Starting off in the Acting Industry can be nerve-wracking. There's so many sources of information out there and usually that knowledge turns into a tailspin. The most common phrase that gets thrown around is "It's who you know" and there's a lot of truth to that. But never fear! With the right knowledge you can use that very scary idea to your advantage. Because think about it, would you openly work with someone you've never seen before or know anything about?
It's Who You Know
There comes a point in every Actors career where you ask yourself "I need an agent". In the business this's called finding representation. This doesn't only refer to an Agent but will refer to anyone who works on your Career Team. Most Actors have multiple agents for different types of projects while usually a single Manager. Managers are more about helping you cultivate your skills to benefit your career in the long run, whereas Agents are there just to get you jobs.
NOTE: An Agent should only be paid on commission. A great way to smell a scam is if an Agency requires monthly/yearly payments.
Still, try to find an agent who believes in you, someone that's going to help you take your career to the next level. A GOOD agent will genuinely want you to take jobs that will benefit you and help you grow. The biggest advantage you get when being represented is that your agent has already built up relationships that you haven't. They know Casting Directors and CDs (as they're often referred) know them, and TRUST them. It all comes down to trusting the people that they cast.
Think of it this way: If you were the producer on a Major Motion Picture and you had to choose between an Actor who's shown they can bring people to the theatre where the film will make money OR someone that's brand new, you'd probably choose the person who's already shown success. This's often the case with big films because of the money and jobs that are attached to that project. IT'S NOT PERSONAL. Having an agent that can vouch for you is extremely important to propelling your career because even if you're new to the industry, they aren't.
So... How do I get an Agent?
That's why you're here right? It's all about putting yourself in the right rooms. Agents want to see that you're a working actor. They're not going to risk their reputation on someone who "wants to be an actor". Before you can get an agent, you need to prove to them that you're worth investing their time and resources. If you're already attending Performing Arts Studio you're in a great place because that shows Agents that you're dedicated to growing as an Actor. Taking classes and workshops won't just make you look better, it'll also improve your abilities to making you more marketable to an Agent (or Manager). There're plenty of Agent Showcases out there that you can audition for, but what's great about Performing Arts Studio is that you take our classes and have an Agents Showcase at the end of our programs!
No Luck From Showcases
Not everyone gets signed by an agent from showcases. Even if you get called back, it's no guarantee that an agency will offer to represent you. Knowledge is power because there's a lot of factors that go into the agency selection process. It could be as simple as they already have too many people who look similar to you. Agencies are constantly looking for variety, but also have specific needs of their own. Do your research. If you're primarily a Musical Theatre Actor there's little point of apply to agencies that strictly cast for Film. Make a list of what types of roles, actors, shows and movies you think you'd be cast in. Agents and Managers want to see that you've done your homework and will be impressed that you know what you're talking about.
Continue to take classes and workshops, build yourself up as the Actor you want to present to agencies. The more you know what you want the easier it is for an Agency to help find the right fit for you! Don't get too discourage though. The industry will have its hand in "typing" you. I'm sure you've heard of type casting. This's more prominent at the start of a career when you're still relatively unknown. The industry will call you back for roles they think you're right for, but may not have a sense of your unique talents. That's okay. Showcase yourself how you want to be portrayed and eventually Agents and Managers will see what you can offer them that's different than what anyone else does.
Don't Be a Stranger
See how Agencies like to be contacted. Many agencies will only respond to mailed letters (yes, people still do that) and will refuse any applicants that send an email. If you know anyone that they already represent you can ask your friend to send them your information directly. This's where "it's who you know" plays to your advantage. Find events that will allow you to meet Agencies face-to-face. Once you're no longer a stranger, it becomes less of a gamble than an Actor who reaches out randomly. But be careful: there's many scams out there trying to take your money to "meet agents" or "industry professionals". Research the agencies that will attend the event and see if it's what you're looking for.
The Right Materials
The easiest way to win an agent over is to show them professional work. If you're starting out and don't have a portfolio of work yet (a reel, resume, headshot, past productions) that's normal, but know that you should be building this catalogue of work as fast as you can. They're also looking for the right attitude. At the end of the day, Acting is a business and you as an Actor are an asset that can help improve an Agents business. If you succeed or impress Casting Directors that also looks good on an agent. So have a good attitude! There's nothing worse on-set than a diva, and while there's countless Hollywood examples of overly-dramatic actors asking for ridiculous requests, this can be a great way land on the Industry black-list. Be respectful and professional. Talk positively about yourself and the work (or lack of work) you have. Present yourself in the best way you can, highlighting your abilities and show your potential Agent or Manager that you're someone who they actually want to represent!
They want you to succeed. The better you present yourself the easier it'll be to show others in the industry that you're the real deal. Confidence breeds success. Keep working hard and invest your time in learning just like you're doing right now!