You’re an actor and you’re dying for that part in the new Judd Apatow film or you want to audition for the new J.J. Abrams pilot, but they’re closed casting calls (meaning you must have representation to get an audition). You need an agent and/or manager. Starting out in this business is hard, that’s no secret, but with talent and determination you can make your way to stardom. And obviously, the first thing you’ll need is a talent agent or manager representing you.
A talent agent or manager is just like a salesman, but instead of them selling you a car or a new suit, they are selling you! They are out there, working on the front lines, to get you noticed and discovered. Who are they trying to sell you to? Everyone and anyone who has a position that matters in the entertainment business. This would include an executive at a movie studio or television network, a director, a producer or even a top casting agent (who’s opinion regarding talent in this town really matters). So what do you need to have in your “portfolio” to obtain a talent agent or manager? First off, you need a good “headshot.” A headshot is an up and close professional photo of you. Just turn on a computer and click on the internet to find thousands upon thousands of qualified headshot photographers. Or better yet, ask a friend or a colleague in the “biz” who might be able to recommend a good photographer. After obtaining your headshots (you should have many copies printed out), you’ll need to put together an acting reel to showcase your various talents, such as a clip or two from a comedic scene or some clips from a dramatic short film.
You need to show that you can not only act, but that your talent surpasses the many other actors trying to get that agent’s attention. I know this sounds like a Catch 22. You’re thinking, “I need an agent to book a part so I can build a reel, but I need a reel to get an agent?!” That used to be the worry way back when. But nowadays, all you need to make a reel is a small video camera, an editing machine on your computer and the right material to showcase your talents. Look on You Tube; everyone today is making shorts or posting funny skits or random clips of themselves acting in a scene. The biggest thing to understand is that when you get that meeting with a talent agent or manager, you need to realize that you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Sure you might be over the moon when an agent wants to take you on as a client, but if they are not going to get you out there in the best possible way or if they don’t believe in you as much as you think they should, then maybe it’s worth holding out for an agent or manager who will be the right match for you. And remember, starting out with an agent or manager at a small firm is not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s the best path for a new actor in town. If you got the opportunity to sign with a top agency right off the bat, chances are you’d be a small fish in a big pond and you would get lost in the shuffle. That’s not always the case mind you, but most likely you’d be best served with an agent who can really focus his or her attention on you, helping you build a solid career in the biz. The best tip for all the young talent searching for an agent or manger is to go with your gut. If you feel it’s a good fit when you get signed with a talent agent, most likely it is.