What Young Performer Agents Want You to Know

Spotlight’s Mel Brown answers some of the common questions parents have about young performer representation

By Mel Brown

When entering the industry, no one gives you a 'how to guide' of how to approach agents or what to expect when your child gets signed - you are expected to find the answers yourself. Having worked in a young performers agency for over five years as a junior agent, this article is going to hopefully answer some of those questions you may have as a parent or young performer about representation and the industry – demystifying what goes on to help you feel prepared and make the most of your career in the arts!

What is Spotlight and why should my child join?

First and foremost, Spotlight is not an agency! It is a casting platform used by casting directors and agents in order to source actors for jobs. Agents mainly use Spotlight to find their clients work. Once we press the submit button, the performers profile is sent straight over to the casting director, the casting director then filters the suggestions and will then audition the applications they deem most suitable for the role. Keeping the performer headshot, address and credits up to date is vital, as performers are searchable by all the things listed on their Spotlight profile.

Casting directors can get hundreds, sometimes thousands of suggestions for just one role. So, landing an audition is a huge achievement in itself. The industry is now doing a lot of first round auditions as self-tapes so that they can try and see as many people as possible for a role Check out our handy advice on self-taping for more tips and tricks about how to nail these.

Should I expect to pay extra agency fees when joining Spotlight?

You can find membership costs for Spotlight here and if you are asked to pay more fees by your child’s agent, you need to know exactly what that money is for. Some agents use their own in-house photographer, but ultimately agents make their money from the commission they take from the jobs their clients secure.

All rates of commission should be outlined in the contract they get you to sign when your child joins the agency. If you are ever concerned, you can always email our customer support team and we can let you know if the agency is registered on Spotlight. Equity is also available for children aged 10 and up and offers support on numerous industry-related topics.

How do I find agency representation for my child?

If you are looking for an agent, the best place to start is with our online directory Contacts, which will give you a list of young performer agents in order of proximity to your location. Please bear in mind that the young performer will need to be signed to a Spotlight registered agency in order to join us.

Looking at the list of agents on Contacts can be a daunting prospect; the key, however, is to do your research. Have a look at who the agency is currently representing, what work they are currently appearing in, read their FAQ pages, and ask a few questions: Who are the agents? What did they do previously before they became agents? Agents with an industry background can mean they have some great connections to help you on your way.

When approaching an agent, make sure to keep the email you send them brief. Always write with a purpose in mind. Format your email so it is easy to read, introduce yourself briefly and explain why you are writing to them, link them to any work you have done (making sure all the links work!) and include your contact details so they can get in touch. Try and find a specific agent to address it to rather than using a generic opening, and if someone has recommended someone to you, make sure to reference this. It really helps to build the connection from the get go.

Some agents will specify on their website how they would like you to get in touch with them, so make sure you follow these instructions. Keep a record of all the people you get in touch with and if you hear back from them, so that you can follow up in future with any who say that their books are not open at the moment, etc.

Finding an agent that suits you can be a difficult task. Each agent will work in their own unique way, there is no one size fits all. The key is having a strong, communicative relationship with your agent, working in the spirit of trust without fear of asking questions. On the flip side, don't worry if it takes time for your agent to get back to you. An agent is always multitasking, and their priority is getting auditions in and suggesting people for work, so they might not have a chance to look at your new headshots/showreel/voicereel right away, but they will do, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

My child has an agent, how many auditions can they expect to get?

Unfortunately, this is sort of like asking 'how long is a piece of string'! I have known some children who have landed their first job after one audition. I have known others who have struggled to get one audition in two years - there is no formula or pattern to this industry. You may have two or three auditions in one week and then hear nothing for months.

If you don’t hear anything from your agent, it does not mean that they are not suggesting you for roles, it just might mean that the right roles are not coming up for your child or that the industry is slightly quieter than usual. The key thing is not to compare your child to others; each child is individual and the rate of auditions they get is subject to many different factors. For example, it’s often the case with younger performers that casting directors tend to be looking for a family resemblance, which means the casting is dependent on many other parts also being cast in a similar way – the group dynamic is important, so casting directors will be looking at a lot of factors at once.

Why is being available and flexible key qualities for any young actor and/or parent?

Some auditions will give up to a week to prepare, while others can happen within 24 hours. Being flexible and adaptable is essential. Most casting directors will try and schedule auditions after school or on weekends but sometimes this is not possible. As auditions are limited it is essential that you let the agent know if you can make the audition straight away, because if you can’t, another child needs to be found to fill that slot. It is important that you are always contactable - if you see a missed call from your child’s agent, give them a call back straight away!

When agents send you audition information, it is VITAL to make sure you read every last detail as they will have sent this information for a reason. If I had a pound for every time I had someone call me to ask a question already answered in the audition details email I had just sent them, I would be one very rich lady right now!

Some projects have a large overall shooting period and need the performer to be available for all of this time. Though the role might only shoot for a couple of days, productions need a degree of flexibility, as they will be working around numerous schedules and also need dates to play with in case there are weather issues, etc.

Having a child in the industry can be very challenging and you need to be prepared to change plans at the last minute. Auditions can affect your child’s social life (as well as your own) – be aware of the impact this could have on you and your family!

Can I be represented by more than one agency?

I don’t recommend this, but it is possible. If you do take on more than on agent, always tread carefully around this subject and outline clearly exactly which agent is suggesting your child for which projects. Always read your agency contracts carefully as some agents ask for sole representation and do not wish for your child to be signed up with more than one.

How do I prepare my child for rejection?

One of my biggest bugbears as an agent was when young performers or their parents would chase me about the audition they had just been to. Agents never sit on information - as soon as they have something to tell you, they will give you a call straight away. Clients would always ask me if I had or if I could source any feedback from their audition; unfortunately, unless you make it to the final two for a project, it is very unlikely that you will receive any feedback. 

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to immediately let auditions go once you’ve done them. It’s easy to start dreaming about where the opportunity could take you, but ultimately this industry requires you to just go with the flow. If your child finds it hard to handle the rejection side of the industry, it’s wise to take some time out to think about whether acting is really the right path for them. There are lots of amazing jobs throughout the whole of the industry that might be better suited to their skill set.

It’s important to also remember that while acting, singing and dancing are wonderful skills to have, it’s always good to think outside the box. What other skills can you gain that make you stand out from the crowd? Can you speak another language? Can you ride a horse? Can you do karate to a high standard? Can you play a musical instrument? Having other things to focus on outside performing is important - do not put all your eggs in one basket. Focus on other things that also make you happy.

While we’ve covered a few of the harsher realities of the industry here, we hope that you still feel as inspired and driven as ever to make your child’s career as a performer a success! There are some incredible opportunities out there for anyone with a passion and talent for this kind of work, and joining an agency and Spotlight is a great way to get started.

Any other questions? Email them to [email protected] and we’ll be sure to answer more in future!