It is not easy getting an agent but it is almost necessary if you want to work in this business. There are no easy methods to secure one; rather, it takes hard work and lot of tenacity. The irony of it all is that agents want established actors yet to really get established you may need the help of a talent agent. Although trade publications such as Backstage are a good source of job opportunities the real work comes through an agent. They usually keep a circle of clients to whom they channel out the work to first. If you are apart of that circle then it makes life a little easier for you.
Through the years I’ve seen young actors trying to achieve their goals make simple little errors which could have been avoided. Most don’t have a mentor to help them through the difficulties and thus have to feel around in the dark. Here are some basic tips to help you out. Firstly, treat your career like your own personal business. Understand that you are in a highly competitive industry that requires a lot of personal investment on your part. As such, the numbers game of sending out a ton of your headshots and resumes to talent agencies in hopes of landing one isn’t enough. Agents get hundreds of photos a day and your headshot is just one in a pile many. One of the things that a working actor must have in his or her arsenal is a good demo reel. You should have a number of copies that can be dispensed at will. A professional reel could cost anywhere from $50 to $250 to produce depending upon what you want. The duplication rate is somewhat modest. Next, you should be in some type of show or production. This gives you exposure and a chance to hone your skills.
Now with these things firmly in place begin the process of sending your photos and resumes out to talent agents. You can find a listing of them in The Ross Report or by going to www.rkacinemasociety.com. Make sure you understand the different unions and exactly which agent deals with a particular union. If you are not part of SAG and send your material to a SAG agent then you may have just wasted your money. As stated before since agents get a lot of headshots on a daily basis you’ll need to make follow-ups. Set aside some time each week specifically for this purpose. Some agents don’t like to receive phone calls but there are some that do. The key is to build a rapport with the agent. Most times you won’t get to speak with them directly only with their secretaries. Now listen up because this is important. Do not treat the secretary like a secretary! In fact make a conscious effort to get to know him or her while treating them with the utmost respect and courtesy. The reason for this is because that secretary is your immediate connection to the agent - a sort of gate keeper. Rest assured that if they do not like you, or consider you annoying, you may never get pass them. In soliciting representation you should invite the agent via phone call or by postcard to your show. If they are unwilling or unable to come send them a video copy of the performance highlighting your work. If possible, hand delivery it. Then make another follow-up call. Remember, the idea here is to make a lasting impression. Some actors have gone as far as to send an agent a headshot a week keeping them appraised of their progress. If you can afford this then by all means go for it.
Another important thing here is to be professional. Always seem enthusiastic and positive in the presence of an agent no matter if they are rude to you. If they are somewhat unpleasant don’t take it personal. There are more fish in the sea so there is no need to dwell on a bad meeting. Agents are not only looking for someone talented to work with but someone who has a great personality and is hungry. If you are lackluster in your approach to your craft then why should an agent take a chance with you. However, if you are highly motivated and good to work with then someone might take a chance. I’ve seen so many actors blow it because of an ego trip or lack of commitment. Agents can smell this a mile away. Unfortunately actors are notorious for being flaky and emotionally unstable. If this is you then, YOU DON’T NEED TO BE IN THIS INDUSTRY!
Keep in mind that not all agents deal with your particular type. Some deal strictly with young children, others specialize in ethnic actors and so forth. There are also agents who deal with commercials and/or feature films. Pay particular attention to this fact when sending out your material. And don’t feel bad if you are told you’re not the right type. Many of these agencies work with major studios that call for a particular look. Low and behold you may not have that look of the moment. This doesn’t mean that you should go out and get plastic surgery but rather find another agent who is handling your look. Trust me there are many that do.
Whatever happens don’t give up. Since agents are people too you must also understand that there are good and bad ones. I’ve personally come across a couple who are horrible and you’d be better off going it alone. On the other hand there are many who can get you in the door if you manage to get their attention. Industry networking events and parties are a great way to come in contact with them. If you have a talent for networking then I would suggest booking your schedule with as many of these functions as possible. The Internet has really been a boom for actors and you should find a wealth of networking events in your local area on line. If you apply just these few tips and don’t become discouraged I’m sure you’ll meet with much success!
For the latest industry information visit us at http://www.rkacinemasociety.com
About The Author
RONALD K. ARMSTRONG
Ronald K. Armstrong has been an author and screenwriter for over fifteen years. His credits include a wide variety of screenplays and books ranging in genres and subject matters. He began his film studies at the high school of Art and Design. Afterwards he went on to study film at Purchase Film School. Frustrated by the lack of attention paid to true art he left school to start the country's largest minority film organization the RKA Cinema Society.
Given the fact that the industry has demonstrated a level of inequality the RKA Cinema Society aggressively campaigns against racism, sexism, and issues of censorship while serving to protect and preserve the sovereign right of all artists. Because of this the organization is vehemently opposed to the wide spread practice of corporate monopolies and advertising dollars dictating artistic vision. It was during his operation of the organization that he produced two books: The Science of Acting and The Black Filmmaker’s Guide to the 21 Century. These books set new paradigms in thought for young artists. His previous screenplays include Alter Ego and Lost in Time.
In 1990 Mr. Armstrong wrote and directed Cuny Island, a short sci-fiction thriller dealing with racism on an interplanetary scale. The film went on to take second place in the Black American Cinema Society Grant Project. He was also featured on several television programs for his accomplishments. In 1996 he took things a step further by writing and producing his first feature length motion picture entitled Bugged. The film was produced in conjunction with Troma Studios and made its world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival along with showing at the Prince Charles Theater in England. The film gained world attention propelling Mr. Armstrong into the light appearing on such stations as the BET, BBC and CNN.
Each screenplay is a work of passion and a spiritual journey for Mr. Armstrong. Through the medium of the thriller genre he challenges the conventional Western thought process and the template of modern values. “Hollywood has created a mental matrix system while not allowing audiences to develop their consciousness to a higher level. Stories are the key to the deepest recesses of the mind. With it you heal people, solve morale dilemmas, nurture a civilization and more! A good script can awaken fathoms of the mind more so than any great university. But we must take the art there.”
Mr. Armstrong has just completed his third screenplay entitled Master Killers. Writing is a long and arduous process from which he shows no signs of fatigue. As he states, “I feel that America and the world are ready to see the truth. Through the genre of sci-fiction I feel I can broaden the spectrum on social and political issues in a manner that is not only creditable, but necessary for all to see. My only wish is to have the backing to write films, films without any restriction or distortion of truth.”
This article was posted on January 11, 2006