In part 1 of this article on which acting agency is best, we learned about what talent agents do and don’t do. We also covered the subject of choosing an agent as an actor who is relatively new to the business.
This post covers things to consider about talent agents when you’re a more experienced actor. That could mean you’ve just finished your training and are ready to enter the professional talent pool, or you’ve been working for a while and have a few bookings on your resume. You’re not new, but you’re looking to level up.
There are several things to consider when you’re searching for a talent agency. The number one reason actors have agents is so they can get more opportunities than they would without them. Agents should be able to help you reach your career goals. So what are some factors that can impact which agency can get you the most opportunities?
The Agency’s Size
Some actors want to be with large agencies, ones that have multiple departments, and multiple agents working within each. The thinking is, the larger the agency, the more opportunities their actors have to work.
Unfortunately this isn’t always true. Large agencies may have a big presence in their market, but it’s the relationship between the actor and the individual agent that counts. If an agent has too many talent on their roster, it’ll be hard for any one of them to remain top of mind. Having to compete for your agent’s attention won’t help your progress.
Smaller agencies are usually seen as allowing for more personal attention. With fewer agents repping fewer actors, there’s a greater chance the agents will be working on the talent’s behalf. Yet again, not always. There are plenty of stories of actors signing with smaller agents, only to hear radio silence after the first few weeks. Smaller agencies also may not have the pull to get their actors into as many audition rooms as larger offices.
One way to see how much your agent is sending you out is to ask for a submission report. It’s an actor’s right to know how often they are being given then chance to do their job. It only take a few seconds of effort for agents to pull this information up from online submission platforms. Agents who push against this may be reticent to disclose how often (or little) they’re submitting the actor’s name to content creators and casting directors.
Depending on which city the actor is based, one path actors take is joining a non-union talent agency as their first agent and then moving to one that does union work. If you’re not familiar, in The US actors work under the protection of a couple different unions, SAG-AFTRA for on camera and Actor’s Equity for stage. Many actors work without those union protections at the beginning of their career. While some prefer to stay non-union, most eventually join to take advantage of the higher pay, health insurance and retirement benefits, and residual/profit sharing provisions in their contracts.
This is an individual decision, but actors with agents not franchised by the unions are significantly less likely to get the chance to do the union work required to join. Leveling up may mean hunting for a union franchised agency so they can get on those auditions and have a path to union membership.
Finding The Right Agency
An agent that might be right for one actor may not be a good choice for others. Use your career goals as a guide. If you want to venture into a specific kind of work, you’ll need an agent who is strong in that area to help get you there.
The best way to develop a short list of agencies is to look at other actors who have the career you want to have. If they’ve found an agent that works for them, it’s possible the agency might be a good choice for you, too. Once you have a list of actors, IMDb Pro can be a great resource. There’s an annual fee for membership, but it’s worth every penny because you’ll be able to find any actor’s agent, manager and other rep’s contact information. Developing your list of potential reps without it would be much more difficult.
Take stock of where your career is currently. Think about next steps. Find actors who have done what you want to do, but aren’t too far ahead of you. As an example, if you’ve mostly booked commercials and would like to start doing TV, know that most actors don’t start by getting a series regular role as their first TV booking. It’s much more common to start with co-star roles. Therefore, look for actors of your age and gender who have a few co-star jobs under their belt. Their agent helped them level up, so that’s an agent that should go on your short list.
If you’re working in a market that only has a few agencies, local actors might be able to tell you more than IMDb Pro about the best agents for the work you’d like to pursue. For example, the book Acting In Chicago has detailed information about acting agencies in Chicago. There are similar resources for local markets around the country, written by those who work there. They can be gold mines of information, as can acting teachers, coaches and casting directors.
The worst thing any actor can do is to use the shotgun method: shoot at everything and hope something falls down. Specific targeting of talent agencies that have helped other actors get where you want to be is the best way to decide on a new agent.
How did you find the agent you’re currently with, and how’s it going with them? Leave a comment below.