Agent Advice for Graduates
Performer and mentor Tom Lorcan shares advice for drama school graduates about how to go about finding and approaching agents.
By Tom Lorcan
When talking to graduates I'm often asked if it is possible to survive in this industry without an agent. In short, yes, I believe it is possible to survive without an agent… but there is no doubt that life can be made much easier by having someone to fight your corner and to help you navigate the world of auditions, contracts and negotiations.
It takes time to establish yourself as a working performer, and also to build the necessary reputation, relationships and the rapport with casting directors that help to sustain a regular income from pursuing your passion. So, having an agent could (and should) make a big difference in speeding up that process. It's worth mentioning that an agent is not there to build a career for you. Their job is to supplement your own hard work, and to help to guide you, whilst providing access through new doors.
So, 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. It's true that it's something of a vicious circle but there are many things you can do to help yourself and as graduates, you are fortunate that agents are always on the lookout for fresh talent and to discover the ‘next big thing’.
Where To Begin
A good place to start could be an assessment of 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?”
There are many more questions you can ponder. The more you understand yourself and what you offer, the better equipped you are to make an informed approach to an agent.
If you're looking at an agent who doesn’t have celebrity clients it doesn’t mean that they are not successful - check out some CV’s, look at their twitter account and their website’s ‘Latest News’ section to see how regularly their clients are working.
Do Your Research
It's so important that you are armed with as much information as possible. Get online and trawl the web to find out who these mystical agents are.
Some things to consider whilst doing your research:
- Who are the big players?
If possible, look at agent's client lists to see who represents the elite of our industry. If you're looking at an agent who doesn’t have celebrity clients it doesn’t mean that they are not successful - check out some CV’s, look at their twitter account and their website’s ‘Latest News’ section to see how regularly their clients are working.
As a recent graduate, you should focus on their younger clients and see if they're busy and what type of work they are doing.
- Which agents represent performers in the areas of the industry you want to work in?
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 click and take a look at who their agent is.
Tip: If you sign in to your Spotlight profile, you can also type the performer's name into the search bar at the top right to find their profile and agent information.
- Who are the new agencies on the scene?
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.
- Which agents specialise in Musical Theatre? Or TV and Film?
This information can often be found in the ‘About Us’ section of agency websites. Spend some time checking out the agent's ‘Latest News’ or social media feeds to see what they're shouting about - if they are making regular posts about clients securing roles in West End musicals and not much else, then you have a good idea where their strengths could be.
- Who, and what, are boutique agencies?
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? It’s also worth researching co-ops - What are they and do you like the idea of that?
Once you have done some solid research you can start preparing yourself to make a more informed approach.
Make A List
From your research, delve deeper and find out how many agents there are in the office, and who are they?
It's helpful to find out the name of the agent and use it when you contact them with your representation enquiry. If you are just throwing out generic emails to every agent under the sun then you might get lucky with the odd reply, but you will be far more likely to get a proper response if you can demonstrate an understanding of who you are approaching, and why.
Agency websites will be your first port of call and you can search Spotlight's Contacts listings for free. If you're lucky enough to have an IMDb Pro membership (which doesn't come cheap!) then you will be able to use the site to search agent's information in more depth.
As Graduates, be aware of the feeling that you need to appear successful and busy. You don’t. You’re brand new and your drama school credits are absolutely good enough for now.
Check Your Profile
Do your headshots genuinely represent you and does your gallery show range? Headshots are the first thing that agents and casting directors look at so make sure you have the best possible pictures that you can.
It's pretty easy to find out who the top photographers are by doing an online search or using Spotlight's Contacts listings. And since it is 100% tax-deductible as a business expense, it's an investment in yourself and your career.
- Spotlight Profiles
There are a few things to think about when it comes to your Spotlight profile, but the key is to make it clear and easy to read.
For Credits, I would say that sometimes less is more. As Graduates, be aware of the feeling that you need to appear successful and busy. You don’t. You’re brand new and your drama school credits are absolutely good enough for now.
Start to market yourself as a professional who knows what you're doing. A small number of solid credits will appeal more to prospective agents so don't be tempted to try and pad it out with lesser credits 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. Don't go crazy here - my philosophy is to only put stuff 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.
- Showreels and Voicereel
Spotlight allows you to upload five minutes of both video and audio reels with your membership - take advantage of this.
If you’re lucky enough to have these already, fantastic! If not, there are a couple of things you could do:
- 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.
Either way, if you want to be considered for screen work, you need to have one. Watch this helpful video for more advice about showreels.
Don't just copy and paste your emails and letters. At the very least adapt your standard email to each specific agent
How To Make Your Approach
From your list, research how each agent likes to be approached. This information is almost always on their website under ‘Submissions’ or ‘Representation.
Besides your name, you want to tell them four things:
- Your current situation e.g. 'I am graduating/have graduated from...'
- Why you are writing e.g. '...I am seeking representation...'
- More information about yourself. Include links to your profile and headshots
- What you want e.g. 'I'd like to invite you to a show/meet to discuss working together' etc.
- Do target individual agents where possible
- Do tell them (briefly) why you have chosen to approach them
- Do 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.
- Do invite them to see you in things - it’s the best way to get their attention. If you don’t have anything coming up (for example because we’re in a worldwide pandemic!) 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.
- Don't just copy and paste your emails and letters. At the very least adapt your standard email to each specific agent
- Don't approach every agent in each office - especially not with the exact same email
- Don't be a nuisance, hassling them won’t help you
- Don't send emails at 3am. Try and stick to professional working hours i.e. 9am - 6pm
- Don't send emails without checking spelling, names, and links. Make sure everything is correct
- Don't tell them your hopes, dreams and life story - at this stage, they don’t care how much you want to play Elphaba.
It’s a waiting game and a time for patience. If you’re lucky enough to get meetings then you can spend some time preparing for them. If you don’t hear back then there’s nothing wrong with a short follow up email after a few weeks have passed. But remember, don’t be a nuisance - one follow up 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. With the current COVID-19 situation there are plenty of opportunities to network online, and these are more important than ever.
I hope this is all useful. Please remember that it's just my personal opinion and is based on what has worked for me. However, there are many other opinions out there and you can find whatever resonates with you.
Best of luck. Or even better, work hard and be nice and you will make your own luck!
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).