What to Do Before Before Signing With a Talent Agent

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"How do I get an agent?" is the question I’m asked more than any other. Some of these actors have coached with me for a while, have professional credits, and are truly ready for representation—but many are just starting out. Here are four steps to take before you ever contact an agent.

1. Do your research

If you were applying at a law firm you wouldn’t send your résumé to every firm in the county without researching what kind of law they practice. Yet most actors will blindly send mass mailings to every agent in town. Find an agent that specializes in what you do and one that’s a fit with where you are in your career. Backstage’s Call Sheet is a great place to start: Browse the listings for and descriptions of agencies. Ask your friends and colleagues if they recommend an agency and, if appropriate if they’d be willing to act as a referral.

2. Take professional headshots

You’ll need professional headshots before submitting to an agent. Make sure they’re current and look like you when you walk in! Don’t make the mistake of choosing your “prettiest” shot. Your photo should show them how you can be cast.

3. Have experience

You should have some kind of acting experience before approaching an agent. How do you get experience without an agent? Create your own acting opportunities by self-submitting for projects through sites like Backstage. Do student films or create your own web series. If you are pursuing work on-camera, use the footage from the opportunities you create to put together a reel. Many agents won’t see you without one. Check out casting director sites on social media. Follow them for updates about open calls or self-submission opportunities. Agents do take on “development” clients (talent with limited experience), but the number is low and many of them are straight out of acting school. Agents know that clients with good training can often quickly make up for what they lack in experience.

4. Get training

In no other profession would you advertise your services for hire without being trained to provide that service. I’d like to be a doctor but I know, before I start performing surgery, I should probably go to medical school. Yet “actors” think they’re ready for an agent just because they want to be an actor. Acting isn’t surgery but it is a craft and you’d be wise to learn it before trying to compete with professionals. Take an acting class. Become educated about how the business works. Work on your auditions with a coach to maximize your audition conversion rate. It seems obvious but there’s no substitute for knowledge, skill, and training.

These four steps will provide you the tools, professional appearance, and skills to be attractive to an agent when the opportunity arrives. 

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Philip Hernández
Philip Hernández is an audition coach and working actor in New York City. He uses his 30 years experience on stage and on camera to teach the real world skills you need to book the jobs you want. His students appear on Broadway, in regional theaters, national tours, on television, and in film.
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