Laura Thede of DDO Artists Agency Reveals How to Find the Right Agent for You

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Photo Source: Courtesy of Laura Thede

Founded in 1969, DDO Artists Agency has grown into a quite notable home for actors of all ages across commercial, TV, film, voiceover, print, theater, hosting, and sports and specialty, with offices in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago. Laura Thede, a kids partner and agent, helps run the youth division DDO and recently sat down with Backstage to share what the company is all about and to answer questions about how actors can find representation today.

How would you describe your roster?
Our roster really ranges. It's actually super diverse, which we are very proud of, and we're constantly trying to make it even more so. For me, I primarily work day to day on TV-film. There's two other agents in the division, Bri Curtis and Alicia Beekman. Alicia works on TV-film with me, and then she also does voiceover. And then Bri works on commercial and print. For me, I usually am not signing anyone under six. That's when kids can really start working a full workday legally and also when they can start to really carry a scene and memorize and get into character and all that kind of stuff.

As for my roster, there is really no hard cut off, we don't have like a hard cut off. It’s just a feeling and it's just an age range that you play. If your essence is like you are still playing high school, then it doesn't matter what your biological age is. Our oldest client is actually biologically 30, but absolutely high school, college, cannot play 30 to save his life…. So that's why I try to say “kids and young adults” because I do go up into the high school roles, in the college roles,  the CW shows—all of that we're still working on. As soon as someone starts to really play 30 or up or they're playing, that's definitely something that they would go off into the adult division.

Since someone older can work in the children’s division, can a child work in the adults division?
I think it definitely goes both ways. I think every agency has their own way that they do it, so this is just what we do at DDO. It’s very fluid and we don't have hard cutoffs, it's just really what's best for the actors…. It’s more about what you play than your biological age, that's how I would look at it if I was an actor. If you don't know what you play, just literally take a survey of your friends. Ask everyone you know, ask 20 people, “What age do I look?” Take that average, and that's probably pretty safe to say.

“I really have been proud and really grateful for everyone in casting who has really gone above and beyond to do a lot of stuff just out of the goodness of their heart during this time for actors.”

For actors that are interested in working with you, how do you generally find new talent?
We do a lot of stuff, obviously pre-these crazy times that we are in, we did a lot of in-person scouting where we went to final showcases and performances of acting schools and theater and sketch comedy and that kind of stuff. But right now, we have still been taking submissions; we are still doing Zoom meetings every week to meet new clients. We’ve always had an open submission policy where anyone can submit to us, and all of our submission instructions are on our website. Everything for us is just via email, and we check those every single day. We are actually looking at them. But we're always on the lookout. We have even found people on social media, stuff like that, so we do try to keep an active eye out all the time.

Since we are in the middle of pandemic, are there ways that actors can still establish themselves during these crazy times?
I have actually been very pleasantly surprised and shocked with how much our industry has kind of come together through this. There has been so many casting directors that have started doing free stuff through social media. The education that has come out of this I think is huge and you can really make a lot of stuff happen during this time if you put your mind to it. But a lot of stuff is happening on social media. There's a lot of casting directors that were doing open calls through social media, they were doing monologue contests through social media, they were doing free Instagram Live Q&As through social media, Zoom meetings, all kinds of stuff. So I really have been proud and really grateful for everyone in casting who has really gone above and beyond to do a lot of stuff just out of the goodness of their heart during this time for actors.

As far as the future, I do think this is going to be a new normal for the foreseeable future, so really learning how to work Zoom and learning how to self-tape from home and making sure that you're up on all of that technology is going to be huge. If you don't know how to do that stuff, you are going to be left in the dust because I don't think that they're going to be doing in-person callbacks anytime soon. This could be the new normal where your callback is a Zoom with the director, so you want to just get comfortable. Practice it, know what you're doing.

How can an actor best prepare for meeting with your agency?
We tell people who we're meeting with exactly what we want them to prepare, but if someone doesn’t, I would always err on the side of caution and have something prepared to perform. I do find it interesting if we take a meeting and we're like, “OK, do you have a scene or a monologue?” and they're like, “Oh—no.” I would always have something prepared to do, always have a monologue in your back pocket or a scene that you are very comfortable with that you feel shows your acting well just in case, no matter what just always have that. And then I think it's really good to research who you're meeting with. That is one of my favorite things when someone comes on a Zoom with me and is like, “Hey I googled you, I researched, I realized you’re from Colorado, that’s really cool. My cousin’s from Colorado.” You know, whatever. It doesn't even have to be personal facts about me, but research DDO…. Really take that meeting for you as well and ask the questions that you need to know for yourself, and then just be yourself. Be relaxed, breathe into it, engage in the conversation. We're just trying to get a sense of the person, your essence, who you are.

How can actors find and decide which agents are best for them?
It goes back to just doing your due diligence, you have to really research and there's so much—almost everything is online now, I mean everything. You can literally look up on IMDb, you can find anyone's roster, you can look up every agent at every company. I don't think there is an agency out there that doesn't have a website [that] tells you the divisions and what they work on and the agents that work there.

What is DDO’s stance on signing talent that isn’t located in any of the major cities?
Especially in our division, we sign kids from all over the country. We have kids that live in Arizona, we have kids that live in Cincinnati, we have kids that live everywhere because it really is possible now with technology that you self-tape your auditions. It does take a level of commitment, you have to be committed to flying out here if you book something or coming out if you have a big callback that is necessary that you come to in person, but especially during these times, everything is going to be virtual for awhile, so it is very easy for you to do it out of state. We never tell people they have to move to L.A. anymore to do this, especially with kids and young adults. The series regular roles that are searching for young talent, they really do a nationwide search. If you’re the right person for the role and you’re the best for that role, they will fly you out here.

What specific points would you recommend covering when drafting a cover letter for an agency?
We always appreciate a cover letter. Ours are emails, so you just have to have some kind of intro in your email with your materials in the email, as well. But just quick, short, and sweet. I would say a paragraph or less introducing yourself and then if you do have any credits or whatever your experience level is you definitely want to put that in there. Think of it as a paragraph highlight bio: You want to throw out the major points and any great experience you have in that quick little intro while just kind of introducing yourself. So don't overthink it, it doesn't need to be an essay about why you want to be represented. It can just really be a quick intro about yourself, your experience, and that can pretty much be it.

For more from Thede, watch her full Zoom webinar session below, and keep tabs on who’s coming up on The Slate with our list of programming right here!

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