In part one of this article we discussed the agent’s job as a salesman of talent and what agents need from artists in order to sell them. We discussed the Hollywood marketplace and the delicate balance of presenting yourself to an agent as both “new and original” and “like another successful artist.” And we discussed how writers can get literary agents. In this article, we will take a look at how actors, models, directors, singers and musicians can find an agent to represent them to Hollywood or New York.
The methods of finding literary agents mentioned in part one work for actors, models, directors, and singers also, but the major difference is that these artists need to produce a reel (DVD-5 minutes or less) or a demo CD of their work. A reel consists of edited clips from movies, TV shows or commercials they have filmed or appeared in; photos, performances, or songs they have written. In addition, actors also require a headshot and/or resume. Reels are the calling cards of most performance and film artists. The reel should come after you have done some good work that you believe showcases your talent well.
Once you have one, a great thing to do with your reel is to post it online. YouTube and the related online film/video sites are excellent routes to exposure. Set up your own online presence, such as a blog or website, both inside social network sites and independently and showcase your reel there also. Make sure to include a link to this site on your headshot and business cards. Some musical artist and acting/writing teams (especially comedic sketch teams) create their entire act online, gain an audience and sell their product independently. Such artists are usually in a much better position to approach agents, if agents have not already approached them, because they have demonstrated a market for their art.
Perhaps the most unappreciated bit of advice from agents is that actors and models must know their type. One great way to figure this out, if you have not already, is to watch shows to see characters you feel you relate to or could play. Ask friends and family what type of characters they see you playing and what age range they believe you could pull off. When you know your type, get your headshots made to reflect that type. When you are unified in this way, agents will know how to best market you. Furthermore, they will know that you know who you are, which suggests that others will see you clearly, too. All these unities give an agent confidence to represent you.
What does it mean to be unified in your type? An example would be the actor who knows he has performed best in dramatic roles. He may be a funny guy by nature. He may have made people laugh. But most of the praise he has received has come from dramatic roles. Furthermore, he feels more comfortable acting dramatically. The headshot and reels this actor should get should highlight those dramatic elements. His headshot should look serious and dramatic-not charming, funny, silly or cute. The clips he chooses to include in his reel should also reflect that dramatic side. By doing this, he shows the agent a clear picture of an actor who knows who he is. The agent will have no questions about where that actor fits in and when a dramatic role comes for that actor’s type, the agent will think of him.
What that actor does not want is the agent to be confused about whether the actor will work in a particular role. If one clip on the reel is funny or silly and the other dramatic, the agent will not fit the actor in either category at all. As discussed in part one of this article, think “spork.” You do not want the agent seeing you as a spork or a foon. How often do you prefer to use a spork? An artist, in order for an agent to see how to sell him, must be either a fork or a spoon. An artist who presents himself as a multi-purpose entity will only get called when a multi-purpose role is available and may even be overlooked then.
(One side note for actors-January through the end of February is pilot season in TV. Most theatrical agents are extremely busy at this time and it is not the best time for an actor to submit to them, but it is a great time to get ready to submit.)
Knowing your style, voice and genre holds true for musicians and directors, too. If you can play Country as well as Soul, pick one. Do not send your CD to an agent with both genres on it unless you do not want to hear back from her. If you decide on country, dress country in your photos, etc. It’s not hard if you think of marketing yourself to a particular audience. You can not appeal to everyone, so don’t try.
Directors have to know what stories they can tell. You must chose a genre and stick with it. Your reels must focus on the type of films you make best whether comedy, drama, action, horror; whatever you do best showcase only that one style in your reel. Make sure you clearly convey your ability to tell stories on film. And of course, if you’re a comedy director, your reel better be funny.
The best method for models to find an agent is to post your photo set online at one of the legitimate model search agencies. A little research will quickly reveal which ones are legit-the ones with proven success rates. These sites are viewed by legitimate modeling agents and usually charge a set fee to post your photos (less than $150). You only need to register with one, as the same agents look over each site. With a good set of photos (see the sites for examples) you may find your phone ringing soon.
As with literary agents, make sure to utilize the protection offered by the various guilds. Each guild (except fashion modeling, which has no guild at the present) will have a list of agents that are signed to those guilds. You can insure that the agent you submit your material to is a real agent and not someone looking to take advantage of you by submitting only to signatory agents of the various guilds: Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG), American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Director’s Guild of America (DGA), Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), etc. There is a thriving business of fake agents and producers who make money taking advantage of unsuspecting aspirants. The best way to avoid these cons is to use only agents approved by the various artists’ guilds. You may also want to avoid larger agencies right off the bat. New artists can get lost in larger agencies.
Referrals can come from anywhere and are the best method of making sure your reel, headshot and resume are seen. The more work you do, the more people you will meet and the more chances you will have for getting a referral. Make sure to post your reels online and pursue as many legitimate chances to showcase your art as you can. Networking helps, but it usually requires a pretty close relationship to gain an agent referral through networking. Most people in Hollywood are barely holding on to their own agents, so you may find them reluctant to refer you unless they are not only very impressed with you, but very secure in their own career.
A good option for referrals is any casting director, producer or other person who has been impressed with your work. Mentioning to such a person that you are looking for a good agent and asking whom they would recommend could get you the name of an agent they trust. That agent is then more likely to consider you if you mention that producer’s or casting director’s high opinion of the agent. This is not considered a referral but a suggestion, yet it is legitimate, easy to get, and will likely result in the agent considering you.
Finally, entering competitions, film festivals, posting your reel and your work online and regularly submitting to agents is the day-to-day work of advancing your artistic career. Always do your art. Whatever you do, do not wait for an agent. Produce your own play, CD or short film. Many people have found their way into the business by doing so. If you do your art well and consistently, agents have a way of finding you. And remember, getting an agent is not the end of the road. Even after you land an agent, you must always work at marketing yourself, meeting new people and doing at your craft. Waiting around for your new agent to call usually results in you having a shorter career than you planned.
Update 3/7/2013: (The 2nd edition of What I Wish I Knew Before I Moved to Hollywood available now exclusively on Kindle for only $4.99. Get yours now. Click here. Kindle e-books can be read on I-phone, I-pod, I-pad, Android, Mac and PC with the free Kindle App.)