Professional Acting Resources


Acting Tips: Getting An Acting Agent

How Do I Get An Acting Agent?

"How do I get an agent?" Whenever I first meet a new actor or actress, this is almost always the first question I hear from them. Just based on my anecdotal experiences, I would say that getting an acting agent is, to the new actor or actress, the most important thing they can imagine. Getting an agent trumps talent, drive, discipline, training, research, literally everything.

It's a shame that they've all got it backwards.

However, I will answer the question in a couple of different ways, as there is no one way to get an agent. I think the most important thing to understand when you're trying to find an agent is to realize what the agent wants. Yes, ultimately, an agent is your employee, they work for you. But, that doesn't mean they need you...yet. Make sense? An acting agent looking for an employer is just like anyone else looking for a job, they want to get the best job, that pays the most, with the least amount of drudgery. 

I'll put it a different way, it's pretty easy to work in fast food, right? But, the job sucks, it pays terrible and it's generally dreadful to go in to work day after day. On the other hand, being a Chief Executive Officer at a major corporation is a pretty sweet job. It pays great, you have incredible perks, it's easy to show up to everyday, and you don't really have to do much, other than offer your opinion once in a while.

To put this in the terms of an acting agent, for a beginning agent trying to establish him or herself with a roster full of new actors and actresses that don't have a very high likelyhood of booking work isn't going to pay very well. It's going to take a lot of repetitive, and often boring work trying to establish people that probably aren't very good at what they're doing, which just makes their job tougher. It's the fast food end of the spectrum.

Compare that to the agent that represents Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. They get paid a huge amount of money because the actors they represent get paid a huge amount of money and the agent will have almost no difficulty in making sure their employers get jobs. Because, there's a line around the block of people that want their employers in their movie. Now, if it were you, which agent would you want to be?

Getting An Agent: The Different Paths

If you're an unknown and don't have family in the business, probably the best, easiest way to get a really good agent is to be an exceptional actor or actress that is part of an independent film that becomes successful at a major film festival such as Sundance, SXSW or Cannes. To put this in perspective, there are probably 50,000 feature length, independent films being produced every year around the world. Sundance, SXSW and Cannes combined will premiere maybe 20 of those films that don't have some sort of major talent in them (or studio connections, or both.) There are probably a few million "actors" around the world trying to get those gigs in those films.

In other words, it's not very likely. But, if it happens, the agents will be approaching you.

Next up is to be an exceptional actor that is consistently booking work on smaller indie projects, short films, student films and plays and then knocking on doors until someone agrees to work with you. Hopefully, the agent that you start working with will be sending you out on auditions for guest starring roles on television or maybe some small film roles and hopefully you will book some of those. If they're not sending you out on those auditions, you will probably stick around until you consistently book more work on your own until you can "move up" to a better agency.

After that, is bascially just cold calling agents. Putting a little package together, with your headshot, buying or renting a list of agents and then spamming them until someone meets with you and takes you on. These will most likely be the worst agents out there, with the fewest contacts and the least desirable auditions, but'll have an agent.

There is an alternative to the "get an agent" mentality, whereby the actor or actress represents themselves to try and book their own work. This involves a lot more effort, but it has really worked well for a lot of people out there. The best resource I know for doing this kind of thing is a website called Casting About, which lists all the television shows in town, what their hiring status is and who the casting director and assistants are, with their mailing or contact info. The idea being you interact directly with the casting people on behalf of yourself.

The Thing Beginning Actors And Actresses Always Overlook

Do you know what you're doing?

Are you a good actor or actress?

Most beginners, for whatever reason, seem to assume that they can act. Some of the people I've met that call themselves "actors" have never acted before in their lives! The truth of the matter is, that a film or television show is completely different that working on a high school play. It's completely different that working on a college play. It's an incredibly specialized job with specific technical requirements that also requires significant creative training.

In other words, working as a professional film or television actor or actress is not something you can just wander into and do well. So, like I said in the beginning of this article, most new actors and actresses have this whole process backwards. Working as an actor is about how much you can give, not how much you can take!

For example, Brad Pitt offers a tremendous amount to the people around him. His agent is a multi-millionaire because of Brad Pitt. A film with Brad Pitt in it is far more likely to make money, which then makes it far more likely to get made in the first place, which then gives jobs to literally thousands of people. That's the only reason Brad Pitt is in such huge demand, because he gives far more than he receives.

So, ask yourself, how much do you give? How much can an agent make off of you? Or, do you expect her to be giving something to you first? Here's the truth of the matter, if you're just getting started as an actor or actress, the last thing you need to be worrying about is getting an agent or a manager. You can't make any money for the first one and you don't have anything to manage for the second one. What you should focus on is doing research on film production, studying the craft of acting, training those abilities until they're second nature, being disciplined, and hustling, thus making yourself as valuable as you can. 

Do that and you'll get an agent, I guarantee it.

If you want to learn more about how to get started in acting for film or tv, be sure to check out Acting For Film And Television.

As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, or would just like to share some of your successes, please feel free to drop me a line.  I actually answer them.

Best of Luck out there and remember, you can't fail if you don't quit.

D.L. White