How to get an Acting Agent: A Complete Guide for Irish Actors
All actors want one… But how does the whole process work? Here we’ll break down how to get an acting agent, what role they fill within your career goals and within the industry.
First of all, there are a couple of key points to remember before signing with an agent:
- It is highly unlikely that a talent agent will charge more than 20% percent commission on wages (10%-15% is the average).
- You should never pay a talent agent ‘registration’ or ‘annual maintenance’ fees.
What’s the difference between a Talent Agent and a Background / Extras Agent?
Specifically, just that – a talent agent has principal talent on their book and a background agent will manage people who are interested in doing extra work only.
What is a co-operative agency?
Co-operative agencies are staffed by actors themselves, who take turns to handle the administrative side of the agency and promote themselves for casting opportunities as a team. If you want more control over your career and can handle the pressures and responsibility that an agent takes away from you, then you might consider joining a co-operative agency. However it is very important that you think carefully about what you are signing up for. You will be responsible for the careers of others as well as yourself, so you must be able to conduct yourself well when speaking to casting professionals. You will also have to commit some of your time to administrative jobs, like dealing with finances and forms – all the boring paperwork you usually hand over to your agent! The co-operative personal management Association (CPMA) offers advice about joining a co-operative agency on their website www.cpma.coop.
What is a Talent Agent and what do they do?
Casting Directors, Directors or Producers send breakdowns to agents. These breakdowns include character descriptions, and any other production info like storyline, application deadlines, and shoot dates. Your agent will then suggest you to the caster for the role they deem you suitable. If the caster then decides that you fit the criteria based on your agent’s suggestion, they will invite you to come and audition, or to send a self tape audition.
Choosing the right Agent for you
Many actors believe that bigger is better when it comes to talent agents; that signing with the biggest agent in town will automatically mean more work. This is not necessarily true. They may have more clout within the industry, but you could also get overlooked if the agent is too busy focusing on their star clients.
The most important first step is to find an agent who believes in your talent, and will work to get you seen by Casting Directors, and has a genuine interest in helping to progress your career.
First, have a look on the agent’s website to see if they would be a good fit for you, do they represent any other actors with your look? Are their actors working? You can check this by searching for their agency on IMDB Pro.
Sending your Package to Agents
Once you have decided that you would like to submit to the agency, go to their contact page, or any page that includes actor submission instructions. Most agency websites will have specific instructions as to how they like to receive actor’s submissions. Include your Cover Letter, CV and Headshot (remember, those three pieces of paper will be their first impression of you). They will most likely also want a Showreel to see how you look on camera, so keep that in mind.
Here is a full list of actors agencies in Ireland.
Interviewing an Agent
Yes, it says, “interviewing an agent”, instead of “the agent interview.” That’s because not only is the agent interviewing you, but you are equally interviewing the agent. You should consider many aspects, including experience, interest in you, enthusiasm in working with you, their goals and their professionalism. Here are some possible things to consider or possibly ask:
- Do they seem genuinely interested in you and in moving your career along?
- How many actors do they have on their book?
- How many of YOU do they have on their book? (Your headshot and your look is what sells you. If they have many other clients who have the same look as you, you risk being overlooked because you are in constant competition with them).
- What are their goals? What made them become an agent?
Signing with an Agent
So if everything goes well, you’re happy with them and they’re happy with you, then the next thing will be to join their book. Most agents ask you to sign a contract. A contract is used to protect all parties involved, so it’s extremely important that you understand every word that’s written down on the contract before you sign anything.
Don’t feel pressured to sign the contract before you have a chance to look it over. It doesn't matter if they are a new agent or have been around for a long time. Contracts are there to protect all parties involved, so just make sure you understand what you’re signing, and you’re happy.
Some other things that may be discussed when joining:
- You may need to update your CV with the agency's CV template/logo/contact details.
- They may ask you to get new headshots.
Getting Turned Down
Don’t be afraid to ask what their reasons are, that way you will better understand if it’s something that you can work on. If one agent decides that you are not right for their book, that doesn’t mean that another agent will feel the same way. It could mean they already have a number of actors who fit the same roles as you. Keep training, update your showreel and perhaps get new headshots so that you may remarket yourself; then try again in twelve months’ time.
I hope this post gave you a better understanding of how to get an acting agent, and what role they will fill within your career. But it is also important to remember, the agent isn’t magic. It is your career and it’s not up to them to do all the work. As a team, you should each provide 50% towards your common goal. Continue training, keep your headshots and showreel up to date and be prepared for any and all auditions you get called for.
Casters regularly post jobs on CastandHire, so whether you are self-represented, or have an agent, you can still push yourself forward. Join the CastandHire newsletter to find out when new casting calls are posted – good luck!
(Note: This blog was originally written for, and posted on our older website - Ireland Actors’ Guide)