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Theatrical and commercial agent, Carry Company, N.Y. and L.A.

ending gimmicks along with your submission—scratch-off tickets, money, pieces of gum, tiny ornaments, totally nude pictures—lessens an actor's credibility. We need to bring you in based on your picture and résumé. A clever cover letter is always a plus. Also, sending demo reels if they are not requested is a waste of money. We receive about 10–25 unrequested demo reels per week.

Theatrical agent, The Culbertson Group, West Hollywood, Calif.

hat my experience has taught me over the years is that mass mailings do not work. An actor should do their homework and research an agency as to types, ages, what they are looking for, etc. Then I would say to maybe choose a dozen or so and submit. I would also include a self-addressed stamped postcard with a couple options: a) We are not setting up appointments at this time, b) Currently we have conflicts to your category, c) We will contact you, and d) Check back in three months. By doing so, it allows the actor a sense of control in an industry where they have no control.

A cover letter should be brief and to the point. If you are being referred by a casting director or by a client of the agency, then use their name. We may follow up with the client or CD to get their thoughts on the actor. Phoning an agency to see "if you got my submission" or "I forgot to put my number on the submission" does not help. Agencies receive hundreds of submissions a day, and agents are not shy; if we are interested, we will call. Follow-ups are not helpful.

If you submit your tape or DVD unsolicited, then enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. I am amazed that actors will call a couple months after the fact wanting to pick up their material. Agents are not a storage warehouse; generally, if material is submitted to us unsolicited, we will write on the envelope "return to sender." I know it sounds a bit harsh, but it is a reality. Enclosing gifts, food, or money is not endearing to us.

Theatrical and commercial agent, Veronica Goodman Agency, Cherry Hill, N.J.

efore you send anything out, be informed about the business. Actors are going to these calls that are not legitimate, and they're listening to a big, encouraging "you can get in the business, anybody can, just pay this amount" type of thing. So they soak them for picture costs and get hundreds or maybe even more out of these Julia Roberts hopefuls. [Actors go down] that road, and then they are sending out their materials to agencies, and they send them out with, "Hey, I'm represented by one of those unfortunate type of companies." They'll call that person their other agent, and they're certainly not a legitimate agent. It's just that they don't know any better, and we know it right away. The innocent ones, who have a love for the business, are misinformed. Unless they know about Ross Reports, which I call the bible of the business, they're just so uninformed. They shouldn't have to pay a dime for any part of this business until they book.

If they're looking for an agent, they should certainly have a clean black-and-white 8x10 headshot—matte finish is preferred—and a résumé. They should have a separate piece of paper with their information as far as getting them by phone or email, and then a little "Hi, how are you" cover letter with "I'm looking for an agent, I'm looking for representation, please call me." The very professional ones will send postcards. The ones who are not professional—and it's a red light immediately—they send a 5x7 comp card, without a back, so the back is blank, and on the front side are three little pictures where they're in the same clothing, or they're in different clothing but they all look the same. They should not send out these 5x7s that they're paying a fortune for. The only people that should have comp cards are high-fashion models and commercial or print people, and those comp cards will look different; they're put together professionally, and they are their tools in the business.

Theatrical and commercial agent, Top Cat Talent Agency, N.Y.

veryone knows you should not call or visit an agent without a request from said agent, but at least five times per day, I get calls that sound like this: "Hi, hello, how are you?" Already I know this is a novice—someone who hasn't a clue. Or, "Hi, it's John, I sent you a picture. Did you get it?" I know 57 Johns, 67 Marys, 78 Sandfords, 46 Arturos, etc. This is a business: If you're going to call an agent and bend the rules, be businesslike. State your name in full and get to the point. We don't want to sound rude, but agents are the busiest people in the world, and sometimes I'm on the phone with two or three casting directors at a time. This is show business, not show show. All actors should take a sales course; after all, they are selling themselves.

The best way is to keep sending your headshot or a miniature version as a postcard. Believe it or not, after a while I know the actor's face from the repetition of the mailings.

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