Does My Agent Have Relationships with CDs?

Dear Bonnie,

First off, I wanted to let you know that I absolutely love your column. I look forward to reading it every week and it never ceases to provide me (and many others for that matter) with invaluable insight and inspiration.

I’m not sure if this is within your area of expertise but I was hoping maybe you could give me some feedback.

I’ve been out of my training program for a year and have been looking for a theatrical agent pretty much since I returned to LA (I was born and raised here, but left for school for a couple of years). I have gotten a ton of auditions on my own through submitting (which is awesome) and have booked a few, however it’s difficult to tell whether I’m approaching the search for an agent in the most effective way possible. Last week I was talking to a friend of mine and joked that he should open a talent agency and become my agent. My friend is very charismatic, amazing with people and has a few industry connections. He loved the idea so we’ve acquired all the legal forms necessary to begin the process.

No matter what happens, I will never stop being my own agent (no matter who I sign with) but at this point in my career I simply don’t have access to the kind of auditions that I feel like I am ready for.

To your knowledge, does a newly-licensed agent have access to more breakdowns than what I can submit myself for? Will they just be submitting me for the same ones that I’m submitting for every day? It’s a big commitment to start an agency (even if it’s a small one) and I would love to have as much information as possible.

Thanks again for rocking those weekly columns. 🙂

Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoy the columns!

You are absolutely right that it is a big commitment (enormous, in fact) to start a state-licensed talent agency in California. There’s a bond, there’s fingerprinting, there’s a host of legal requirements agents are subjected to (and that’s for your protection, of course). That said, it’s an awesome, exciting undertaking and commend your friend for going for it (and you for encouraging him).

I also totally love that you’re so acutely aware of how important your self-submission habits are to keep up; that you remain your own manager no matter how large your team becomes. Fantastic! That mindset will serve you well in this career.

I actually answered an email in a Your Turn earlier this year that you should take a look at. It’s about how an out-of-market talent agent can get her actors seen in LA. Some of that will relate to your friend’s quest to become an agent.

As to the rest of your question (whether a new agent will have access to more breakdowns than you can see), the answer is YES, assuming he becomes a Breakdown Services subscriber (which I believe requires that aforementioned state license as well as letters of reference from casting directors who can verify that this is an agent doing business on behalf of clients, not an actor looking to self-submit and submit a couple of friends while he’s at it). The early challenge is going to be building a reputation.

Because even though a newer agent subscribing to breakdowns can SUBMIT you on roles you’d otherwise not have access to on your own, it’s going to take a RELATIONSHIP with the casting directors reviewing submissions for that submission to get attention. Sure, there are some CDs out there who will give you a shot even when you’re being submitted by an agent they’ve never heard of (these are usually the same CDs who would give you a shot if you were self-submitting through Actors Access), but most of the casting directors on higher-profile projects (the ones I’m betting you’re hankering to have access to) are going to rely on their relationships with agents in order to give someone a shot.

When an agent I know (and whose taste I trust) submits a new client, I’m more likely to see that actor on a larger role or on a higher-budget project. When an agent I don’t know (and whose taste may be totally opposite from mine) submits a new client, I’m being asked to take a risk that I might not be able to take (for budgetary reasons, timing issues, all manner of limitations that may have been placed on me by producers).

So, while the answer is YES, your new agent will have access to the roles, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your chances are going to be significantly better on these higher-profile projects. You’re going to have to do your own networking and hustling, and your agent will have to do that too. He’ll need to buy tickets to the TMA Awards and network with all of the CDs and managers there. He’ll need to attend The Actors’ Network holiday party and schmooze like there’s no tomorrow. He’ll need to attend events put on by the SAG Foundation or CSA or WIF or FiND or the TV Academy or any of the other groups in town that bring industry pros together. And relationship-building takes time.

If he’s serious about creating a successful agency, he needs to look at this as at least a five-year investment, if not more. It’s possible that it’ll be a long time before he sees a return on investment of his start-up costs (not to mention the investment of time he’s going to have put in, doing all of this networking). If that doesn’t scare him off, then I say GO FOR IT! Starting out in the mailroom at William Morris isn’t the only way in. 😉

PS — I wanted to mention that I’ve made it a point to catch some of the stop-downs listed in last week’s column. Today I saw 12 Angry Men for the first time and it was wonderful. Thank you, Craig, for the recommendation!

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 Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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