I’m a 14-year-old girl in New Jersey. I’ve been acting in local theaters since I was 7. I’ve also been taking acting classes since that time and have progressed into the most advanced class for my age group. Every acting teacher I’ve ever had has told me that I’m talented, and I know that I have the ambition and the drive to make it as a professional actor. I’ve auditioned for two talent agencies in New York City but didn’t get signed to either. Is there anything that agencies look for in a 14-year-old girl? Is there something I’m doing wrong?
Out of Ideas, Bayonne, N.J.
Dear Out of Ideas:
Don’t panic. Agencies pass on signing actors all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, and it doesn’t mean your age is a problem. It only means that you need to continue the process. Finding an agent is one of the hardest tasks actors face. It takes time.
First and foremost, as a minor you have to collaborate with your parents on this, as I’m sure you know. Look together for agencies with youth departments or that specialize in representing kids. Be sure to check them out to make sure they’re legitimate. There are lots of scammers out there, trying to make money off the millions with performing aspirations.
Be especially careful about managers. They’re not regulated the way agents are, so they don’t have to be licensed, and some of them have no connections whatsoever. It’s a shame, but this business requires us to be skeptics. The most important thing to know is this: No legitimate talent representative—agent or manager—charges money up-front. They don’t require that you take headshots with their photographer or pay for classes that they offer. They only get a percentage when you make money. That’s how it works. If someone is asking for money up-front, just walk away. It’s a scam. Period.
One great resource is our Working Actor message board, where you can ask fellow actors what they’ve heard about specific agents and managers. In fact, among our regular board contributors are several parents of working kid actors.
There’s no blanket answer regarding what talent agencies look for. Each agent has his or her own taste regarding who might be marketable. But all look for clients who they think will make money for the agency. There’s no way to become that, so don’t stress over it. Just be the best actor you can, and keep getting better. It often takes meeting with lots of agencies before you find one that wants to work with you. So take heart: Your situation isn’t uncommon.
There’s another possibility. It may be that you’re not quite ready for the professional world yet. That’s OK too. Keep studying, get into whatever theater you can on a local level, and keep looking for opportunities. And as I said, have a serious planning talk with your parents. Together, maybe you can figure out the next step.