Agent Don Birge Offers Advice for Getting Actors Hired

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Photo Source: Andy Hur

Don Birge wants actors to work.

“I don’t know if that’s so surprising; that’s probably clear,” says Birge. “I want them to be successful, and more importantly, I want them to feel fulfilled. They’re artists more than anything. I want them to be able to exercise their artistry.”

Birge is the co-owner and head of the New York office of Stewart Talent Agency. He works primarily with actors, and his client list includes Carol Kane, Betty Buckley, Rondi Reed, and Deanna Dunagan.

“Actors in it for the long haul and committed to this as a career,” he says of the kind of clients he wants. “There’s nothing more frustrating than to have a client and you want it more for them than they do. It’s maddening.”

Birge offers advice for how actors can get noticed.

On self-submitting:
I don’t think it’s really effective for an actor, unless they have a specific relationship with a casting director, director, or producer. I think that that’s a tricky thing. If they have that relationship, I always say declare your intent. Don’t expect a response, and if you get a response, how great would that be? Where is the harm in that?

I just feel like it’s a waste of time for actors to do that on their own because they’re getting submissions from 300 agencies around the country. Save your money. Pay to go to One on One or Actors Connection and meet that casting director so they at least have a frame of reference about you and your work. And I have found many people from One on One and Actors Connection. Those are very useful tools.

On regional theater:
If you want to break into the New York world, I say you have to stop going out of town. The work you’re doing in regional theater is probably better than the work you’re going to do in New York, but the thing is, nobody is seeing it. So you get some cool Off-Broadway thing that all of sudden catapults you into something else. It’s amazing. It’s because it’s here, and everyone wants to see it.… It’s just the way the business works.

On determining talent:
All I know is, I respond to somebody, or I don’t. And it’s the same thing when you go to a movie. There are certain movie stars you are going to go see because you love what they do. It’s that visceral “I think you’re great. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think you’re great.” That’s the frustrating part about the business: It is that arbitrary.

On how actors can help their agents:
Being a smart actor is really important. Being prepared is really important. I love communication with my clients. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you don’t hear from somebody. Come by and say hello. Call before you come to make sure we’re available and here. I feel like they’re engaging me, and they’re engaged in what’s happening for them. Knowing what’s out there, knowing where they fit in the food chain. Anything’s possible. That’s why we’re all in this business.