How to join an actors' co-operative agency

If you're reading this then you're toying with the idea of applying to one of the UK's co-operative agencies. Good on you! In this confusing and isolating business it certainly is a tempting option - control over your career, greater insight into the world of casting directors and a network of like minded hard working actors supporting you through the inevitably stickiness of an acting life! After five years of being represented by, working with and recruiting for a co-op the most useful piece advice I can give you in applying is to be really sure of why you are applying - and what you're getting yourself into!

We can get up to 50 applications a week. As an agency with just thirty members who take on an average of around 5 new members a year competition is inevitably tough - so in order to stand out you should make your email as direct and personalised as possible. A blanket send-all email that states who you are, where you trained and a copy of your CV and photo won't really cut it I'm afraid, but follow these pointers and we're sure to sit up and take notice:

1) We want to know why you think there's a space for you in our agency - how are you different in look, skillset or experience from our existing members?

2) Be realistic - if there is someone very like you already on our books it is highly unlikely that we'll be able to consider you - so better spend your time by applying somewhere else!

3) Really highlight any unique selling points about yourself - are you an actor-muso? What's your ethnic background? Do you have a regional accent? Do you look very young or very old?! Any thing that sets you apart or makes you special is a good thing when looking to add to an agency's casting mix!

4) We want to see you act!! No self respecting agent will ever take you on without seeing your work so don't waste your applying unless you have a play or a showcase coming up where we can see you in action. Always gives loads of advance notice so we can organise one of members to go and see you. Don't be shy about sending a couple of reminders through as the date of your performance gets closer.

5)In a co-op you don't just have to be a fantastic actor - you need to be a darn good agent too! In your application we want to know that you understand the requirements and committment involved in being a co-op member, and that you have the necessary work/office and personal skills to be an agent as well as an actor.

6) Convince us that you'll be an active and enthusiastic member of the team. What is it that interests you about being in a co-op as opposed to having personal representation? We are not a 'runners up prize' - we don't want actors pursuing us because they can't get seen by 'normal' agents. We want to know that you appreciate the particular opportunities that only a co-op can offer!

7) Send all of this information in a friendly email or letter (personally I prefer email as it's easier to forward on to all of our members for their consideration) attaching your CV, photo and spotlight link... Oh and make sure your grammar and spelling's correct! Don't forget you're not just applying for representation here - you're essentially applying for an agent's job - so we want to know that any emails or letters you send on our behalf will be professional!

8) Don't be shy about following up your email with a phonecall. The office can be very busy, there are different members in every day, and we get lots of applications - so with the best will in the world some times new applicants get overlooked! Hearing your voice and getting involved in a personal chat will make you more memorable to us. Don't forget we will all have been where you are - and we all understand how hard and scary trying to find representation can be!

If your application is successful the agency should get in touch about coming to see you act, and if they like what they see then you would normally be invited to one of their monthly meetings where you have the opportunity to meet the co-op members. This is an opportunity for them to get to know you and - rather bluntly - for them to work out if they want to work with you or not! Of course you also need to work out whether or not you'd like to work for them - and feel free to ask as many questions as you like (in fact go armed with a few - having questions always makes you seem more committed and serious about being a potential member). My advice for this interview stage is to be as relaxed as possible and - rather boringly - just be yourself! Remember everyone in that room is an actor too and has been sitting exactly where you are.

After the interview the agency will come to a decision as to whether or not they feel it would be beneficial to both parties to represent you at this stage. Don't be too despondant if it's a no - it may well be because you present a clash with a different member!

Applying to a co-op can be a pretty lengthy process so do be patient - and persist. I've loved the opportunities, knowledge and friends that my co-op has brought me so it's definitley an idea worth pursuing!

If you'd like to know a little more about what being in a co-op actually entails do let me know and I'll happily blog some more!