What is a talent agency? A talent agency is a company that finds jobs for its clients. Talent agencies place principal talent in feature films, movies, TV, commercials, voice-overs, internet, video games, modeling, etc. A talent agency hires talent agents who represent their talent/performers on a talent roster (it’s basically a list of their clients). As I’ve heard it explained best, a talent agency is like a store. And that store’s products are it’s talent. Just think of aisles and aisles of interesting looking people instead of shampoos and conditioners. In our case, we’re interested in performers, but not singers, musicians or models. We’re going to zero in on the film industry and actors in particular.
Now, back to the store. Casting directors (CD’s) are the buyers. They are hired by production companies (the producers) to find talent. The casting directors go to the store shelves of the talent agency looking for talent. They either ask for the actors they know, go online and search for talent matching the description of the characters they’ve been hired to find or talent agents search for breakdowns online and submit their actors to the casting directors. In any case, it’s imperative for an actor to have a talent agent and thus belong to a talent agency.
An actor can show up at the odd open casting call, or find the odd audition posted on Craigslist, but this is usually for a non-paying gig or only after the real actor talent pool has been exhausted. Unrepresented talent, that is an actor without an agent, can submit himself online, but it is difficult to get yourself in the running. An unrepresented actor has a real up hill battle when it comes to booking jobs. An actor with an agent has gone through a selection process, has been chosen to represent their talent agency and has been out on numerous auditions and callbacks. How is the newbie going to compete with that?
So, all actors need a talent agency and every talent agency has employees named talent agents (sales people) and all talent agents represent actors on their own roster. Talent agents usually find talent by way of referrals or direct submissions to the agency from wannabe performers.
How To Find a Talent Agent?
1. Decide what type of acting you want to get into. Will you choose principal acting in feature films (Brad Pitt), movies, TV, commercials, voice-overs, internet, video games, modeling, etc.
2. Decide if the agent will fit nicely into your career plans. You are starting a business here, (hence, the name show business) so take it seriously. Remember: If you fail to plan; you plan to fail.
3. Ask the important questions. Is they agency licensed/franchised? Are they experienced? How long have they been in business? Are they BBB approved? Etc.
4. Interview a few agents (if possible) in your pursuit to find the right fit. You’d do the same if you were going to hire a roofer to replace your leaky tired roof.
5. Is the agent the right sales person to represent your ‘brand’? (Brand—think ketchup).
Once you have some prospective talent agencies in mind contact a few of them to see if they’re accepting submissions. If they are, take note of their submission policy. Follow their requirements to the letter and put together a submission package that screams ‘you need me Mr. agent give me a call.’
What Your Actor Submission Package Should Include?
1. A photo – a professional head shot (8×10) and body shot (optional). Kids can use a school photo or a few snap shots taken in the backyard.
2. A resume – highlight your education and/or training, work experience, qualities and accomplishments.
3. A DVD performance – this is you on tape – make it good!
4. A cover letter – specify your interest in their representation.
Note: Follow the agency’s submission policy to a tee. Follow up with them a week after you think they’ve received your package. If they’d rather you not follow up then don’t follow up. If they want all materials to be sent via email/links then do that. After a sufficient time has gone by move on to your second choice. How long? Give them a few weeks; agencies are really busy if they’re any good.
- Use a colourful envelope or interesting stamps.
- Send the package registered mail so it has to be signed for. This way you’ll know your package has been received and more than likely opened.
- Stand out from the crowd! Be original with your materials, approach, correspondence, etc.
There are different agents and agencies that represent different types of talent. There are agencies/agents for extras/background performers, principal talent, voice-over talent, theater actors, etc. Most actors are exclusive to one agency or agent or to one discipline, specialty or type of work. Still, there are actors who do it all. They are ‘signed across the board.’ They do everything. And, there are also a lot of actors who have one agency for extra work and another for principal work, or voice-over work, etc.
What Do Talent Agents Look For In Actors? They look for clients who are confident, personable, talented, pleasant and cast-able. They yearn for individuals to walk through their door or come through their mail box or cyberspace window with a particular ‘look’, character or there’s just something I like about him, but I can’t put my finger on it. Undeniably, the ‘look’ is the most important factor in an agents decision to take on a new client. No one can really put into words what the ‘look’ is, but when they see it they know.
Talent Agents also:
- Meet with potential clients.
- Network and advertise their actors to various local, national and international casting agents to land auditions, callbacks and bookings.
- Schedule pre-screens, auditions, callbacks and bookings between casting directors and actors/performers.
- Agents also organize and take care of any necessary travel arrangements.
- Accept payment on behalf of their client, and after all deductions have been accounted for, remit them a check.
So, what if you had a talent agency represent you? You could look forward to being sent out on auditions and callbacks and scoring roles on those commercials, TV series and/or movies you were sent out for. I probably don’t have to mention what comes next. I’ll give you a hint, it has something to do with money, success and dreams. Oh, there I go I said too much!
To conclude, find a talent agency that can help you and in return you can help them. Treat your association like a trusted partnership. The more successful you become the more successful your agent becomes and the more money you both make.