The Artists Partnership on: How to Approach an Agent

Annalisa Gordon hosted a Q&A session at Spotlight’s Spring 2016 Open House week, offering her advice to actors in the industry. Annalisa has been an agent at The Artists Partnership for over three years, gaining many successful clients who have been cast in productions such as Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge and Undercover.

How do you go about finding clients?

People write in to me, which is great. Or a casting director will call to say they know someone who is amazing and unrepresented, or who is thinking of changing agencies. Quite often if someone has American representation, their agent will call me to say they are moving over to the UK and will ask me if I will take a meeting. I also have a brilliant assistant, who tends to cover a lot of the drama school showcases, and so she is often out there looking for things she thinks I’ll really like or that she personally thinks is amazing, and I’ll go and see them. She’s doing the same at schools at the moment because there is so much going for children and young people. Always be nice to agents’ assistants because if you’re not, you won’t get through to the agent! In most agencies, they are the first point of call.

What is your idea of a perfect client and how do you maintain client-agent relationships?

For me, I see it as being part of a team. It’s an investment to start working with someone and it’s healthy to remember that it’s a business as well; your agent needs to make money, as do you. My favourite clients are the ones who are picking up the phone, who are excited when I am talking to them about jobs and who are going off and clearing their schedules for work. They learn their lines; they stay up until 3am if they have to! They’re on time, they look great and they’ve done their research. I’m going to do a lot of work; they need to do it too. The perfect client is also someone who I like working with. When a client relationship works, it’s because you like, respect and trust each other; you have to trust that I’m making those calls, because we’re in it together. I invest in someone when I take them on.

Are there any faux pas when potential clients write to you?

Lots of people are constantly writing to us and so you need your letter to stand out. There needs to be something that makes me go ‘that’s interesting’. I don’t need to know that you play an obscure instrument or have a weird talent, that won’t do it for me. I would like to know that you saw one of my clients in a production and you thought they were amazing and you really admire their career. That’s smart and intelligent and well, everyone has an ego! No gimmicks, just a direct approach; simple, smart and time spent doing good research. You are better off writing to three agents who represent people you admire, rather than sending letters to twenty random agencies. Your cover letter and CV needs to look slick; the spelling, all that jazz, needs to be right. All the links need to work, along with a good headshot, a good showreel (or no showreel) and one or two interesting things about yourself.

What would you say makes a good showreel?

I think it’s best to only have professional work on a showreel, but I do know that is difficult if you haven’t got lots of work stored up. Maybe some agents would prefer to see you in something rather than nothing, but for me, I personally do not rate non-professional reels. For new talent, I would rather them say to me ‘I’m fresh, this is me’ and then I can invite them to put something on self-tape so I can see them. If a showreel opens the door to a meeting, and you get along with the agent or casting director that you meet, then that will be enough.

How can an actor promote themselves when the jobs aren’t coming in?

Try and get yourself into some readings; that is a really nice fertile source of work. RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) hosts a festival and also produces the [email protected] forum, so you could offer yourself to do some of those. You can also go to press nights. When you go to auditions, it is really healthy to have events and productions to talk about and you never know who you may meet there. Some press nights you have to pay for, but if you can get yourself there, then it is very good to be there. You could also get into productions that are not necessarily Fringe, but maybe the Arcola or Theatre503; smaller theatre venues with a good reputation.

As an actor who has been away from the industry for a while, what is the best approach when contacting an agent?

If you are due to be in a production, you could ask directors or casting agents if they know any agents quite well who they could invite to see you in the show. It could potentially have a greater affect if they get in touch with an agent to say they know an actor who is really amazing, because it is all about personal contacts. However, it is completely valid to write a cover letter, listing the productions you have been in previously and explaining you have recently taken some time out to do other things. That does not put me off (having a break) but having something lined up to invite people to is great. Also don’t be shy to go back to contacts you have previously made, because it is only one introduction that you need.

This article was originally published on Spotlight in April 2016.