It's not obligatory to get an Agent, but it is advisable. Agents are the conduit between directors, casting directors and the actor. Trusted agents with an established reputation can act as a filter for casting directors, making their life that bit easier by putting forward people whom they deem to be the right match for the project.
The agent is there to raise your profile and source suitable opportunities. They're privy to details of opportunities that are generally kept out of the public realm - either by working directly with casting directors or through script breakdown services released only to agents and casting directors. Basically, they're there to put you forward for castings and get you work!
The other important role of an agent is to negotiate fees on your behalf. Your agent should know the market rate for a particular production and role. The business of reaching an agreed fee is their area of expertise. They will also be responsible for the contract itself. Not only will they be working on your behalf to get you the best deal, they will be saving you from having to go through the often tricky nitty-gritty of fees and contracts, freeing you to concentrate on your main job in hand - the actual acting.
There should be no joining fee for signing-up with an agency - be wary of those who try to get you to part with any money up front. Most agents work on a sole representation basis - i.e. you're represented only by that one agent. Any work you get, whether through the agent or your own networking and contacts, will be subject to commission, which varies from agency to agency but is usually between 10 and 20%.
Don't try to hoodwink your agent by withholding details of acting work to avoid commission - you're treading a rocky road that's likely to lead to the break-up of the partnership! No matter how much you resent seeing a slice of your earnings being given over to Inland Revenue and to your agent, especially if it's acting work you've got through your own efforts rather than via the agent, underhand behaviour won't help you out in the long-run. Remember, agents are human and they talk. And agents know other agents...
There are plenty of resources available to help you find an agent. You'll be able to ask teachers and fellow actors for recommendations and tips; check websites; view agency websites (see if they are open to new clients or if their lists are closed). Mandy Crew USA Agencies section also lists those whose books are open. Agencies vary from the very large with over hundred clients, to the much smaller boutique agencies with a staff of only one or two and a client list of perhaps a few dozen.
Tailor your approach to individual agents. Once you've drawn up your target short-list, write to individual agents with a covering letter, your CV and attach a professional headshot. When looking for representation, let prospective agents know where you're performing and if you're in a showcase. Remember, the greatest responsibility agents have is to their existing clients. Be patient and don't be put off by a standard 'our lists are full' reply. There is a limit on the number of actors an agent can take on and represent professionally. For this reason they are careful about whom they represent and will be looking for actors whom they believe show potential and will be successful.
Agents may feel they have reached capacity in certain areas (e.g. age, look etc.). Think about the special qualities you have that can fill a gap in the agency's books and bear in mind that most agents would be willing to take on that extra client if they feel they have exceptional talent.
Be ready to keep in touch. An agent may respond by saying that you look interesting but are not suitable at that particular time. This could be for a variety of reasons. Don't be afraid to take this response literally; you can send and updated CV and headshot every now and then to keep you on their radar, making sure not to badger them to the point of irritation!
Keep sending out the letters and working your contacts. The routine of constantly putting yourself out there can be dispiriting, but if you're deterred by this initial rejection you have a long road ahead of you when it comes to casting auditions! Representation and roles may not come immediately but that's not to say they won't happen. Your watchwords should be self-belief and perseverance. Remember, too, why you're enthusiastic about this industry.
The relationship between an agent and an actor is vital to the ongoing success. Dialogue is the key to a good working relationship with your agent. A good agent will let you know what they're putting you forward for and may also be able to offer you advice and give you feedback from the casting director. Equally, you should let an agent know how a casting went. The more feedback you can give them, the better.
There will be, unless you're very lucky, periods of unemployment. It's natural to wonder if your agent is doing all they can for you and to question your representation. Remember, though, that this is the nature of the industry you've chosen. Agents can sing your praises and get you the foot in the door but after that it's up to you.
That you don't get a part is not the fault of your agent. The truth is that many, many actors may be put forward and considered for a role but the part will be given to only one actor. If you feel you're simply not being put forward for things and are, effectively lying dormant on your agent's books then it's a good idea to raise them with your agent. In many cases your concerns will be addresses and allayed. After all, it's not in an agent's interests to represent resting actors - an out of work actor brings no revenue!
In some cases there may be a parting of the waves, mutual or otherwise, and you choose to seek new representation. Where you can, try and part on good terms and leave the door open. The acting profession is swift-moving and you'll run into the same people time and time again, so it makes good sense to try to keep people on good side and maintain amicable relations.
Your agent is just one part of your ongoing efforts to get work. That doesn't mean you should cease marketing yourself - keep sending out those letters, networking and checking Mandy Kids jobs board where we regularly post child acting jobs. Our network is designed to complement the great work that agents do. We encourage candidates to link to their agents on their profile and to respect the contract between you and your agent by giving them their agreed commission on work sourced through our site. Once your profiles are linked, agents can use Mandy Crew USA to apply for jobs on your behalf.
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