How to Get an Acting Agent in L.A.

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Photo Source: Jasmin Garcia-Verdin

Navigating your acting career in Los Angeles can be a daunting and intimidating task. It can feel like everyone you meet is pursuing a career on the silver screen, so it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Finding an agent committed to advancing your career is one of the most crucial steps in your trajectory to success. While the competition for a top agent is fierce, our guide will arm you with the knowledge you need to develop an effective strategy for landing the perfect agent.

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How hard is it to get an acting agent in L.A.?

Los Angeles is a mecca of opportunity for aspiring performers and is truly a city built around the entertainment industry. Getting auditions is largely based on existing connections, so securing representation with a talent agent is of the utmost importance. Acting hopefuls flock to L.A. from all over the world seeking industry opportunities, making it a highly competitive environment. Finding an agent is no different.  

Still, you can start auditioning and landing jobs before signing with an agency. Keep in mind that finding your footing in L.A. and assembling a management team usually takes time. Depending on how much experience you have under your belt when you land in Los Angeles, you may want to hold off on your agent search until you get settled. Enroll in an acting class and get a sense of what the industry is like by submitting yourself for jobs via Backstage or another online casting platform. Potential agents are much more likely to seriously consider your submission if you’ve proven yourself to be dedicated to honing your craft and are already seeking out your own opportunities.

What is an L.A. talent agent looking for?

Many actors flock to L.A. in search of fame, so before taking you on, L.A. agents want to make sure you understand the city’s film landscape and how you fit into it. Make sure you are well-versed in what’s happening in film and television and understand how the business side of talent representation works. Convey to potential agents that you are serious about your craft, not just the perceived glamour that comes with stardom.

In the words of top talent agent Jennifer Sims at RPM Talent, “We select actors who take this profession seriously, want to collaborate, and are willing to do the necessary work.” 

Agents in L.A. want to see that you have the ability to hustle within the city’s highly competitive film landscape to make your own opportunities. “To sit around and wait for opportunities to come knocking is an outdated way of thinking,” says ICM Talent agent Chris Horsman. “Especially when you’re first starting out in the business, it’s important to be creating opportunities for yourself.” 

According to confidential L.A.-based rep Secret Agent Man, the best way to get an agent’s attention is through a referral—and the only way to get a referral is to find work, get your name out there, and then make sure your headshots, résumé, demo reel, and website are in perfect condition. 

“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,” Secret Agent Man says. “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.”

Do I need to live in L.A. to get an agent?

L.A.

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Although the process has its flaws, self-tape auditions have made it slightly easier to land roles from outside of L.A., and other cities like Atlanta, Austin, and Toronto have emerged as viable markets for actors. 

However, L.A. is still the center of the entertainment industry, and if your goal is to work with an agent on the ground in Hollywood, there is no substitute for in-person interactions and community building. In order to create opportunities for yourself in L.A.—including finding an acting agent—you’ll need to network, which is hard to do if you live remotely. The bittersweet truth is that Hollywood nepotism is a very present reality in Los Angeles. Fostering relationships with well-connected individuals is an important ingredient to finding an agent. When an industry connection opens a door for you, many more tend to follow. And while no one will hand you your good fortune on a platter, your connections are much more likely to do you the favor of a referral if you come across as motivated, professional, and serious about your craft.

It used to be common for people to move to L.A. for pilot season, but this generally isn’t the wisest idea, and it’s one that’s becoming increasingly antiquated. Pilot season (January–March) and episodic season (July–November) tend to be the busiest times for L.A. agents. During pilot season, agents are swamped working to secure auditions for their current roster of talent, meaning they won’t be taking many meetings with potential clients and almost certainly not responding to cold submissions.

It is important to keep in mind that launching your acting career won’t happen overnight, and you should prepare to be in this for the long haul. Give yourself at least a few months to get settled in, prepare your submission materials, and start submitting yourself for jobs via Backstage before approaching agents for representation.

What makes a good agent in L.A.?

Connections: A good acting agent in L.A. is one with connections to the top casting directors in the city. Ideally, they will have a proven track record of successful clients who chose to remain signed with them long-term. A good agent should have proven experience navigating the kinds of roles and audition opportunities that are appropriate for you.

Consistent work: The best agent for you is one that actually sends you out on auditions. Many actors are signed with prestigious agencies yet still only get sent out on a handful of auditions per year. Make sure you are signed with someone who makes your career their priority and has you at the forefront of their mind when considering which actors to submit for castings. Most actors move to L.A. to be exposed to more opportunities; that won’t come to fruition if you are signed with an agent who rarely submits you for projects or takes the time to follow up.

Reputation: Watch out for major red flags. Most reputable agencies are affiliated with SAG-AFTRA. Just because an agency isn’t affiliated doesn’t necessarily indicate it’s a scam, but it does mean you should do some extra research to make sure it is legitimate. Any reputable agent will never ask for money upfront or insist you use only their own connections for headshots, classes, etc. While they may encourage or try to steer you in a particular direction, any obligation to use only their recommendations may signal that the agent is involved in some shady business practices.  

What are the top L.A. acting agencies?

The top acting agencies in L.A. include powerhouses like the Creative Artists Agency (CAA), United Talent Agency (UTA), and William Morris Endeavor (WME). While these L.A. agencies certainly carry prestige and name recognition, your goal should be to sign with an agent who is excited about you, believes in your success 100 percent, and is willing to fight for you. 

Bigger and more prestigious don’t always mean that an agency will be the right fit for you—and, to be frank, most actors just getting started don’t have a chance of singing with WME or CAA right off the bat. Instead, check out this list of L.A. talent agencies that every working actor should know, as well as our list of talent agencies for beginners like Osbrink, CESD, or Bankston Talent Agency

What types of acting agencies are there in L.A.?

L.A. talent agencies

Courtesy AKA, UTA, CAA, Gersh, CTG, LA Talent

L.A. is home to a wide range of acting agencies, from boutique to corporate to commercial. Let’s break down each type of agency to determine which is right for your acting career.

Boutique: Boutique agencies are on the smaller side, with many focused on a specific niche or talent pool. Boutique agencies don’t necessarily have access to the same caliber of casting connections, but since they focus on a smaller group of actors, that often means they are able to give you more personalized attention. Talent rosters usually comprise up-and-coming actors; at a boutique agency, you are less likely to get lost in the shuffle of high-profile celebrity clients. Many new boutique agencies are looking to grow their brand and reputation based on the performance of their actors and therefore may be more invested in your personal success. These agencies may be more open to cold submissions and willing to take a meeting with an unknown actor.

Example: AKA Talent Agency

Corporate: The top powerhouse agencies in L.A. are large corporate ones, usually representing hundreds, if not thousands, of clients. Their talent pool usually extends beyond theatrical into divisions like sports, music, and branded entertainment, and they usually have multiple domestic and international offices. Being represented by a top corporate agency certainly carries prestige and can help propel you to success, but these are not the agencies you should be reaching out to when you arrive in L.A. as a newcomer to the acting scene. Many of the top agencies only take meetings by direct referral, so reaching out via unsolicited submission is generally a waste of time.

Examples: UTA, CAA, Gersh

Commercial: Commercial agents submit their clients exclusively for commercial jobs, and while that might not be your goal, it can be a great stepping stone to other work. Many larger agencies have both theatrical and commercial departments, but most actors are signed to a different agency for each to cast a wider net of connections and potential opportunities. Even if your ultimate goal is working theatrically, booking commercial jobs can provide you with exposure, not to mention a generous paycheck that beats waiting tables. Signing with a commercial agent tends to be easier than getting theatrical representation. At the very least, it will provide you with auditioning experience and a better understanding of the entertainment landscape in L.A.

Examples: Clear Talent Group, L.A. Talent

How do I submit to an acting agency in Los Angeles?

If you’re planning to submit yourself to L.A. agencies, you will need to spend time and money assembling your submission materials beforehand. Check out the full guide to landing yourself an acting agent for more details, but these are the essentials you will need to submit when reaching out to agents:

Headshot: Invest some money into getting a great, professional-looking headshot. This will be the only physical representation agents see before meeting you, so make sure it is not only flattering but also a truly accurate depiction of what you look like in person. As Chris Horsman of ICM puts it, “There’s nothing worse than seeing a headshot and then meeting somebody that doesn’t match the photo. It’s like going on a blind date where the person doesn’t look like their photo.”

Demo reel: Your showreel should be a showcase of your most impressive body of work, ideally displaying your versatility in a wide range of roles. Keep it short and to the point; most agents won’t spend more than a few minutes reviewing your submission. “Showreels should be no more than five minutes with a couple of your best scenes. People have short attention spans. ...Less is more,” recommends Chris Andrews, a top agent for A-listers at CAA. 

Résumé: Your acting résumé should concisely summarize all of your relevant acting work and training. It’s also your place to list any special skills or talents you have that may be relevant for agents to know about (e.g., former competitive ice skater, speaks three languages, etc.).

Once you’ve assembled your materials, you should draft an individualized cover letter for each agency you are applying to. Good luck!