Many actors start looking for a representative as soon as they get to the city. They have been told (usually by people who are NOT in show business!) that they first need to get an agent or manager. These actors seem to think that once they get a representative, the hard part is over. Now they think someone else is going to be responsible. Remember, an agent or manager gets only 10 to 15 percent commission for their work. That should mean that they do 10 to 15 percent of the work. Think about it. Who is supposed to do the other 85 to 90 percent?
You should never pursue representation until you are confident that you are able to compete in the major areas of the industry: Film, TV and Theater. If you are too green, casting directors may remember, and your representative will have a hard time getting a second chance for you to be seen. When represented, you should always be at the top of your game. You must be a great auditioner. You must be able to make the best of the short window of opportunity that you have in an audition. This means you must be exceptional, because good enough just doesn’t cut it, and it won’t get you the job over the other actors who are also good enough. You must be able to give your third audition first, meaning you must make strong choices and fully execute them, yet be able to take direction if it is given and fully commit yourself to that direction (instead of only doing what you had prepared).
The more you bring to the table, the more you will help your representative do his job. Have you had adequate on-camera training? Do you know the subtle differences between a TV audition and a film audition? Are you continuing to build your craft every day? Do you know what's going on in the industry, i.e. what plays you are right for, who are the casting directors for various projects, etc.? Do you have any contacts and connections that your representative should be aware of?
You have to be knowledgeable and able to do what is expected of you. Be skilled at your craft. Be open to advice and counsel. (Remember, they are the ones with the expertise!) Be prepared to go to auditions and know how to get there. Have the money for your basic business expenditures; there is nothing more frustrating than an actor who doesn't have the basic money to accomplish the basic needs. It does not cost a lot of money to set up your acting business. You need money for pictures, printing resumes, postage, envelopes for mailings, classes, basic wardrobe, transportation, grooming, and research (theater, movies and publications). If you are not able to pay for these minimal expenses, then it doesn't really matter how talented you are; you most likely are not ready for representation.
Remember that finding a representative doesn’t necessarily mean that you have found the “right” representative for you. When you do find representation, I hope that you and your representative have an amicable relationship that is mutually beneficial. I wish you good luck on your journey!
John Essay has been a theatrical manager and producer for nearly 25 years. His company, Essay Management, represents actors, writers and directors in all areas of the entertainment industry. He also created www.TheActorsGuideToEverything.com, a website reflecting the culmination of all that he has learned in the last 25 years as a personal manager.