The first piece of advice I often offer is that in order to get an agent, you have to actually try to get an agent. It usually doesn’t happen by magic. So that means you need to have some craft, not just a pretty face, so start training, and start training now. Train only with the best, and work hard to learn your craft. This is probably the most important step of all, so don’t take it for granted.
But that doesn’t mean you should “wait until you are ready”. Who really knows when that is? I suggest start training and start looking. Google talent agents in your city. Ask friends and professionals who they like. Make a list of the ones you want to approach, paying attention to whether on their website, they tell you they prefer email submissions or snail mail submissions, and whether they accept union or non-union applicants. Remember, no good agent will ask for upfront fees. They will never ask for money, in fact. An agent takes a cut of your professional acting work and that’s it.
First, get professional head shots. Not head shots from a friend or head shots by a glamour or landscape photographer, but head shots by a professional headshot photographer only. It’s a specialized art and they know how to do it.
You are going to want two different looks at a minimum. One for your corporate/commercial auditions, and one for your more serious/dramatic roles. They first one is “I LOVE this toothpaste!”, and the second is, “I just got finished rehearsing Macbeth with Helen Mirren.” You want to be dressed for business in the first (think bank teller or office executive), and serious art in the second (think black crew neck or turtleneck). Your acting teacher or photographer can give you more guidance on this.
I also highly recommend getting two other shots as well: one for your business card and one for your Thank You card. A Thank You card is what you snail mail to thank someone for getting you an audition, or for casting you, or just to remind you you are still alive. The more touch points with casting people, the better!
Put a resume together. There are plenty of actor resume templates on the web. Copy their formatting. Don’t worry that you don’t have a lot of experience. Agents are used to seeing people starting in the business.
And don’t lie or exaggerate. Make sure to list your special skills like juggling, typing, driving a stick shift, speaking French, or making a mean cocktail. Show where you have trained and any relevant acting experience. They won’t care you work at Microsoft (unless you can fund their entire film…).
When you have done your photo session, picked out your best photos, and have had them printed, send a simple and professional email (or snail mail if required) with clear links to your showreel (if you have one) and the 2 different headshots attached. You can also attach your resume, but the main things are your headshot and reel (don’t let not having a reel stop you). If you want to briefly show a bit of your personality in the email go ahead, but they will be looking at the work and they will probably give you about 30 seconds.
It’s good if you’re working on something like an independent play to invite them to. If you are in a show, invite them to opening night (comp them, don’t be cheap). Make it personal and professional. It’s always great for agents to see you in action. Especially if you’re good. Be good.
Be prepared for none of them to get back to you, and don’t take that personally. If you don’t hear from them in about 10 business days, Follow Up with them. Craft another – even shorter – email, and send it out to the same person and to their gatekeeper (the secretary or assistant). It can be something as simple as “I just wanted to check in and see if you had a minute to take a look at my submission?” That’s it. If that doesn’t get a response, in another 2 weeks, call the gatekeeper who will probably tell you “if the agent did not respond to your headshots, then the agent probably is not interested.”
This is not necessarily true. Sometimes agents are just busy and haven’t gotten to it yet. So become friends with the gatekeeper and ask if you can send your material over to them for advice. Sometimes that can get the gatekeeper help you out. The point is, do not give up. Try and try again. Persistence is the one key to success I see in this business.
Soon, maybe not tomorrow, you’ll get an agent. Then you can join the thousands of actors who have agents, and complain about them.
John Jacobsen is a longtime instructor at Freehold Theatre. His Acting for the Camera class begins 8/3/20 – click here for more information & registration.