So you want to be represented as an actor. This is the goal for most actors once they reach a certain point in their career. You want to start landing professional acting roles and get your career progressing? We’re here to help. Regardless of whether you’ve been in the industry for while, knowing how to approach an acting agent can be tough. “Who are the best agents?” “Should I use email or phone them directly?” “Do I need to be recommended?” And about a hundred more questions that we’ve all asked at some stage.
By the end of this article, you will have some solid techniques for how to contact acting agents and be well on your way to a professional acting career.
How do I approach acting agents?
Finding a Suitable Agent
The first step is researching agents in your city. We have some great resources on the site (listed below) about agents in most of the major capital cities around the world. If you can’t find your city on the site, get in touch and we can help you find some suitable agents in your city. As well as these lists, search online, ask actors and talk to any industry contacts you have. Casting agents are great as they deal with agents everyday and have a good understanding of the agent landscape.
Acting Agents in Your City
Make a List
Put together a list of 20 agencies you like (more on this in the next point). Find the agent’s email and first name where possible. Make up a simple list with all their details.
Tip: IMDP Pro can be a great tool to help you find direct emails and contact details. Also, doing some digging on the internet can help you find emails and specific contact details. Finding a direct email is always better than the generic [email protected]
Tip: If you’re serious about becoming an actor, you may have to look at moving to your nearest major city, or even moving state. In each country, there are a couple of cities that offer the most opportunities for actors. Australia – Sydney and Melbourne; America – New York and LA; UK – London and Manchester.
When you are putting together your list of agents, make sure you research the agencies. Look up who is on their books: are they working? Look if they have actors that are similar to you. Ask industry contacts and other actors whether they have heard about the agent. Basically, be a detective. The last thing you want is to sign with an agent and find out later that they aren’t what you were after.
Tip: A great way to find good agents is to ask your acting friends who represents them. They might also be able to swing you a recommendation, which can go a long way. (More on recommendations later).
Tip: Often, agencies have only one or two actors that fit a particular brief (look), so if there are a lot of actors with a similar look and age, then you might be in trouble. Don’t let this deter you, however, but just be aware that it will be a factor.
How to Approach an Acting Agent
We, as actors, understand objectives, so this should be easy. Your objective is simple: sign with an agent.
I’ve recently been working in sales. The sales world understands that it’s tough to get someone off the street who’s never heard of your brand or product (a cold contact), to buy your product or service straight away. This is the same with human relationships. You can’t just go up to someone you like and ask them to marry you, but you might be able to ask them on a date. It’s all about building a connection and taking it a step at a time.
You should view contacting an agent in the same light. If an agent doesn’t know you, it’s going to be pretty unlikely that they will sign you after one email. So here is the formula to approach an agent successfully:
1. Aim for a meeting, not representation.
2. Create a relationship.
3. Once you have a relationship, ask to be represented.
We are going to look at the possible ways of getting repped below, but whichever way you go you should follow this model. Even if an agent is really keen straight away, meet with them first and then go from there. Signing an actor is a big deal for an agent. Most think of it as at least a twenty-year commitment, so establishing a relationship is vital.
Tip: The acting industry is built on hype. It’s always best to contact agents on the back of work or a show.
A. The Dreaded Cold Contact
Let’s say this is your scenario: you have no agent, no contacts, no friends who can recommend you to their agents, and you don’t know where to start. You’re not in a show, and you haven’t got a string of TV or film credits. This is a tough position, but guess what? It’s where everyone starts.
- Expectations. The first thing to do is keep expectations low. No matter how good you might be, if this is your situation you can’t expect to go straight to the top. You should be aiming for a reputable agent that has working actors on their books, but don’t waste your time contacting Brad Pitt’s agent. Feel free to try approaching big agents like CAA or RGM, but don’t get your hopes up.
- Toolkit. We talk in more detail about your toolkit in our article about getting an agent. But the basics are making sure you have a great headshot and showreel. The headshot should look like you! Don’t get a glamour shot. Agents want to see a natural shot. Showreels should also be simple. Don’t try and show everything you can do in 2-3 minutes. Make sure you look good and your acting work is great.
- Should I email? Yes. Don’t phone. It might work on occasion, and can be a brave move, but in general you will get shut down by the secretary and be given an email address anyway. Email is the best way to get in touch with agents.
- What should I email? Keep it really simple and professional. 1. Address it to someone. Find a specific agent and use their name. 2. Don’t ramble (3-5 lines total.) 3. Ask for a meeting. Not instant representation.
- What should I send? Attach one or two headshots (at most), a link to your showreel (we recommend Vimeo as it’s the most professional) and an up-to-date CV. That’s it. Don’t start sending short films and Youtube monologues. If they want to see more, they will ask. Less is more.
- The follow up. Agents are busy people, but most will make time to watch submissions. I recommend giving it at least a week before considering sending a follow up email. The follow up email should again be simple and professional. Don’t be desperate “Hey [agent], I’m just checking in after my last email.”
Tip: Be patient. Agents, especially established agents, will receive hundreds of emails a week. That being said, most make an effort to watch all submissions.
Tip: Don’t lie or add fluff to your CV. Extra work and high school plays should not be included.
The best way to get representation is to have another actor recommend you. This recommendation becomes increasing more valuable if the actor has either a big profile, or a great relationship with the agent. If an actor you know is with an agent you like, just be brave and ask them.
If you’re lucky enough to get a recommendation, you still need to get in touch and follow all the steps discussed above.
C. Invite them to a show
Inviting agents to see your work can be one of the best ways to get new representation, or at least put you on their radar. The problem is: it’s tricky to get agents along to independent shows.
Some thoughts on getting agents to your show:
- Agents don’t pay for tickets. Don’t make them pay.
- Offer them two tickets: no one wants to see theatre alone.
- Put together a simple media package including some images and reviews if you’ve got them.
- Follow up. They are busy people, agents, so follow up.
- Get the rest of the creative/production team involved. You should all be pushing to get as many industry people along as possible.
D. Drama School Showcase
Without a doubt, the easiest way to get an agent is at a drama school showcase. If you are serious about an acting career you should consider auditioning for a drama school. The better the drama school, the better opportunities for agents you will have at the end—most have existing relationships with the schools to nab fresh talent early. Best drama schools in the world.
A few things to remember at a drama school showcase:
- Look good. It’s not just about your acting: get a haircut, dress well and have a shower.
- Be your best. You typically have less than 2 minutes to convince an agent of your ability so put your best foot forward.
- Casting. Think about where you fit in the industry, and consider playing into that.
- Relax. It can seem like a big deal at the time, but you can always change agents, so just relax and accept the outcome.
Before you Press “Send”
Time of Year
This is especially important for young actors aged 17-30. In every city around the world, agents are always on the look out for drama school graduates, so be aware of when the major drama schools are showcasing. It will be tough to get signed at this time of year, as there will be a hoard of young actors on the agent hunt.
Are you ready to start a professional career? If you feel you’re not yet confident as an actor you may want to hold off for a few months, or years, until you have done some training. If you are keen to get started straightaway and still want to train, check out StageMilk Drama School. It’s a great online acting school, designed and run by industry professionals, that only goes for 8 weeks.
Is it your Best Work?
Before sending your email, make sure you are presenting yourself in the best possible light. Get a friend, or better still, someone in the industry, to watch your showreel and look at your headshot. Also, get a friend to have a look over your words. Grammatical errors in an email never do you any favours.
Getting a great agent is, without a doubt, the best step you can take as an actor. The opportunities an agent can offer you are huge, at any stage of your career. It’s important to remember an acting career is just that: a career. Don’t expect to have success straightaway. Be honest about where you are at and go from there. Look at your toolkit and make sure your acting is great.
Finally, remember agents can smell desperation. Wherever you are at as an actor, own it. You have talent, passion and a lot to offer.