What Is a Referral?

Often, actors will notice that — in various publications about agents and managers — actor submissions are accepted “with industry referral only.” Huh? Isn’t a referral something you get from your general practitioner when looking for a medical specialist? Yes, but it’s also the industry term for providing a reference: someone in the know about your skills who can vouch for your professionalism and talent.

Agents and managers get thousands of unsolicited submissions from actors seeking representation every week. They often need a way to weed through all of that “product” in order to know who gets a meeting. And since the time is right for agency and management submissions (what with pilot season being over and all), you’d better know when a referral is required, and — more importantly — how to get one!

Who knows your work? Take a look at your Rolodex, your Palm Pilot, your notebook filled with contact numbers and note which producers, directors, assistant directors, casting directors, and acting coaches know your work and believe in you as a professional actor. If you’ve just landed here from some other town, who repped you “back home”? Will your old agency help you transition into the LA market?

Once you have a list together — even a short one — start refining your representation “wish list” so that you’re not doing a blanket submission to every agency in town. When you’re asking for referrals, it’s best to start with just two or three agencies per reference, so that you’re not asking too much of someone who is graciously donating their time to speak on your behalf.

Does the reference always have to speak directly to the agent or manager? Not always. Sometimes, just an industry pro’s name on a cover letter or dropped in conversation on a phone call or during an interview will suffice. However, you should always make the reference aware of the fact that you will be using his or her name with that particular agent, in case a call is placed to check the reference.

Perfect example: I recently met with an actor who — by all means — should’ve gone out for several pilots this season. Great credits, great tape, great headshots, very talented, totally marketable, in SAG, repped commercially and theatrically, and extremely professional. Turns out this actor is not well-matched with an agent of the same level. It is so very important to know when to “upgrade” to an agency of a higher level. When you’re not getting out like you should be, sometimes it is simply due to the fact that your agent isn’t working on getting doors open that would be just right for you to walk through!

I recommended about ten different agencies for this actor to contact, stating that it was okay to drop my name. Of course, we first ranked the agents in a priority order and discussed appropriate timing for making contact. Two days after my meeting with that actor, I received a phone call from the first agent on the “wish list,” wanting to pick my brain about the actor in what turned out to be a good, ten-minute conversation. A few days later, I received another call from the agent, thanking me for the referral. It was a perfect match! Next day, I received a thank you note from the actor, happily announcing having signed with a new agent. Life is good!

What This Means to You

Okay, so what does this mean to you, the actor seeking representation (or seeking to move to another agent or manager)?

First: make that list of references — people you can go to and ask to do the favor of making a call on your behalf or being willing to accept a call on your behalf from an agent, should that “name drop” on the cover letter come to that.

Next: make that list of agents and managers and trim it down to the top ten you want to use the industry referral plan on. You don’t want to overshoot with a big mass mailing here.

Make contact with those industry references to see which agents or managers they would recommend you approach. This gives them an opportunity to use what they know about your abilities and level to suggest and agent or manager who they know to be at the same level and who they know is looking to sign new talent of your type at this time. This can be a real time-saver, in the long run!

Finally: follow through! Do the legwork and don’t just let that name-drop sit there in an envelope; hoping the agent will take the next step. Contact the office and make sure to mention that so-and-so is more than happy to give you an endorsement, if that would help get you in for a meeting.

Then go for it! Give a great interview and make that industry reference proud to have put his or her stamp of approval on you as a working actor.

Remember, it’s all about relationships in this town. Don’t be afraid to develop them, nurture them, and benefit from them!

Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form so your referral makes a real difference? Start your 11-day FREE training today!

Rock ON!

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet


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/000032.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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