Four weeks ago actor Matt Kautz landed a great new agent at a small agency—one who answers his calls, attends to his questions, and has already sent him on three general meetings with network executives and two pilot auditions. So how did he get agent John Lyons of the Austin Agency to bring him onboard as a client? A number of factors came into play, not the least of which was a dynamite reel that features him in a plum role on Law & Order.
You might say his career luck began several years ago when he balanced a chair on his chin and sang "Oklahoma" in front of a network casting director. He had shown up at a promisingly under-populated open call for That '70s Show at Fox back when he was a student at New York University.
"I was expecting hundreds and hundreds to be there," recalled Kautz. "But when I got there, it was just me and my friend. Nobody else had shown up. We were expecting some dingy casting office in the middle of downtown, but instead it's like this huge giant beautiful corporate building with all these big-time shows. We were wandering around going, 'Uh. We're here for the open call?'"
He didn't end up with the part, but he did manage to impress the casting director when she asked him to make good on his resumé's claim that he could sing with a chair on his chin.
A year later, the same office tracked him down through NYU and began offering him auditions. He got a few test deals and signed on with APA Talent Agency to handle the negotiations. He soon landed a plum guest-star role on Law & Order, where his character is interviewed, arrested, and put on the stand. That role became the centerpiece on a reel that has been an important factor in impressing his manager Ethan Feerst and his new agent.
Before signing with Lyons, Kautz had been in Los Angeles for two years as a client of APA, the much larger agency he had been with in New York. "Without the support of the people in New York, who really believed in me, I was sort of left to drift here in L.A.," said Kautz. "For a while I didn't go out a lot at all. I didn't really understand how it worked out here. I didn't really understand the whole bit about how you've got to go in and schmooze and that kind of thing."
He didn't have much luck with a mass mailing to agencies. To keep himself alive artistically, he started doing theatre, appearing in two shows directed by Sledgehammer Theatre favorite Matthew Wilder: Valparaiso and Songs of Joy and Destitution.
"The L.A. theatre scene is really underrated," said Kautz. "And it kind of separates the men from the boys. A lot of the people who come out here just got off the bus from Iowa just because on a lark they thought it would be fun to be an actor. People who do theatre don't generally do that. So you meet a lot of good contacts that way, a lot of good people."
The connections he made on these theatre projects proved fruitful: At a birthday party, Wilder introduced him to Feerst, a Sledgehammer founder and budding talent manager.
Kautz was armed with his marketing tools. "It's one thing to meet at a party," said Kautz. "But [Ethan] probably would have forgotten about me had I not had the website [www.mattkautz .com] with my reel, because he could just go home and check that out." Feerst then brought him to Lyons, and the rest is history.
Lyons explained what impressed him: "It was a combination of things. It was a combination of his representation, Ethan Feerst, who comes from the same sensibility that I do—he is interested in well-trained actors with a good background in theatre—combined with the fact with that he booked a really good job on Law & Order, and also the fact that he can play a really young actor. I hadn't represented young actors for a long time, but there is a definite advantage to representing them, as casting directors don't have the same expectation of a lot of credits."
So far, Kautz is pleased with the match. "John is very respectful, and it's easy to talk to him," said Kautz. "With the larger agency, I found it very difficult to talk to them because they were so large. They were like, 'Matt who?' When I call up John, it's actually possible to talk and get some feedback and get some individual attention."
Lyon is also one of those rare agents who are supportive of actors maintaining their theatre habit. Kautz is currently appearing in the one-act Diner Times at Pacific Resident Theatre, playing a bulldozer driver in a play about that girl who went to Palestine and got run over by a bulldozer.
Lyons seems pleased with the match, as well. "Matt has been in to meet several network executives already, and one of them said to me, 'We'll keep him in mind for pilot season.' So I'm looking forward to that. Matt would probably be the first to admit that working out here is very different than in New York. It's much faster, so he's working on taking an audition technique class. Out here in L.A., it's like a conveyor belt. It takes actors awhile to get up to speed with that."