How to Upgrade to a Better Agent
Acting agents and managers are the gatekeepers of this industry, and an actor’s success, or lack thereof can largely depend upon their representation. This is not to say that talent and hard work doesn’t go a long way, it certainly does, but when it comes to auditions and opening doors, a great acting agent is your best shot here. Here’s our guide for moving, or upgrading to a better agent.
Do you need to change agents?
First of all, let’s pin down exactly why you’re wanting to move to a different agency…
1. You don’t have a great relationship with your agent.
This is not uncommon, and a lot of my friends feel uncomfortable talking to their agents or managers, and often avoid it as much as possible. They feel like they’re treading on thin ice, and spend hours crafting the perfect professional email response. Sometimes that awkward relationship, and weird power dynamic is completely unfounded – and in which case, perhaps you should move agencies. But before you do so, I encourage you to reach out and give it one last shot. Ask for a meeting, or a phone call to chat about where you’re at in your career. But I urge you not to go in empty handed. Re-edit your showreel, get some new headshots, sign up for weekly classes – whatever it is, walk into that meeting with something to offer. Show your agent that you’re working hard for your own career (because all actors SHOULD BE.)
Once you’ve touched base, you might feel more relaxed about contacting them once every couple weeks. Your agent should not be annoyed that you want to talk to them, they should be on your side. If they’re avoiding your calls, and not responding, then it might be time to move on.
2. You aren’t getting any auditions.
Firstly, it’s important to be aware that MOST actors don’t get any auditions. A lot of my mates get 3 or 4 a year on average. It sucks!! Now you need to figure out where the blame should lie – is it because you don’t have a showreel, haven’t updated your headshots in 8 years, and don’t have any training under your belt? Or is it because your agent is slacking off, and not submitting you for jobs? There’s a pretty easy way to solve this problem – simply ask your agent to send you all the jobs they’ve submitted you for in the past 12 months. It can be enlightening. Then organise that meeting, and discuss why you might not be getting into the audition room. If they are reluctant to send you a submission document, or it’s very thin, then perhaps it is time to approach other agencies and start anew.
Note: most agents I know work tirelessly for their actors. It’s not easy to get an actor in for auditions for major Film, TV and theatre productions. So don’t be too quick to blame your agent!
3. You suspect your agent is doing any work for you.
But are you doing any work for you agent? It’s a two way street.
Like I said previously, request to see a submission document – and look through all the roles you’ve been submitted for. If in fact they have submitted you for lots of roles, then you can rest assured – they are certainly doing the work for you. Perhaps it’s you that needs to come to the table. As I mentioned before, new headshots, showreel scenes, signing up for classes etc. are a great way to reinvigorate your acting profile. Another way to get into more casting rooms, is by doing Casting Director workshops. Don’t go crazy – casting workshops are expensive – but 1 or 2 wouldn’t be a bad idea. That way you can meet the casting director, and if you make a good impression, they’ll be more likely to bring you in.
4. You’re auditioning frequently, but you’re restless and want to upgrade as a career move.
Unfortunately, the industry doesn’t quite work like that. If you’re auditioning a lot, but not booking jobs – unfortunately that’s not your agent’s fault. Upgrading to a new agent isn’t going to solve that problem. Whilst you might get more auditions, you won’t necessarily book more – especially if you aren’t doing the work. Stick with where you’re at, and focus instead on booking some jobs. Or you can always make your own work!
5. They are withholding money or information from you which is jeopardising your career.
This is a big NO NO. If your agent has not paid you for a job you did 6 months ago, it’s time to call your local actor’s union, get your money, and then hightail it outta there! An agent being unfair or unethical when it comes to money is a definite reason to leave an agent.
How to break up with your agent
For scenarios 1-4; do not drop your agent until you have secured other representation. Play it safe. A bottom tier agent, is better than no agent at all. If you do happen to secure other representation, and you’ve decided to move on, then you of course need to contact your current agent, and let them know. A formal email is all you need:
- Be nice, obviously, there’s no need to burn bridges.
- Don’t lie. Don’t pretend you’re giving up acting, or moving overseas – you’ll inevitably be caught out.
- Don’t mention where you’re moving to. If you’ve secured representation with another agent, don’t disclose with whom – unless they explicitly ask, which they probably won’t. Just mention you’re moving on to a different agency with whom you feel like would be a better fit, or something along those lines.
- Don’t leave it open-ended. “I’m thinking about moving on” – only gives them the opportunity to talk to out of leaving them, and you don’t want to find yourself in that situation. Be decisive and politely assertive.
- Keep it concise. Don’t write an emotional essay or love letter, just keep it short and simple.
- Thank them for their work. Make sure to thank them for all they’ve done for you, even if you don’t think they’ve done all that much. It won’t hurt to be polite.
How to approach potential agents
First, you’ll need to do some research, make a list of agencies whom you’d like to approach and then do a send out. Make a list of at least 15 options – the more you send to, the more chance you’ll have at securing a meeting. There are a couple different tiers of agents – some that have been in the business for years and years, who represent all the top working actors in your city, which may be very difficult to secure a meeting with (especially if you don’t have credits or training behind you). And then there will be some agencies in the middle, or bottom tier – who represent newer talent, are a little less exclusive and therefore easier to secure a meeting with. Don’t be picky – cast a wide net, and then make your decision based on the response you get. Here are our tips for approaching potential agencies:
- Do not send them a link to your Showcast, Casting Networks or any other online profile. Attach your information via PDF’s or links. Do not simply refer them to another site.
- Don’t send too many links. They can ask you for more work or info if they want it. Don’t bombard them with links to 3 websites, IMDB, Star Now and then attach 14 headshots.
- You must send a showreel. Either upload to YouTube or Vimeo, and put the link. Don’t make it password protected, make sure it’s a public video, and TRIPLE check it works. There’s not much room for technical mistakes here.
- You must send a headshot. Just one will do, and make sure it’s of professional standard.
- You must send a CV. Don’t fluff your credits. If you don’t have any experience, then just list your skills, details and training.
- You’re going to need some training under your belt. If you don’t want to go to Drama School, then you need to do some short courses or weekly classes.
- Don’t include social media links, they can find you if they want to. It’s distasteful and not relevant.
Don’t mention why you’re leaving your previous agent over email. If you secure a meeting, and it comes up, you can be honest, but DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT bad mouth any agent, no matter the circumstance. “It isn’t working between the two of us anymore, and I feel it’s time for me to move on” – something along those lines will suffice. Keep the meeting positive, talk about the future, and not the past. Ask lots of questions, engage and be open and honest.
If you don’t happen to secure any meetings, this is okay. Agents are very busy people, and they often only take a handful of actors on board each year. It’s a tough industry, so don’t expect anyone to owe you anything – because they certainly don’t. Wait 3 months, and try again. Send out a follow up email – and perhaps this time, invite them to a show you’re in, or send them a new showreel you’ve got together. Better yet, invite them to a screening of a short film you’re in at a local festival. Show them you’ve been busy, you’ve been working, and are still interested in meeting with them.
And still, nothing happens? Don’t be disheartened – just get on with it. Spend the next 6 months training, working on your skills, reading plays, seeing theatre, writing a short film, writing a feature film, updating your showreel, headshots and casting profiles, and then try again. Keep going until you get a meeting. Can’t get any auditions? Make your own work. There is no excuse for actors to be doing nothing, lounging around at cafes whinging about how hard it is. It is hard – so might as well get on with it.
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