What if you Graduate Drama School Without an Agent?

What if (shock horror) you graduated from drama school without an agent? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

By Charlotte Thornton

Not getting an agent is not rejection of you or a statement about your ability. It is about market conditions. Which I know sounds very dull and corporate. But acting is a business…
Charlotte Thornton

It was a total shock to me, not getting an agent. The pressure of the showcase can feel extreme: only two minutes to show industry professionals all your potential. It’s almost an impossible task.

I graduated without even a single agent meeting, whilst some of my peers had several. If I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so heartbroken. At the time, though, I was gutted because a) I didn’t have a plan for going solo and b) I thought getting an agent was about talent. Not having a plan made me feel lost, and believing I was agentless due to some kind of lack in me made me feel rejected. Let’s handle both those issues now.

I’m going to work backwards.

Not getting an agent is not rejection of you or a statement about your ability. It is about market conditions. Which I know sounds very dull and corporate. But acting is a business, so market conditions apply. What does that mean? In this case it means there are more actors than there are roles, and more actors than that are agents to represent them. This impacts your ability to get an agent, and to get in the door, simply due to the numbers.

What I learned when I joined a cooperative is that an agency wants a selection of actors who will not compete with each other. There may be overlap but essentially, they want a mixture, so whatever breakdowns come in, they have someone to suggest for each role. As an agent, I went to many showcases and I couldn’t book meetings with whoever was good. I was on the hunt for the types of actors we didn’t have. I was looking to fill the gaps. Certain casting brackets are oversubscribed, so we didn’t need actors who fitted those niches, however brilliant they may have been. So, you see, it is not about talent.

Hopefully that has cleared up that misconception. You are talented. You can still get an agent. You may just need to cast the net wider than those who attended the showcase. And this is what showreels are for. That is the first bit of the plan you don’t think you have yet. Keep trying to get an agent. Do take time to feel disappointed, or upset, but then pick yourself back up and start Project Agent. This may mean getting a reel done, if your drama school didn’t furnish you with one. It may mean applying for graduate and low budget films to get further experience and scenes for a reel.

Beyond that, what do you want from your career? If we have a vision for stage or screen, or both, what do we need to get our foot on the ladder? What might be the one small step you could take today towards that goal? You can submit yourself for work though various channels these days, including Spotlight. So don’t let being (temporarily) agentless hold you back from working. I worked agentless for many years, and it wasn’t all unpaid. By the time I made my West End debut I was so glad I had those years of experience under my belt.

So, whilst it may feel earth shattering now, to be out of drama school without an agent, understand that it is the challenges that forces us to dig deep and rise back up stronger. But more importantly: know that it isn’t about you or your ability, because let’s face it, you rock! It is just lesson one on the path to success.

Charlotte trained at Mountview and was a professional actor for over fifteen years, performing at the Vaudeville, Apollo and the National Theatre as well as writing and performing her own stand-up comedy. She now works with actors passing on what she learnt and is the author of the actors’ guidebook Talent isn’t Enough.