The most important thing is that the agent is excited about the talent. If it's a big agency or a small agency, it doesn't matter. It's always nice to be with a Gersh or a Paradigm, but not all actors can accomplish that, especially when they are starting out. If they have an agent who's excited about them, that goes a long way.
You need an agent. His or her job is to solicit work for you. It's critical. Not everybody needs a manager, who adds a different dimension to an actor's career. It's not a substitute for an agent. The way to get an agent is to become what I call "agent friendly," and there are a number of steps you should take to get there. First, have your materials in order. Your photo, résumé, and website should look great. Then you need to get to know casting directors. Get the casting directors to love you and call you in, because they will—they want to find new talent—with or without an agent. Then after you have about 10 CDs who are your fans, you can go to an agency and say, "The following casting directors are familiar with my work." So to an agent, it doesn't look like you're starting from nothing. You will have done the groundwork, and there are CDs they can call and ask, "Do you like this person? Do you think they are worth signing?"
One thing to be careful about with any representation: If somebody asks you to pay upfront, that's a red flag. Some modeling agencies ask you to pay to be on their website; that's somewhat traditional, so that's the one case where you might want to do that. But mostly, I have a very good relationship with the agents I've dealt with, so I don't have any horror stories. I love agents, and thank God for them. The biggest issue would be if you have an agent who won't work with managers. That doesn't make any sense to me. It would be like a pitcher saying, "I don't want a catcher." Do you want to win the championship or not?
The agent should be willing to pick up the phone and pitch you—that's one of his or her main functions: to get you in the door. You have to take it upon yourself as an actor to make it easy for him or her to get you in the door, which is where getting to know the casting directors comes in. I don't care who your agent is; you can be submitted and submitted, but if that CD doesn't know you, why would you get called in? You can also get to know the CDs through open calls and networking, but casting directors are the leverage point that can lead to getting an agent and therefore getting work.
Josselyne Herman-Saccio has spent the past 12 years as a personal manager for actors, writers, directors, and recording artists. Her clients can be seen in hundreds of films, commercials, and Broadway shows. She recently released "So You Wanna Be a New York Actor?," written with actor client Guy Olivieri.
For more advice on how to find agents, watch the video below: