How to know if actors' co-operatives taken seriously
Co-Operative agencies are a fantastic way to get to know how it all works.
It's hard getting representation straight from drama school and the same goes to those who have chosen not to train. This will give you the opportunity to start taking charge of your acting career!
Co-Operative agencies (Co-ops) allow you do to the work for yourself and puts you in charge of what you want to be put up for. It also teaches you how to market yourself and your fellow actors within the agency. You become your own agent and the agent of others, having access to more castings on Spotlight.
Most co-operative agencies work on a one-day a week basis, meaning you only have to go into the office for one day each week, which gives you the time to fit in your 'paying the rent' day job.
There are a number of co-operative agencies out there and it's hard to pick which one would suit you, as often the response will be "sorry, but our books are full". This basically means that they already have someone with a similar casting to yourself on the agency books. This wouldn't be fair on their current actor and indeed on yourself. Of course, it's worth a try, especially if they're looking to expand and the current actor is getting a lot of work. But I'd say look for the ones that have a gap in your casting bracket. Look at how many they have in your age range, hair colour and general look.
How to get it all started? Use Casting Call Pro or any other casting websites to get you in a play and use the publicity to your advantage! Get hold of several flyers and include each one with a letter introducing yourself with your Spotlight PIN number/website, CV and Headshot (or I would put your headshot on your Acting CV to save on printing) and get sending to the co-operative agencies that suit you. Alternatively, if you have a showreel with enough material (students films are a great way to get started), send them off in an email introducing yourself and your Spotlight link. This is a more cost effective way of getting your showreel around; DVDs can be expensive and people are less likely to bother putting it in their DVD player than simply clicking a link.
Your letter and CV are obviously very important. I was taught that it's all about branding yourself. Think of the font, the colour, the style. For example, if you want to brand yourself as a classical actor who wants to do period films and television dramas, maybe think of having a bottle green coloured name header and border around your CV to add a soldier/military feel.
If they like the look of you, they'll get back to you and either send someone from their agency down to check you out in your play (it's always nice if you offer a pair of comp's to your show to entice them more) or from the showreel, will ask you to come in for an interview to meet a couple of them. Being in a co-op means you're working with and for eachother, which means it's very important to get on with eachother.
You'll make like-minded friends who will offer their wisdom and stories from their careers so far, which will only enrichen your experience of being in a Co-operative agency. It comes highly recommended!