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Backstage Experts

6 Things You Should Know Before Meeting a New Acting Agent

6 Things You Should Know Before Meeting a New Acting Agent
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Much like a really good first date, sitting down with a new agent can be simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking. Sure, your date may appear to be stunning and very discriminating, and you may feel flat-out privileged to be out with them—but you still want to be sure you’re both on the same page. If this relationship is going anywhere, your meeting needs to be mutually satisfying.

So, let’s assume you’re fully prepared to arrive at the agent’s front door with up-to-date promotional materials: headshots, resumé, voiceover demos, and professional reels (if you have them). In most cases, this is the reason you’ve been invited to come in in the first place.

What next?

READ: "Who Does What? Your Agent Is Not Your Manager"

Here are six things you should know when meeting with a talent agent:

  1. This “meeting” is an audition. It’s important you understand this regardless of how you got in the room (i.e. a friend-of-a-friend, a professional referral, or even a personal submission). This is a job interview. You may think it's a simple ”meet and greet,” or pleasant fact-finding mission on your end, but the agent in front of you is reading whether or not you’re worthy (and savvy) enough to become someone who would represent the best of what the agency provides producers and directors. Therefore, this is as much a “chemistry read” as anything, whether the agent has you read a script or two or not.

  2. Be flexible. You may or may not be asked to perform. Be just as prepared to get to know the agent and their needs and wants as to read a script. And don’t be surprised if they’re running 20 minutes to a half hour late and you have to sit there. You want them to be busy. That’s a good sign.

  3. Be someone people honestly want to work with. The agent wants to see how well you carry yourself, professionally, especially when they aren’t there and you’re on a job. Are you personable and thoughtful, not just to the agent, but to other talent as well as the person at the front desk? If you’re impatient or short with others but pour on the syrup with the agent, that won’t go unnoticed. Complaining about all of your industry pet peeves won’t be using their time (or your own) wisely, either. Just as bad is if you hardly talk at all—it’s imperative you offer more than simple one-word responses. No one wants to work that hard to get to know you. Be curious about them, the industry, and how the agency conducts business.

  4. If you’re not working, you’re training. Agents want to know you’re reliable, and the best litmus test for that is your continued quest to improve your performance and maintain your professional chops. Just as every professional athlete is found training when not in the game, the very same applies to you as a talent. So, if you haven’t coached or been in class for a couple of years, it’s highly unlikely you can be counted on to deliver your best at a moment’s notice. If you aren’t working as much as you did in the past, this could be the reason. No one’s diminishing your experience or innate ability—just don’t assume there’s nothing left to learn. Proper coaching gives you a competitive edge. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll expect more from the talent agency than you’re willing to do for yourself.

  5. An agent isn’t a manager. Agents might recommend new headshots, or refer you to this coach or that class or workshop, but typically, you’re expected to arrive having done all this groundwork. They want to help, but to be honest, this isn’t their job, it’s yours. Your goal is to instill confidence, and make it easy for your agent to send you out right away.

  6. Ask intelligent questions. Easier said than done, especially if you’re nervous. So, prepare. Determine what sort of work the agency is known for. Finally, if you determine this is the agency you want to align yourself with, reassure them you’ll do your level best to be a reliable asset. And then live up to your word—or surpass it!

Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, founder of Big House Casting & Audio and Actors’ Sound Advice, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out McClanaghan’s full bio

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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