Alrighty, I got a question asking how I got an acting agent initially when I first started out and what worked and what didn’t. Just for the record, the agent factor seems to be one of the biggest hurdles for me thus far in my journey I believe. When I first attempted to get an agent I knew one of the biggest tool that I needed was of course the headshot. Not only is this the business card for you as the actor, but since first impressions matter so much it was important to me that I made sure I got a good headshot.
Afterwards, the first thing I did was sign up for a site called the Casting Workbook as from everything I learned in acting school you pretty much had to sign up for that site anyways since agents had to use it to submit you to projects. The thing is too, if you sign up for that site as an unrepresented artist agents can actually browse through your profile as a way for them to potentially discover new and unrepresented talent to sign. So, that’s what I did.
While signed up for that site, as well I manually tried to research about the various talent agencies here in Vancouver. Now the first rule that I was told is to make sure that the agency is licensed. So here in BC there is actually a site where you can find that located at http://www.labour.gov.bc.ca/esb/talent/list.htm
Now fortunately I was able to learn a bit about which agencies were the top ones from school and which ones were say boutique style agencies. After doing my research, I submitted to two of the bigger agencies in town through a traditional mail routine. Basically, the paper resume and headshot. As well, I attached a demo reel on a disc. However, I got no response at all. To me, I kind of expected that as those agencies were so big.
I then started to go to my other choices which were considered smaller agencies and the great thing was that they allowed electronic submissions. I submitted my headshot, resume and demo reel through e-mail. As well, in the e-mail I wrote down why I was specifically interested in seeking representation with that agency. Example, I personally fall in the younger look category and so I expressed clearly that based on my research I felt the agency could represent my category very well.
Sure enough, the two agencies that I submitted to were interested in seeing me. What ended up happening though was that I met with one agency and the other never got back to scheduling an actual meeting time. About the same time, having my profile on the site resulted in a different agency all together contacting and expressing interest in representing me. Sure enough, I met them.
Now what I learned from these meetings was that one of the key reasons they were interested in potentially representing me is because they saw my training and how in-depth it was. In a way, I guess that comes across as I am someone who is serious about the business. Because what I learned after is that one thing that an agent is afraid of is representing new talent only to see them give up so easily. It’s basically a waste of their time spending all that energy into promoting someone who is not serious.
Long story short, I signed up with the agency that gave me the best pitch. Example, saying how I was the only Chinese actor on their roster and that I would be the go to guy they would push. It was a pretty bad decision for me though as I stayed with them for about a year and nothing really transpired in terms of even getting auditions for film and tv roles. I was basically keeping myself busy with independent film work and it seemed like most of the calls I got were from commercial casting directors that requested for me from searching on the casting site. So, a change was needed.
I was going to do the submissions again but dreaded having to send paper resumes and all to so many agencies on top of the fact that I got no responses before through the paper method. I then read about this local business that had a business relationship with agents and that they could submit my portfolio to all of them digitally for a fee as well as taping a demo reel if I needed it. It was created by some known people in the industry, so I figured they would be steering me the right way.
After getting a consultation, the person mentioned that taping a demo with them would be good as they felt they could do something stronger than my current reel. So, I paid for the full package and taped some scenes with them to be used as a reel. Now my gut feeling was telling me this was not right as the scenes the person had me do were pretty stereotypical. Since I’m Asian, she said there were a lot of roles involving techies or gangsters and this way I can show the agents that I can be marketed this way to get the work that is out there.
Since this was online based, I got to semi see that my portfolio was being viewed through a counter. Result? At one point it said that it had been viewed like 15 times and yet no agent contacted me. While the normal reaction would be “Dang, I must not be good enough” it just didn’t make sense since before I got a pretty decent response.
So what I did was while this was running I sent my package by manually e-mailing my old material to two agencies. Result? I was contacted by one out of the two. That showed me that the demo reel had a huge effect. You see, my old demo reel was a bit more colorful and lively I thought. Example, it had dramatic work and comedy whereas the ones I taped with that company were so typical. Hence, it didn’t make me stand out.
Therefore, I dropped that service immediately. The bad thing is doing that service probably harmed me a lot too where all those agencies that never saw me before has just seen me for the first time with that dull representation of what I can do and what I am all about. And yes, it probably will affect me if I decide to submit to them in the future assuming they remember me.
Eventually, how I go my current agent was ironically through doing background work. Essentially, most people that do background do it very casually such as for headshots they just use a regular photo. For myself, I took it a bit more seriously and my headshot definitely made me standout since I was using the ones meant for professional acting work. As well, despite background work being considered as a bottom of the barrel type of work I still treated it like any other job. This resulted in me getting called for a lot of work where even my old background agent was saying that I was getting a lot of special requests.
That then resulted in me being referred on a certain production to see a particular agency that represented background and principal actors since I was looking for new principal representation. Because of this referral, the agency was keen in wanting to sign me up and sure enough I did. I was always told that you should stay away from agencies that represent both background and principal actors if you are more focused on acting, but that is a different topic.
So what did this teach me about getting an agent so far? It’s actually not that difficult. It’s finding the right one that you can work with the best that is the challenge. I know the eagerness that one must have in wanting to sign with any agency as a person starting out, but even from my experience it is better to really make sure that you are going with the right person. In a nutshell, for me finding an agent came down to these factors:
1) Good Headshot
2) Resume backed up with good training in the absence of professional film acting credit
3) Specifically addressing a particular agent on why you think you two would be an ideal fit together.
4) A demo reel that helps to show who you are and how you stand out.
5) Referral from an industry professional
What didn’t work for me:
1) Generic package submissions where the agency had no idea why I was seeking representation from them specifically.
2) Mass submission services.
3) A demo reel that revolved around catering to a stereotype and what you think people want to see as oppose to showing your talent and range.
Of course everyone probably has different experiences, but that’s how it has been for me thus far. I’m pretty sure the process is pretty similar in other parts of the world too except you will need to adapt it to where you live.