|Contrary to popular
belief, it is not necessary to be “discovered” in a competition or
showcase in order to get a representative. You should never pay to be
represented or to audition for agents or managers. Occasionally, agents
will hold open calls, although that practice is almost extinct (print
agents still do it occasionally), but since you are likely to get a 15
second glance before they make a decision, this is the not best way to
It’s great if you
can get a referral to an agency from a friend in the business or from
an acting coach or theatre director. But most of us simply don’t have
those kinds of connections and have to start from scratch. That’s OK…it
can be done!
Note: Do not ever come to Los Angeles expecting to work without an agent. It just doesn’t work that way.
The best way to get an agent or manager is the old fashioned way:
- Know your type.
Does your child enjoy modeling or acting more? Do they have a
distinctive voice? Are they small for their age, or tall? Charactery or
classic beauty? Are they funny or deep? Do they have special
skills? There is a place in the entertainment industry for everyone.
The trick is finding the right niche, and approaching the RIGHT kind of
agent. Step one is knowing your child’s strengths.
- Research the
representative. Google search the agency name and the individual names.
Go to Imdb.com (Pro version) and look up all the kids on their roster.
Do they have working kids? Kids who have the kind
of credits your child would like to have? Do they represent models,
actors, voiceover artists or all of the above? How many clients do they
have? What are the names of the agents? Do they take on “newbies”? Consider
buying an agency guide at Samuel French bookstore. They are published
monthly and will tell you what kinds of talent each agency is looking
- Make a “hit list”
of 20 or 30 possible agents and managers. You need to be realistic with
your choices. Submitting a new kid actor to ICM, CAA or William Morris
is silly. On the other hand, you want to submit
to agencies and managers who are established, have working clients and
can help you grow. Try to include large size agencies (ex. CESD,
Osbrink, Abrams, Coast) and smaller boutique agencies. We suggest approaching managers at the same time.
- Get current
addresses. IMdb is a good source, so is Ross Reports. We advise against
purchasing labels for two reasons: most are out of date, and it is a
common scam to get you on someone’s mailing list. Better to customize your own list.
- Do a mailing. Your
packet should include a photo of your child (kids up to about age 10 do
not need professional photos at this stage, a couple of snapshots will
do), a resume,
and a short but sweet cover letter addressed to a real person (not XYZ
talent agency) that gives your contact information. Make sure to note
if you are from out of town but will be visiting the city soon. This packet
should look professional. No stickers and glitter please. No funny
stuff. Reps have seen it all before. *note about emails. Some agents
and managers will accept email submissions. Ask first though—you don’t want to clog up their email box with photos if they aren’t expecting them.
- Consider the
timing. Reps are generally open to submissions when they aren’t busy
with their current clients. For Los Angeles, that means pilot season
(January – April) is a bad time. Generally, October is a
pretty good time. Know that when you submit, you are expected to be
able to take an appointment with them SOON. If you are considering a
short term (six months or so) trip to LA or NYC, we suggest sending packets
to agents a couple of months in advance, and then making one “scouting”
trip about a month before you plan to move. That way, you can get your
representation settled, your housing done, etc and hit the ground running when you get to the city.
- If reps are
interested, they will call you for an interview. This can happen days
or weeks from your mailing. If you don’t hear anything, it is
acceptable to make ONE phone call to follow up.
- If you don’t hear
anything in a month, reassess your situation. Perhaps you need to work
on your resume more. Maybe you need new photos. Maybe your child is
just at a difficult age for the business (labor laws
dictate some of this). Or perhaps your “hit list” was somehow off. This
might be a time to get an objective opinion of your child’s
marketability. Many acting coaches in L.A. will provide this service
for a one time fee…they
can let you know if your child is “LA ready”, and they can let you know
what to work on. This is a great activity for that pre-trip we
mentioned in #6. Your next step if you don’t get responses? Try another
mailing to your “B-list” or wait six months and try again.
- Hopefully you will
hear from a few agents and a couple of managers. Try to set up
appointments with 5 or 6 reps if you can. The content of the interviews
will vary depending on your child’s age, but often include
some kind of performance (a cold read, or monologue) , a chat with the
child alone, and a discussion with you. Enjoy these interviews and
encourage your child to be themselves! Make sure you have a list of questions
for the representatives—what is the commission they charge, how do they
see your child fitting in to the industry, what other reps do they work
with (managers must work with an agent, remember?), what do they typically do for their clients. When you get home, make notes so you remember who said what.
- Do not sign with
anyone immediately. Take all the interviews. You will learn a little
with each one. It is tempting to take your first offer—don’t do it!
This is kinda like dating…you probably don’t want to marry
your first date. Using the same analogy, “any rep is better than no
rep” is not good---it would be saying any husband is better than being
alone, and we know that kind of desperate relationship usually ends in
divorce. A bad agent/manager can do irreparable harm to a child’s
career, and can commit you to paying commissions for years to someone
who does nothing. Take this process VERY seriously and take your time---your child deserves it!
- Decision time.
Decide first if you need a manager. Remember, you MUST have an agent.
You don’t necessarily need a manager. You are putting together a TEAM.
So you must consider what
combination will work best for your child, and whether you are willing
to pay the extra 15% to a manager. Large agency, with a personal
manager to make sure it gets done? Need hand holding—a manager is your guy.
Maybe you are confident and think the smaller agency can handle things
just fine. Consider the attitude of the rep—kind, polite, professional?
Aggressive or just plain rude? An abrasive rep will likely be rude to your
potential employers. Putting together the right team is not about
getting the biggest, most well-known agency. It is about what will work
well for your situation—a very individual decision.
We know this is
a nerve racking, but exciting process. We all want to do what’s best
for our children. But if you have done your research, you can’t really