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The Working Actor

Contact Hi, Teen Has-Been

Contact Hi, Teen Has-Been
Dear Michael:
I just landed an agent a while ago. I'm curious: When I go to networking activities like casting director workshops, meet-and-greets at Actorfest, showcases, or parties, should I give out résumés with my agent contact info only or my own personal contact info only? Or should I list both on my résumé if I'm meeting a casting director on an occasion when I haven't been sent out by my agent?

People have told me to list the agency info only, because it makes you look more legit, and the fact that you have an agent will mean something to the casting director, especially if he or she has a good relationship with the agent. However, people have also told me that when I network with casting directors and producers on occasions that have been initiated by me, it would be better to hand out my direct personal contact info only, because in case I move to another agency, the casting directors will still be able to contact me, and I'll also get to build a more personal relationship with them. Which is a more appropriate way of networking?

Also, let's say I want to look for another agent. Should I send a headshot and résumé to another agent that lists my current agency info?

—Hard-Working Actor
Los Angeles

Dear Hard-working:
First of all, congratulations. Getting an agent is one of the hardest things to do in our business.

Represented actors should never print personal contact information on their résumés. That's a signal that an actor is early in his or her career and either agentless or unaware of the protocol. Those who told you that having only your agent's information on your résumé demonstrates legitimacy were correct.

Building more-personal relationships with casting people shouldn't be your goal. Meeting them is fine, but those interactions are for cultivating professional relationships, not personal ones. Leaving your agent out of that equation looks bad—for the agent and for you—and confuses the casting person. And confusion is the last thing you want to create. Your agent won't appreciate it either. If you try to deal directly with casting personnel, you're doing your agent's job, and the agent may think your plan is to avoid paying a commission. Bad!

Now, if you move to another agency and a casting director wants to find you, there are ways to do that. He or she can call the good people at the Screen Actors Guild, and if you're a member, they'll know who represents you and provide that information. Or he or she can contact your old agent. Standard professional courtesy dictates that your former agents do their best to direct casting people to your new representation. And most will. Only the pettiest, most small-time agents would sabotage a former client's opportunities. That's rare, so don't worry about it.

When seeking a new agent (which I hope you won't have to do for a while), yes, you should send a résumé imprinted with your current agent's info. That shows that someone else was interested in representing you and makes you more appealing. But in that situation, handwrite your personal contact info at the top of the résumé. (Write clearly!) That way, interested agents can contact you directly.

Dear Michael:
I'm a 19-year-old college sophomore, and pretty much all my life I've wanted to act. However, my parents aren't exactly thrilled. In fact, they think it's ridiculous, and I don't talk to them about it anymore. Mostly because of this, I haven't done anything but school productions. I can't drive very well yet, so without their support, I've got nothing.

I guess my question to you is the same as anyone else's: Do I even have a shot? I'm not asking if I'm good enough. You probably can't tell me that through an email! But am I too old to keep this "silly" dream alive? Should I still try to get into plays and student films around my campus? Or is it way too late and I should just let it go? I want to improve my skills. Sorry if this seems like a bunch of obvious questions, but it looks so hard to get roles in anything! And then all the confusion about SAG. I don't even know where to start.

—Fading Dream
via the Internet

Dear Fading:
Sorry you're having a rough time. Here's the thing: No one can tell you whether you're going to make it. There have been thousands of young performers who were told by their drama teachers, parents, and others that their incredible talent would make them virtually unstoppable in the professional world but who never got anywhere. And then there have been just as many who were harshly discouraged by "experts," only to go on to become humongously famous and well-respected. I've always loved the story (which may or may not be true) about the legendary film star Fred Astaire's early screen test for RKO Pictures. A studio "suit" was rumored to have written in his report on the elegant Astaire, "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Dances a little."

Only you know whether you have the calling to be an actor—that thing inside you that says, "I must act, whether it's for money or for free, on a huge screen or a tiny stage, whether I'm successful or not." To me, that's what the calling sounds like. Only you know if you have it.

But this I do know: You're not washed up at 19. It would be tragic if you abandoned a deep yearning to act only because you thought it was all over for you at such a young age. Each actor's journey is unique. Some careers start at 5 years old, some at 50. My advice: Don't make any decisions that involve trying to predict the future unless you're a psychic. Maybe your career will begin at 24, or 31, or...who knows?

More to the point, if you enjoy doing student films and school plays, who cares whether it leads to a career? Do them because you love acting. Do them because they're what's available to you right now. Even if they lead nowhere, they'll still be fun, interesting experiences that enrich you as a person. Right?

All we have in this life are the moments, the days, the seconds. Fill yours with endeavors that make you feel happy and fulfilled and you'll be building a worthwhile life. Leave the rest to fate and watch what happens. Oh look, I got all Deepak on you. I guess it's the fresh promise of a new year.

Any questions or comments for The Working Actor?  Please email Jackie and Michael at  

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