AGENTS-DO YOU NEED THEM?
by Cynthia Brian
are no limits except those you create for yourself.”
YES, and YES! In order to be considered professional and legitimate it is
imperative to have an agent. In fact, without an agent, you will probably only be
considered for extra work. Producers
and casting people do not have time to know all the talent in the area so
they rely on reputable talent agents to assist them in submitting the
appropriate actors for a shoot. With the hundreds of jobs being cast in
the area, without an agent, it would be difficult, if not impossible to
know about or be considered to audition for such projects.
are agents? Agents represent a variety of talent for work in commercials,
print, film, fashion, voice-overs, and industrials.
First of all, remember this is a BUSINESS, not a hobby.
Because agents are paid on a commission basis (20% of your gross
for non-union and print work, 10% of your gross if you are union, although
the unions are renegotiating this amount with agents currently, so expect
an increase), they expect you to be professional and business-like.
You hire the agent, not the other way around, so don't be
intimidated by agents. Good
agents work hard for their talent by developing working relationships with
producers, casting directors, creative and broadcast directors, so that
their talent may be considered and cast for specific jobs.
Agents negotiate fees and contracts and sometimes assist their
represented talent with choosing the correct head shots.
Agents expect their talent to get good training but may not tell
them with whom to study or take workshops.
Talent must practice their craft and learn to market themselves and
work as a team with their agent. Talent must get professional 8 1/2 x 11
black and white head shots for commercial/print work and color zeds for
fashion/print. (Be aware that the original print that comes from the
photographer is an 8 x 10, but when it is duplicated into multiple head
shots, these photos need to be made in 8 1/2 x 11 format…think paper
agents require that a talent be exclusive to that agent which means that
talent may have only one agent. The
positive thing about having more than one agent is that you may be seen
differently by the agents and thus submitted for more job opportunities.
The negative is that both agents may submit you for the same
casting, making it necessary for the casting director to choose between
one agent or another which they do not like to do.
are necessary and a vital, valid mainstay of our industry.
Work with them, trust them, share ideas, but don't bug them.
They have work to do getting us all acting jobs!
FACTS ABOUT TALENT AGENCIES:
am often asked: “How do I find a legitimate agency and how do I know
they won’t rip me off?”
question and there are some helpful answers.
A legitimate agency does not charge a fee payable in advance
for registering for representation. Legitimate
agencies make their money from commissions which are a percentage of your
gross, which is paid to them after you have earnings.
Nothing is paid in advance. Talent
agencies are required to be licensed in the State of California as Talent
Agents. Most of the best
agents are franchised by Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation
of Television and Radio Artists. Agents
who have a formal relationship to the unions agree to a code of conduct
negotiated between the union and the talent agency. For example, there is
a limit on the amount of commission an agent can take, there are rules for
contracts between agents and talent, and there are a series of protections
for both agents and performers. Agency
agreements with the unions are currently under review and revamping as it
has been over four decades since the last negotiation.
Much has changed in those years so we can expect some revisions in
the near future that will affect all performers. The unions always put the
needs of the members first so we can be assured that when any new rules or
regulations are implemented, agents franchised by SAG and AFTRA will be
more protective of the performer.
agencies franchised through the unions are forbidden from advertising in
newspapers or magazines and may not solicit you through the mail.
Scam agencies, on the other hand, almost always advertise and
solicit through newspapers, magazines, radio ads, fairs, pageants, talent
shows, and schools. Beware
and be a wary consumer. Remember
what I said earlier, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
talent agents also may not charge you for classes, photographs, public
relations services, screen tests, acting workshops or other services.
They may recommend a variety of photographers, hair stylists,
make-up artists, etc., but they may not demand that you frequent a
particular person for any service. If
an agent that you are considering is pushing you to sign on the dotted
line or go to a certain salon....run and keep your checkbook with you.
I have known a few good agents who were not franchised by the unions, over
time these agencies went out of business or did become franchised if they
were a serious agency. Before signing any contract with an agency, it is
safer to make sure that agent is franchised by the unions.
However, the unions have NO jurisdiction over print work, modeling
or fashion, so you are on your own in this occasion.
It is best to contact a trustworthy consultant or ask model friends
for a referral. Looking
through the yellow pages just doesn’t cut it in the agency department!
Any improper conduct by an agent should be reported to SAG
immediately. Complaints can
also be handled by the Consumer Protection division of the Federal Trade
Commission. Business and
personal managers are not regulated by the unions or by the state.
Again, established legitimate firms don’t advertise for business
nor do they usually handle newcomers.
Beware! Become fully
informed about your rights as a consumer and the various aspects of the
entertainment industry before you make any financial commitments to any
enterprise. To obtain
information as to the legitimacy of certain businesses, you may call the
consumer action unit of the District Attorney’s Office for the county in
which the business is located, the Better Business Bureau for that region,
or the California Commissioner’s office in San Francisco. From the
Department of Industrial Relations you can request a copy of the bulletin
on minors in the entertainment industry or to learn whether an agency is
operating with a valid State license by calling 415-975-2065.
is no way to know for sure if you will be ripped off, but by being a
knowledgeable consumer of show business, the odds are in your favor that
you’ll find a good agent.
HOW TO GET AN AGENT
agents can not solicit for talent, how will you get an agent?
There are three normal and acceptable ways:
1. Be introduced through a friend who already
is represented by this agent or be referred by a casting person or
2. Invite the agent to a play or production in
which you have a lead role and hope that the agent is pleasantly impressed
with your work and wants to represent you.
3. Find out which agents are franchised by SAG
and AFTRA. Send these agents a short cover letter requesting
representation along with a resume with your current 8 1/2 x 11 black and
white head shot and a self addressed stamped envelope for a return answer.
Don’t send out photographs that you want returned, as agents are
busy and don’t have time to sort through the mail to determine what
needs to be returned. Make sure you have included a phone number where you
are reachable. Expect to wait two to eight weeks for an answer.
actors get their agents by using scenario # 3.
It is risky and time consuming for the agents to develop new
talent. Agents are careful
about only representing talent that they feel are bookable at this time.
This doesn’t mean if you are rejected by one agent, that another
agent won’t want you. Keep
submitting until you find an agent who is willing to give you a personal
interview. When you do get an
interview, remember that appearance and good grooming are very important.
You only have one opportunity to make a first impression.
Hair, face, clothes and shoes must be clean and appropriate.
Beauty is not that essential.
What is important is your personality and high energy looks that
come from being healthy and happy. Look
like the photograph you sent in the mail.
You were called in because of your look on the picture, make sure
that photo represents the you NOW, not the you you used to be.
Also, do not expect agents to incurr any expenses for you.
All the materials you will need to present yourself as a
professional are your responsibility, including your photographs, resumes,
and demo reels.
on time. Bring with you any
pertinent information that you want the agent to see.
For example, contact sheets, a portfolio of work, a video of clips
of movies or commercials you have done.
Do not bring in family snapshots, a video of a recital or
production. Any questions you
want to ask the agent should be written down so that you don’t waste
valuable time. This is a
business. Treat it as one. Be courteous, professional,
friendly...but to the point. State
your purpose, then leave. Be
prepared to answer the most asked question in the business:
“Tell me about yourself.”
Be passionate and succinct.
clothing that makes you feel comfortable.
Do not be too dressy. Do
not wear jeans and a T-shirt. Do not try to look sexy. Look professional,
casual, and commercial-like. You
want the agent to be thinking about projects to cast you in, not where you
purchased your clothes.
the agent has agreed to represent you, don’t sit back and wait for the
phone to ring. You have to
take responsibility for your own career. Be informed. Get
into workshops, sharpen your
skills. Be prepared. Also, write the agent a short thank you note.
All too often we forget to show our appreciation.
Always maintain an attitude of gratitude.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM ANY AGENT
order to be successful, you will need to have a good working relationship
with your agent. You work as
a team. Many actors are under
the impression that once an agent is secured, that the actors’ work is
finished and that the agent will do it all.
NOT TRUE! It is
essential for the actor to market voraciously and to keep in contact with
the agent. Promote yourself and let your agent know what you are doing to
further your career. Get into
plays, take classes, improve
your vocal skills. If you
should be contacted directly from a casting person or producer for a job,
call your agent and have your agent negotiate the deal.
Your agent wants you to work and it does not matter who found the
job. Having your agent negotiate for you usually gets you bigger
fees. I once was booked on a
print job for three hours that I had anticipated charging my usual $200
per hour. When I asked my
agent what she had negotiated, she said $2500 for the three hours! Obviously I was delighted and surprised.
This was a definite indication of the power of the negotiating
skills of my agent.
first few months of your relationship with your agent are crucial.
It is during this time that the agent is deciding if you are
serious about this craft as a business or as a hobby.
Agents are carefully watching your audition skills.
They are interested in finding out where your niche is and how they
can help you succeed. Timing
is important...submitting the right actor, for the right role at the right
an updated list of Screen Actors Guild Agents, please go to www.sag.org
coaching consultations on an hourly basis in person or by phone, call
925-377-STAR or email Cynthia@NOSPAMstar-style.com