your list of self-booked indies, and rock out your headshot so that when it’s time to intersect with this “hell-yes” rep, it’s like you’re already one of their clients, when they first lay eyes on your submission.

Drop breadcrumbs down the path you want ’em to take. Make it EASY for them to say, “Ooh, yes! Let’s set a meeting!” Make it more fun for you to sign with your next agent, so it’s not a year filled with, “I don’t think he even remembers signing me” but instead a whole lot of, “Yay! Another audition! My agent is AWESOME” ahead for you.

Bonnie Gillespie

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001940.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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