Actors always ask: How do I get an agent?
That question is so general that if I were to respond, my answer would be all over the place. So let’s do a quick Hollywood-style rewrite.
Actors always ask: How do I get an agent’s attention?
There, that’s better. And the advice I have is easy to act on: Submit your material. Participate in workshops and showcases. Create your own content. Perform onstage as often as possible.
Those are good answers, but there’s one more thing you need to know—and it can help move you up to the head of the line. What’s more, it defines how this industry works. The best way to get an agent’s attention is through a referral.
Since success often hinges on who’s willing to speak on your behalf, a good recommendation is gold. That’s why you’re looking for an agent in the first place, right? You want someone like me to serve as your advocate by referring you to the casting community. That’s much more effective than submitting your material to CDs who don’t know you and are likely facing impossible deadlines.
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Naturally, referrals aren’t easy to get. You’re asking someone to put their reputation on the line by endorsing your abilities to one of their trusted contacts. It’s a big ask, so you have to make sure you’re ready. That means having your material—including your headshots, résumé, reels, and website—up to date and in perfect condition. It also means being prepared to deliver in meetings, auditions, and any other high-end settings. So be honest with yourself: If you’re not quite there yet, save that referral for a future date rather than wasting it now.
I’ve learned that actors don’t always understand how referrals work. Don’t simply send me your material with a note that says, “Jason Kennedy, the casting director of ‘NCIS,’ referred you to me.” That’s not going to make an impression. A true referral is when Jason contacts me directly and tells me why I should meet you. And when that happens, I always take the meeting—because we conduct a lot of business together, and I trust and respect a pro like him. It would be foolish of me to say no.
You should also be selective with whom you reach out to. There’s no need to ask five different people for the same referral—that’s overkill. Contact one or two, and save the rest for later.
Finally, understand that a referral will only get you in the door; it doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to get an offer of representation. That’s a decision I’ll make after we’ve met and I’ve reviewed your material. And that’s the way it should be—you don’t want an agent to sign you as a favor to someone else. You want them to take you on because they believe in your viability as a client.
Over the years, I’ve received countless referrals from CDs, assistants, producers, directors, managers, teachers, publicists, lawyers, and even clients. Unless there’s a specific reason not to, I always say yes, because that’s how the wheels get greased in this town.
Referrals are the golden ticket that will get you into the chocolate factory. And once you’re there, anything can happen!
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 9 issue of Backstage Magazine.