This month, Speak Easy caught up with Heather Vergo, voiceover agent from Atlas Talent. I first met Vergo at the 2009 L.A. premiere of Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” with her client Michael-Leon Wooley, who voiced the alligator Louis in the movie!
Jen: How did you land at Atlas Talent?
Heather: I’m originally from Boston and moved to New York to work as an associate producer for daytime talk shows. Eight years ago, I realized that I wanted to go into a more casting-oriented job, and switched careers. I landed as an assistant at Atlas Talent in New York and eight months later became a promo agent. As a voiceover agent you do a lot of casting, so this is the perfect mix of my skill set: my business side and my creative side, and putting those things together.
Jen: And you were so successful in NYC that Atlas asked you to open up the L.A. office?
Heather: Two and a half years into my NYC stint, Atlas wanted to expand into the L.A. market and develop the animation and commercial departments, and asked me to move out to L.A. to build those departments. Now we have three agents out here. We’re competing with the top agencies, but we do it on a boutique level. We have a boutique roster where we partner with the talent, and the clients feel like they have real relationships with their agents. We’d rather represent fewer clients and do more with them.
Jen: What do you look for in new clients?
Heather: We do search for new clients, but it’s an ever-changing answer. You have to fill a hole for us, and you can’t know what that hole is when you’re an actor. When we get casting breakdowns coming in, and we are suggesting people, we are looking to fill holes for areas that we aren’t booking. There’s no way of knowing what holes an agents’ roster has when you reach out because it’s ever-changing. Each actor does not do every single thing. Everyone wants to, but they have specialities. Some actors are utility animation actors, character commercials actors, or trailer and promo guys. As agents, our job is to use them as best as possible in multiple arenas using all these different realms of what they can do. Being able to fit in multiple arenas is an asset, but at the end of the day…
Jen: Most actors just think they can do everything.
Heather: Sometimes it’s good to do everything, but in the world of voiceover, there are plenty of people making money doing one thing and that’s OK. Do that one thing extremely well and there may be no one else like you who does that one skill—and that’s so worthwhile.
Jen: What’s the signing process for a new client?
Heather: All the agents must agree as a cohesive team if we bring on a new client to the agency. We sit together and ask if this actor can bring value to the agency. Do we see the value of this person to the agency? And we all must agree before we bring them on.
Jen: Sounds like there’s a great synergy between all the agents and clients.
Heather: Yes! It makes it very difficult to get signed with Atlas, but once you get on board you have multiple agents on your team.
Jen: How can an actor get a meeting with a voiceover agent?
Heather: Referrals are an easy way to get a meeting with us. Sometimes it’s catching us on the right day when we have time to take a listen to your demo, or the right month when we are looking to fill some holes in the roster. Persistence is key. There are actors who have written to me and I have not been able to sign them, but a year later they write me again and tell me what jobs they’ve booked and as they’ve followed up, I would take a listen to them. Don’t take it personally when we don’t write back.
Jen: What should an actor never do in a voiceover agent meeting?
Heather: Never come to a meeting unprepared. If you have booked jobs, know who they were with, know the name of the casting director. If it’s a commercial, know the advertising agency. Have a spreadsheet of who you have worked with and know who those people are! And know what your jobs have been in the last year. Come in taking ownership over your career. This is a business. As agents we are putting you forth out there in the world to represent the agency as a whole, but also yourself. You need to have ownership to help create the work and take ownership of your own career. And spell our names correctly when you’re emailing us!
Jen: Should voiceover actors take workshops and coaching?
Heather: Yes, you should be coaching in any areas that you are not currently working in. Be professional and smart. Know your business. Work your butt off. We work hard, and we want partners who are going to do their piece of the work! I get so excited every time I call a client and tell them they’ve booked a job! Having fun is part of our company’s philosophy.
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Jen Rudin is an award-winning casting director and author of “Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room.” (Harper Collins/It Books, 2013). Visit www.jenrudin.com and follow @RudinJen.