Advice for drama school graduates about how to find and approach agents, and why an agent is beneficial for your acting career
When talking to graduates, I’m often asked if it’s possible to survive in this industry without an agent. In short, yes, I believe it’s possible to survive without an agent, but life can be made much easier by having someone to fight your corner and help you navigate the world of auditions, contracts and negotiations.
It takes time to establish yourself as a working actor, and also to build the necessary reputation, relationships and rapport with casting directors that help to sustain a regular income. Having an agent should make a big difference in speeding up that process, but keep in mind that an agent isn’t there to build a career for you. Their job is to help guide you, whilst providing access to new opportunities.
If you decide you want an agent after finishing drama school, here is how you can go about finding one:
How Do You Get an Agent?
The perception is that you need an agent to gain work, but you also need work to attract an agent. This can sometimes be a vicious circle, but as a graduate, you’re fortunate that agents are always on the lookout for fresh talent and to discover the ‘next big thing’.
Which Agent is Right For You?
A good place to start is by assessing yourself and your current situation. Ask yourself:
- What existing roles can I realistically play?
- What roles do I want to play?
- Do I have a particular casting type?
- What roles are suitable for my age and appearance?
- What type of work am I most interested in?
The more you understand yourself and what you have to offer as an actor, the better equipped you’ll be to approach the right agent.
Do Your Research on Agents
It’s important to arm yourself with as much information about agents as possible. Get online and trawl the web to find out more about them, like who they’ve worked with and what they specialise in. Agency websites will be your first port of call, but you can also search Spotlight’s Contacts listings for free and by location to find agencies that are in your region.
Here are five things to consider whilst doing your research:
1. Which Actors Does the Agent Represent
If possible, look at an agent’s client list to see if they’re representing a well-known actor. If an agent doesn’t have celebrity clients, it doesn’t mean they’re not successful – also check out some CVs, look at their social media accounts and their website’s ‘latest news’ section to see how regularly their clients are getting work. As a recent graduate, you should focus on looking at their younger clients to see if they’re busy and what type of work they’re doing.
2. Who Represents Your Favourite Actor?
If you admire a particular performer and feel their career is something you want to emulate, take a look at their social media accounts. Sometimes performers post links to their Spotlight profiles, so you can use this to take a look at who their agent is.
3. Which Agencies Are New?
A new agent may be more open to representation enquiries. Have a read of the ‘about us’ section on the agency’s website to see when they were established, or read the ‘news’ section to see if any new agents have been welcomed to the agency. Often, a junior agent might be building a list of their own clients.
4. What Does the Agent Specialise in?
You can find out whether an agent specialises in musical theatre, TV, film, etc., on the ‘about us’ section of their website. Spend some time checking out the agent’s ‘latest news’ or social media feeds to see what they’re shouting about – if they’re making regular posts about clients securing roles in West End musicals and not much else, then you have a good idea where their strengths lie.
5. What Type of Agency Are They?
Do you like the idea of a large agency with lots and lots of clients? Or would you prefer a smaller and perhaps more personal type of representation from a boutique agency? It’s also worth researching co-ops – what are they and whether you like the idea of that. Once you’ve done some research, you can start deciding which agents might be a good fit for you, and how you’ll approach them.
Personalise Your Representation Enquiry
Once you’ve done your research and identified some suitable agencies, delve deeper to find out how many agents are in the office and who they are. If you can find out the name of the agent you want to approach, then this will be extremely useful when you contact them with your representation enquiry.
If you’re just throwing out generic emails to every agent under the sun, then you might get lucky with the odd reply, but you’ll be far more likely to get a proper response if you can personalise the enquiry, demonstrate an understanding of who you’re approaching, and why.
4 Essential Things to Have on Your Spotlight Profile
When you reach out to an agent for representation, you’ll likely have to provide them with a link to your Spotlight profile. This will allow them to see what acting experience you have and where you currently are in your career, so it’s important to make sure your profile is clear, easy to read, and contains everything they’ll be looking for.
In particular, agents will look at the following areas:
Headshots are the first thing that agents and casting directors look at, so make sure your main headshot is an accurate representation of how you currently look, and that your photo gallery shows range.
Before you reach out to an agent, take a look at what photos are currently on your Spotlight profile, and remove any that are out of date or poor quality. If you need some new photos, it’s pretty easy to find out who the top photographers are by doing an online search or using Spotlight’s Contacts listings.
When it comes to credits, sometimes less is more. As a graduate, you may feel that you need to appear successful and busy, but you don’t. You’re brand new, and your drama school credits are absolutely good enough for now.
Start by marketing yourself as a professional who knows what you’re doing. A small number of well-presented, professional credits will appeal more to prospective agents than listing all the plays you ever appeared in at primary school, so don’t be tempted to pad it out just for the sake of it.
Try and think like a casting director – what does your profile say to a person that has never met you?
The ‘skills section’ on your Spotlight profile is also very important, but don’t go crazy with the number of skills you add. It’s important to spend some time going through the different skill sections and adding the skills that are applicable, but if you add too many then it’s sure to cast doubt on your ability.
My philosophy is to only put skills on there that you know you can do tomorrow. If someone in an audition asks you to juggle or to whip out your Geordie accent, you need to be able to do it, otherwise you’re just wasting people’s time. Also, think about the skills you want to be hired for. There’s no use adding horse-riding if you have no desire to use this skill in a production.
4. Showreels and Voicereels
Giving agents the chance to see or listen to you in action is the best way to show them what you can do. Spotlight allows you to upload five minutes of both video and audio reels with your membership, so be sure to take advantage of this.
When uploading your reels, remember to label them clearly so agents and casting directors know what to expect when they watch them.
If you don’t currently have a showreel or voicereel on your profile, here are a couple of things you could do to get one:
- Apply for student and short films to build up some screen experience and footage to make a reel.
- Pay a showreel company to shoot and create one for you.
- Team up with another actor to record one yourself using a couple of phones and tripods, and then edit the footage together. So long as the agent and casting director can see and hear you clearly in the footage, it’s better than having nothing.
If you want to be considered for screen work, it’s very important for you to have a showreel. Take a look at our helpful video for more advice about showreels.
How To Approach an Agent for Representation
Each agent will have a different way that they like to be approached, which you should be able to discover during your research. This information is almost always on their website under ‘submissions’ or ‘representation’.
Alongside your name, you want to tell them the following four things:
- Your current situation, e.g. ‘I am graduating/have graduated from…’
- Why are you writing, e.g. ‘…I am seeking representation…’
- More information about yourself, including links to your Spotlightprofile and headshots.
- What you want, e.g. ‘I’d like to invite you to a show/meet to discuss working together’, etc.
- Target individual agents where possible.
- Tell them (briefly) why you’ve chosen to approach them.
- Include a link to your Spotlight profile. We live in a one-click culture, so providing quick access to your headshots, credits and showreel are essential.
- Invite them to see you in things – it’s the best way to get their attention. If you don’t have anything coming up then send them a link to your showreel. If you don’t have the time or money to get a new reel, then maybe you could make a good quality self-tape.
- Just copy and paste your emails and letters. At the very least, adapt your standard email to each specific agent.
- Approach every agent in each office – especially not with the exact same email.
- Be a nuisance – hassling them won’t help you!
- Send emails at 3am. Try and stick to professional working hours, i.e. 9am – 6pm.
- Send emails without checking spelling, names, and links. Make sure everything is correct.
- Tell them your hopes, dreams and life story. At this stage, they don’t care how much you want to play ‘Elphaba’ in Wicked.
What Happens After You Contact an Agent?
Once you’ve sent your email, it’s a waiting game and a time for patience. If you’re lucky enough to get meetings, spend some time preparing for them. If you don’t hear back then there’s nothing wrong with sending a short follow up email after a few weeks have passed. But remember: don’t be a nuisance. One follow up email is enough.
Your agent search can be an ongoing process. Continue to take advice, not just from your drama school, but from colleagues, peers, alumni and professionals you have contact with. Keep logging in to Spotlight and applying for roles – jobs mean invites and new showreel material. You can also attend classes, events and workshops to keep yourself connected to the industry in the meantime.
Hope this is all useful, but keep in mind that this is based on my personal opinion and what has worked for me. There are many other opinions out there, and you’re sure to find one that resonates with you.
Best of luck. Or even better – work hard and be nice, and you’ll make your own luck!
You can find more tips for graduates and advice about agents in our News & Advice section. Also take a look at the PMA’s Best Practice Guidelines for signing with an agent as a graduate.
Tom Lorcan is an actor and a Graduate Mentor for Spotlight. Recent screen credits include Bridgerton (Netflix/Shondaland), Emmerdale (ITV), Doctors (BBC) as well as on stage in Beryl (Arcola), The Sweet Science of Bruising (Wiltons Music Hall) and the RSC Rome Season (Stratford/Barbican).
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