I am often asked, “What do agents look for in an actor?” and the answer is simple: “Dollar signs.”


Yeah, that sounds glib as hell, but it’s the truth. If an agent looks at you and thinks, “Hmm, I could earn commission off this actor, tomorrow,” you’re gonna get signed. Unless of course there’s a conflict on the roster. Or you’re still stuck in your current representation contract. Or your prospective agent absolutely detests your manager, whom you’re unwilling to leave. Or you live out of market or have a rigid survival job and are hoping to work as an actor here and there, whenever you can.

So, okay. There’s a lot to it, after all. And you’ll notice I’ve not specifically singled out TALENT yet. Why is that?

Because, of course, talent is a part of what makes an agent see dollar signs while looking at you, but — let’s face it — it’s a small part. See, it’s assumed in this business that you have a baseline of talent. That’s a given. Why would you give up the stability of a regular paycheck and choose to have your family ask, constantly, when you’re going to pack it in and come back home if you weren’t at least brilliantly talented, well-trained, and ready to work?

But do you look like a booker? How can you tell?

When you see other actors out there working, do you see yourself? I’m not talking about “seeing yourself” in the way that I look in the mirror and see a combination of Barbra Streisand, Queen Latifah, and Kim Deal. I mean, when you watch films, TV shows, webseries, commercials — and study not just the stars of these projects — are you represented? Your type? Your age? Your ethnicity? Your gender? Your vibe? Are you there? And are you ALL over the place lately? (There’s no end to the lack of creativity out there when someone becomes the flavor of the month, and suddenly every other breakdown says, “We’re looking for a so-and-so type.”)

WHERE? Where are you showing up most? And in what size roles? Do you have the resume, the training, the ramp-up credits that reasonably look as though they may intersect with similar opportunities down the line? Meaning, if everyone you’re researching — OH, NO, BON IS RECOMMENDING RESEARCH AGAIN — has done time at UCB or Groundlings, have you gotten in class there? If your type is really hot commercially right now, have you gotten in a *recent* top commercial class to find out what’s trending in auditions these days? And if you’re seeing yourself all over the place in gritty indies, are you creating your own content or working with student filmmakers on similar projects so that you have demo reel footage that proves you can serve it up, exactly in the genre for which your type is popping?


Yup. But honestly, the amount of email I receive from actors who are *miserable* with their crappy agents who don’t understand them, who submit them incorrectly, who never get them out, and who won’t meet up for strategy sessions is just exhausting to read. It shows me that a significant number of actors are so freakin’ desperate to sign with an agent — any agent — that they’ll accept ANY rep rather than insisting upon the very best for where they’re headed next.

Sure, you can sign with a crappy agent pretty easily. I’ve talked before about the importance of the “hell yes.” Still, so many actors discount the value to waiting for the right match, and they’d rather not do the research it takes to get aligned with a better agent.

Good. Let the masses be lazy slactors while you do the work, while you take the time, and while you build up a presentation of “brand you” that teaches the exact right, higher-tier agent exactly what a booker you will be, once he helps open some of those better doors for you. You’re gonna arm this business partner of yours with tools that help him feel inspired to pick up the phone and pitch you like his rent depends on it. Think that’s not worth the research, the time, the work? Then I can’t help you.

There’s an episode of Mad Men in which a company whose business the agency is hoping to land is so scattered that Don Draper ends up stopping the meeting, saying, “You don’t know what kind of client you are.”

Know who you are (not all the things you wish you are or hope you may get to be). Know what you’re selling (and exactly where that item is HOT lately). Know what a booker looks like and make sure you’ve got your tools in order so that there’s no doubt you’re aligned with those forthcoming opportunities — not in the “I’ve prepared for every possible thing by trying to be everything to everyone” sort of way, but in a laser-focused, specific, meticulously researched way — once the *right* agent comes on board to help you into those rooms.

That’s what agents and managers are looking for: Actors who are so freakin’ easy to sell that they can’t wait to do so. And then they do. How awesome!

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/001706.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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