Getting signed with a talent agent is one of an acting career’s major milestones. But many early-career and aspiring actors are left wondering: How do I get an agent with no experience—especially without a résumé of stage and screen acting credits? We asked talent agents, casting directors, and acting coaches what makes them willing to take a chance on an actor with little experience.
How can I get an acting agent without experience?
1. Add to your acting résumé. You don’t need to have major credits to zhuzh up an acting résumé—and you can get acting experience without an agent. “You need to hustle in Hollywood,” said former talent agent Angela Marie Hutchinson. “But you don’t need professional film and TV credits to get on my radar; there’s an array of experience you can gather as an actor. Aside from the typical film and TV credits, other acceptable credits can be in community theater, short films, corporate videos, and others.”
“Even those actors with no film or TV experience should have a fair amount of training or stage work listed,” agreed talent agent Adam Lieblein. “Without anything like that, it would be nearly impossible to convince any theatrical agent that representing that actor would be a smart choice. So, as an actor is attempting to accumulate those credits, they should also be accumulating classes and theater productions to list on their résumé. That’s essential.”
2. Lead with your looks. The headshot is “the single most important marketing tool for an actor,” according to acting coach Matt Newton. Some agents will be won over by an aspiring actor’s looks—even if they have little experience to back it up—so it’s important to ensure that your acting headshots reflect your unique style and personality.
3. Create a killer demo reel. Even if you don’t have any footage from professional productions, you can still make a demo reel that showcases your acting ability. “Use your personality and your original voice to write and shoot something yourself,” advised acting coach Joseph Pearlman. “Work with friends. Collaborate and pool your funds to hire a good cinematographer and sound person.… The major benefit of this is that you take control of the content that you create.”
4. Work it on social media. Use your social media to show agents your personality and ability to create a fan base. Secret Agent Man explained that when choosing between multiple actors with little experience, agents “go with the one who had the most followers on the various social media platforms,” since “the actor could help attract listeners.”
“I think what is important as an actor today is that you need to have an online presence, because there are people out there who are so good at it and that are winning at having a social media presence,” agreed casting director Benton Whitley. “It makes them appear bigger and more involved than they actually are from the get-go. They create something out of nothing instantly; they make us pay attention, [and] they do it in a great, professional way.”
5. Network. Attend workshops, showcases, auditions, open calls, and industry events to build that oh-so-helpful social capital. “Usually we hear about these [uncredited] actors through casting directors who have met them in workshops, or through an acting coach we respect,” Lieblein said. “Those referrals, which come from people who are known for being excellent judges of talent, mean a great deal to agents like me.”
“Network, network, network!” Hutchinson added.
6. Reach out to agents. Once you’ve assembled your materials and built a decent network, write a compelling cover letter and reach out to agents via email. “My interest is piqued by your cover letter, a short note with pertinent info,” noted former talent agent Karen Forman. It may take a while to hear back, but don’t be discouraged; just keep working on your craft until you do.
And if you’re asked to meet with an agent…
7. Demonstrate your worth. If you have a special skill or something else worth showing off, do so—now’s not the time to be shy. “Most agents are willing to take a chance on somebody who has little or few credits, provided that they have something else going for them,” said theatrical talent agent Neil Bagg. “That something else can either be great training, a great ability, or a great look. It is important for actors to capitalize on their strengths. Don’t let somebody undermine you just because you don’t have the credits. Highlight what you do have going for you, and accentuate that in a meeting with an agent or a casting director.”
“Having other talents and skills in terms of athletics, singing, languages—those are also important to me when I consider signing an actor with few credits,” Hutchinson explained.
8. Be passionate. “Although I would sign an actor with few credits, I am typically interested in actors with strong credits who can command the room during an audition, which I can determine based on the presence they have with me during our initial representation meeting,” Hutchinson said.
For example, when Bagg’s agency met with a then-unknown model, “We all sat with him as a group and decided that he was worth taking a chance on, as he seemed so passionate and determined about the craft of acting. On his second audition, he booked a three-year contract role on ‘All My Children,’ and at the end of his third year, he won a Daytime Emmy. That actor was Josh Duhamel. Josh had no credits when he came into the mailroom, but he had a passion and a determination that made his lack of experience seem moot. The rest is history.”
9. Show your commitment. “The other item of importance when I consider signing new talent to my roster is a committed actor—one who is dedicated to a long-term career,” Hutchinson noted. “I am not interested in creating a star or celebrity as much as I am interested in developing a nonworking or aspiring actor into someone who’s consistently working and respected.”
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