‘Tis the season… for makin’ a list (checkin’ it twice)…. No, you haven’t wandered into a time warp. I know I’m making it sound like Christmas around here (and, for some actors, it will be a bit like that soon), but I’m actually referring to the end of Pilot Season and the onset of “Agent-Getting Season.”
Each April, agents and managers begin to notify the non-earners, the non-callback-getters, and the poor-feedback-receivers that their time on the client roster is coming to a close. So, for those of you who are looking to meet with agents and managers in the hopes of getting signed, now is the time to build your wishlist for Santa! Just as mass mailings to hundreds of casting directors are the least-effective means of getting auditions, mass mailings to agents and managers aren’t going to serve you very well either. That’s why the list-making process is so important. Not only will you be targeting the agents and managers who best match your needs, you’ll also be doing your homework for a meaningful meeting, should you be invited in for one!
Making the List
We’ve already looked at important issues to consider, before signing with agents and managers, but how do you create a list of folks on whose radar you even want to land? In addition to the issues mentioned in What To Look for in an Agent, you should also consider your career goals. Are you a co-star actor looking to bump up to guest-star and recurring level? Are you a supporting character actor hoping to score meatier roles within the next year? Has your recent training brought your skills up to the level where those goals are reasonable and it’s just a matter of the right agent or manager helping with the inevitable transition? Remember, if you’re not READY, there is NO agent or manager who can help get you to the next tier. Do you need a hustler who will craft some amazing deals for you? Or are you in need of a hand-holder? Do you do so much of your own work (drop-offs, showcases, networking events) that it’s just an agency logo you’re looking for and not so much of the “door opener” type?
As you’re making your list, use guides like those from Acting World Books and K Callan to see which agencies specialize in your type. Visit SAG (where agencies provide updated rosters pretty regularly). Check IMDb-Pro for rosters of agencies you’re targeting and to get an idea of the level of clients each specializes in (co-stars, series regulars, movie stars). Try to talk with current and former clients of each agency you’re looking into. Check the sign-in sheets at auditions. Whose clients are consistently getting in the room? If you’ve been able to intern in casting offices, hopefully you’ve paid attention to which agents the CDs love (and which ones they groan over having to speak with). Very importantly, if you already have a manager, make sure the agents on your short list are ones the manager works with happily (and vice versa). Finally, remember that recommended agents and managers are your best bet. Not only can you sometimes count on that recommendation to help get you in the door, but you can also get good “inside” information about the agency that’s being recommended, just by asking a very simple question: Why are they recommended? Once you know what makes a particular agency a good fit for you in the eyes of someone else, you’re on the road to participating in a very productive meeting.
After you’ve come up with a list of about 20 agents and managers (with any of whom you’d happily sign, if offered a good contract), you now know to whom you’ll submit (and hopefully meet). The next step is ranking them. You rank these agents and managers so that if two companies offer you representation (Yay, you!), you’ll know which one is the better match. It’s important to have these rankings done before you begin taking the meetings, as your data based on previous research COMBINED with the vibe you get when you’re in the office will be important. The time to decide which of two equally enthusiastic agents is the BETTER agent is NOT in the heat of the moment and excitement over being offered two contracts when a week ago you couldn’t get seen. Just remember the detached professionalism with which you created the rankings! It’s very easy to get swept up in fits of glee over someone wanting to sign you and lose sight of which agent or manager is going to be the better one for YOUR career needs in the long term.
Meetings will start happening in late April, as agents and managers want to find hot new talent for their client rosters before Episodic Season/Midseason starts up in July. After this window, your next time to target reps is after the largest “client dumping period,” which is in late October. Agents and managers like a clean, lean, booking machine-filled roster before the start of Pilot Season. They’ll take meetings for about six weeks before leaving for the holidays. So, your “big” window (just over two months) is opening now.
Prepping for Making Contact
It’s not terribly important that your headshots be outstanding. (I know, you’re thinking, “Wait! Did she just say my headshots don’t matter?” No. Take a breath.) My point is that most agents and managers will request that actors get new headshots upon signing with them (not as a condition of signing with them, as that’s often a sign of a kickback scam) but as a way of having a “fresh start” with new materials that are selected by both you and your new representative. So, yes, you want to approach an agent or manager with great photos to start with, but you certainly don’t need to run out and get new headshots in order to do an agency mailing, especially if the headshots you currently use have been getting you out just fine over the last few months. Since you’ll likely be getting new photos within days of signing, a shoot just before submitting could be a waste of money.
Do you have tape? I don’t just mean a clip or two from some poorly-lit indie. I mean a couple of really fantastic, meaningful, broadcast-quality scenes in which you show your range. Even if the agent or manager who signs you can’t use the footage to market you (because it’s too out-of-date or no longer of the type category you’re targeting), it will still go a long way in getting you through the door for that big meeting. If you have a website, you’ll want to park your demo reel footage there, so that the potential agent or manager can take a quick peek of your work without requesting hard copy of the tape or DVD and then having to get it back to you.
Back when you were creating your list, did you speak with casting directors who have cast you or consistently called you back about which agents and managers they’d recommend you go with? Will those CDs now pick up the phone or shoot an email on your behalf and help get you in for a meeting? Make it VERY easy on casting directors, if you’re asking for a favor of this level. If you don’t already have tape available, a rockstar resume, a fantastic cover letter, and a pared-down list of the top FEW agents and managers you want to target, don’t even bother approaching a CD for help. We’re not going to go to bat for someone who’s just looking for a little extra “oomph” in his or her mass mailing. You’re asking us to put our reputation on the line when we say to an agent or manager, “I believe you will make money if you sign this kid. You will not be wasting your time if you meet with him.” Be sure your list is already meaningfully crafted and your marketing tools are outstanding.
Now, a word about how difficult it is to get a referral: I’ve been casting for just over three years. I’ve seen several thousands of actors audition. I have agreed to do legitimate, formal referrals for four actors. The details of how we determine who gets a referral will be covered in a future column. The point I’m trying to make for the purposes of this article is: Don’t get your feelings hurt if a casting director recommends a particular agent or manager for your list but then declines your request to do a referral on your behalf. Thank her for considering it and move on. Should you be granted that referral, know that this is a very valuable thing. The referral not only opens doors for you but it is also a relationship-builder between the agent and casting director. Based on the level of trust between these people, the agent knows that accepting an enthusiastic referral made by a casting director helps all of his clients get into that casting office on future auditions.
In the Meeting
Much of this is covered in What to Look for in an Agent, but I want to underscore the importance of really connecting with your potential representation at this point. Hopefully, you’re meeting with someone who will be a part of your team for years to come. It shouldn’t be terribly casual, even if the meeting is relaxed in tone. This is a business arrangement you’re beginning. Make sure this agent or manager really GETS you, understands the best (most profitable, most realistic) way to market you, and has a communication style you’re happy with. You will not only be connecting with the office to get updates and provide your latest materials, but these folks will also be communicating with casting offices on your behalf.
Be prepared to do a cold read, as some agents will hand you sides right there in the office. Often, it will be commercial copy you’re given (obviously, if this is ONLY the theatrical department of an agency you’re meeting with, that’s not likely to happen), so you should prep for doing commercial cold reads by transcribing existing ads and rehearsing at home. Very few agents and managers ask actors to do monologues in the office these days, but you should always have one (or two) ready, just in case. Occasionally, agents ask actors to do a prepared scene with another actor who they may or may not also be considering for representation.
Bring several different headshots you currently use, as well as the proofsheets or CD from your most recent shoot. Have a copy of your demo reel with you and be prepared to leave that behind for the agent to review after you’re gone. Also bring a list of casting directors with whom you have relationships. This is your way of showing the agent or manager what you’ve been able to do on your own. Further, you’ll share a list of bookings and callbacks you’ve gotten recently. The relationships you already have in place are important to potential representatives (just as the agent’s existing relationships should be important to you, a potential client).
If you’re leaving an existing agency or management relationship, be prepared to talk about why you feel that partnership is ending. Don’t be gossipy! Be articulate and accurate, but not at all negative. This is a very small town and you plan to be a part of its population for many years. To that end, if you are taking meetings with several agents over a few weeks, it is absolutely fine to mention that (but you shouldn’t need to reveal which agents, in particular). Assuming you are offered a contract at the end of your meeting (Yay, you!), ask if you may take it with you and make your decision after speaking with your manager, your acting coach, your attorney, a SAG rep, etc.
After the Meeting
Every agency has a different “start packet.” Typically, you’ll be asked to provide up to 50 copies of your headshot and a couple of copies of your demo reel. You’ll be given a logo for your resumes (or a piece of letterhead). Take the time now to notify all online services of your new agency information. Also let SAG know about the change. Update your website accordingly. If this start of a new relationship coincides with the end of an old one, refer back to How to Fire Your Agent to be sure you’ve tied up all of the loose ends with your previous representative before moving forward with the new one.
Thank anyone whose referral got you through that door. Yes, it’s your resume, it’s your look, it’s your tape, and it’s your charisma in the meeting that will determine whether you get signed, but you must remember to express gratitude that someone helped you get into that room. In a town where every relationship counts, you don’t want to come off as ungrateful or unprofessional in any way.
Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form before approaching your dream agent? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000377.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.