Agents! Everyone wants to have one. It can be a difficult process to get one. Here you’ll get a better understanding of what part an agent fills within the industry and within your career goals.
In 1999, the BC Skills Development & Labour started to regulate talent agents in order to protect performers and continue to grow the entertainment industry in which British Columbia is so famous for. Some of the key regulations are:
- Talent agents may not charge more than 15 percent commission on wages.
- Photo fees (up to $25 annually) may only be deducted from actual earnings.
- Talent agents in British Columbia are not allowed to charge ‘registration’ or ‘annual maintenance’ fees.
We suggest that you go to the Ministry of Labour site and fully read those regulations so you are familiar with what an agent should and should not be doing.
What’s the difference between a Talent Agent and a Background / Extras Agent?
Specifically, just that – a talent agent has principal talent on their roster and a back ground agent has a roster of people to do extra work.
What is a Talent Agent and what do they do?
A talent agent will submit you for speaking roles for which you are determined suitable from the breakdowns they receive every day. If the Casting Director for a project decides that you fit the criteria for an audition, that’s when they call the agent who, in turn, calls you with an audition.
Choosing the right agent for you.
Some people believe that signing with the biggest agency in town is the best way to go. Not necessarily. Sure, they may have clout within the industry, but you could also get lost in the shuffle. It’s a competitive business, and when you don’t have as much experience as someone who’s been working in the industry for years and years, you may get overlooked.
If you were an agent, would you submit an actor with some training and few to no credits? Or would you rather submit an actor who has been booking work for 5 or more years, someone who the casting director knows to be reliable?
We would like to believe that all agents will give every actor a chance at that role, but in reality, many agents and casting directors like to go with the actor with whom they are comfortable. That being said, new talent still get signed, get auditions and get parts in film, TV and theatre. You have to find someone who believes in you and will work with you to get you those auditions, to get you seen by the casting directors.
But remember, this is your career and it’s not up to them to do all the work. As a team, you should each provide 50% towards your common goal. You should continue training and be prepared for any and all auditions you get called for.
Sending your package
Contact the agents or agencies to see if they are accepting new submissions. If they are... Great! What you should send them is a Cover Letter, Resume and Headshot (Remember, those three pieces of paper is their first impression of you). They may ask for a Demo Reel to see how you look on camera, so keep that in mind.
Agencies are always busy, so most prefer you to send your package by mail rather than dropping it off. That’s something you could ask them as well.
If you include on your cover letter that you will check in to confirm that they received your package, then make sure you plan on following through with that. Wait a full week before you call the office, and keep the conversation short and simple… They’re busy.
Say your name and that you’re confirming that they received your headshot and resume. A common response would be that they or “the agent will get back to you if they’re interested.” Say that you wanted to make sure they got it and thank them for their time.
Play it by ear. You don’t want to take too much of their time, and you want to keep it professional. Don’t ask them if you can go in to meet them. If they are interested, they will call.
Interviewing an agent
Yes, it says, “interviewing an agent”, instead of “The Agent Interview.” That’s because not only is the agent interviewing you, but also you are equally interviewing the agent. The agent considers many aspects of you, including experience, training and looks, so you must consider many aspects of them, including experience, interest in you, enthusiasm in working with you, their goals and their professionalism. Here are some possible things to consider or possibly ask:
- Do they seem genuinely interested in you and in moving your career along?
- How many actors do they have on their roster?
- How many of YOU do they have on their roster? (Your headshot and your look is what sells you. If they have many other clients who have the same look as you, you risk being overlooked because you are in constant competition with them).
- What are their goals? What made them become an agent?
Signing with an agent
So if everything goes well, you’re happy with them and their happy with you, then the next thing will be to join their roster. Most agents ask you to sign a contract. A contract is used to protect all parties involved in it, so it’s extremely important that you understand every word that’s written down on the contract before you sign anything.
You should not feel pressured by the agent to sign the contract before you have a chance to look it over. It doesn't matter if they are a new agent or have been around for a long time. A contract is a contract, so if you sign it without understanding it, it could come back to haunt you later on.
We all know and understand the feeling of an agent wanting to sign you, but you should stay calm and don’t let your excitement determine what you do. You should ask to take the contract home with you to look over. If you don’t understand something, ask someone who does. Go to a lawyer, call the union, ask someone who’s gone through the contract process before. Look it over and mark things that you are unsure of or want to change. It’s not uncommon for people to change bits and pieces of a contract so long as both parties agree to it.
Once you understand everything and you meet with that agent again, you should go through the parts that you want to change, make sure that it’s clearly in the contract and both you and the agent initial the change. If you both don’t initial it, it could be deemed invalid.
Again... Contracts are there to protect people.
Getting turned down
Don’t be afraid to ask what their reasons are, that way you will better understand if it’s something that you can work on. If one agent decides that you are not right for their roster, that doesn’t mean that another agent will feel the same way. It could mean they already have a number of actors with the same look as you, training or if it’s the right time.