Actors always assume that the first step toward success is finding representation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Honing your craft and becoming a skilled actor should be your primary focus. You need to be ready to capitalize on the opportunities a good agent will send your way. One of the worst things an agent or casting director can do is call you "green." It means you ain't ready, and once you're labeled that way, it's a tough tag to lose.
So let's assume you've put in the work and the next step to the Kodak Theatre is finding your first agent. This is when every actor in the world runs out to buy a box of 9-by-12 envelopes and mailing labels. Why? Because it's submission time! You guys send out those headshots like a Tommy gun spits bullets: One after another. Over and over. Hoping to get that magical call that leads to a meeting with someone like me. What are the odds of that happening? I'd peg it at 80-to-1.
Here at Secret Agent Man headquarters, we average about 80 submissions per week, more during pilot season. We respond to only three types of submissions: attractive actors under 25, actors with extensive résumés, and actors who have a direct connection to us. The rest get tossed. Submissions are like playing the lottery. Sure, you have to be in it to win it, but man, those are some pretty bad odds. There just has to be a better way, right? The answer is a resounding yes! It's called a referral.
This entire industry is based on who will speak on your behalf. That's why you want an agent, right? So we can tell casting directors how talented you are. And then they'll tell producers and directors. That's the food chain. This is why you have to be 100 percent ready before you start looking for representation. Finding an agent will be much easier if others make calls on your behalf. You need to put together a team of people who believe in you, who are willing to put their asses on the line by picking up the phone and saying, "Hey, you have to meet this actor. He's really good."
As an actor, you should always be on the lookout for someone who can become part of your referral team. Let's say you've been doing showcases for casting directors and they've been bringing you in for auditions. That's terrific. They can definitely refer you to an agent. What about your actor friends? Do any of them have decent representation? Maybe they'd be willing to walk in your headshot. Another good option is your acting teacher. Have you developed a great relationship with this person? Do you stay after class to thank him or her for the help? Well, a lot of teachers refer students to agents when they're ready. I'm sure if you apply yourself, you can probably come up with a long list of people willing to speak on your behalf.
Remember, an acting career is a tough beat. Don't make it harder by wasting your time on long shots. The smart move is to become the best possible actor you can be, so others will be motivated to lend a hand.