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Secret Agent Man

1 Agent’s ‘Holy Grail’ for Getting Seen

1 Agent’s ‘Holy Grail’ for Getting Seen
Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

The other day, an email popped up on my screen from an actor I’ve never met. The subject said, “Referred by a Mutual Friend.” That caught my eye, so I opened it. The first sentence was “We have not met before, but a mutual friend told me I should reach out to you about representation.” Curious, I scanned the next 28 paragraphs, but at no point did the actor mention the name of our so-called “mutual friend.”

On the smart side, the guy had the right idea. The best way to get an agent to take you seriously when you don’t have a ton of credits is to have someone refer you. But on the dumb side, this actor invented a referral out of thin air, which is an absurd thing to do.

I’ve also had actors throw out referrals from casting directors who never gave them permission to do so: “Meredith at Susan Bluestein’s office said I should get in touch with you.” That’s fine if it’s true, but it’s usually not. The odds are, she mentioned me as an agent she likes working with, but a real referral is when someone like Meredith picks up the phone and gives me a call. When that happens, I always set up a meeting with the actor because it’s a professional courtesy that could lead to a signing.

The worst referrals are when actors mention someone I’ve never met or a casting director I’ve never covered. I always wonder about those. Did the actor just pull the name out of a hat?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Referrals are the Holy Grail of this business. Having professionals in your life who will speak up on your behalf is a crucial part of building a successful career. But here’s the catch. The referrals have to be real. Finding representation isn’t like a poker game, where you can bluff your way to a big win.

READ: How to Get an Agent

So how do you get a referral? Well, you do it the old-fashioned way. You earn it.

As an actor, you must act. That’s the best way to create fans. And the best referrals come from people who have seen you perform. They’re the ones who will speak most passionately on your behalf.

That’s why you should always be performing onstage in a play or an improv show or a comedy club. You should also be putting up as much work as possible in class. And we live in a world where you can easily and cheaply create your own content, so you should be doing that, too.

Keep in mind where the referrals I receive come from. Over the years, I’ve signed actors who were sent to me by casting directors, casting assistants, managers, lawyers, publicists, teachers, clients, directors, producers, and, in one case, my ex-wife. Understanding that will help you figure out who needs to be in your corner.

This advice isn’t just content designed to fill a weekly column. It’s the real deal and I live by it. When I was an eager beaver assistant looking to move up, I didn’t submit myself blindly to other companies. Instead, I rallied my industry fans and they’re the ones who got me in the door.

It worked for me. It will work for you.

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