An Agent is someone who represents you, puts you up for casting calls and tries to get you seen by the right Casting Directors. They help negotiate your pay, contract and working conditions.
The best place to start is by researching different agencies. Find out which you think is the best one for you. For example, if you are an emerging artist it would be more beneficial for you to contact small - medium agencies rather than those who represent famous actors. The more established you become, you might then be able to approach the top agencies.
The things to look out for are the clients that the agencies already have on its books and the types of jobs that they are booking. Make sure they don’t have someone already on their books who is too similar to you (same age, look and accent). You also need to check if its books are open and they are accepting new clients. Agencies will either ask for email or post applications, so make sure you have understood their instructions and included everything in your application they have asked to see. They will usually ask for a headshot and your CV, take a look at How to write an acting CV for help on this.
Most agents will want to see you in something, invite them with plenty of notice (at least five weeks) to a show that you are in and also remind them again nearer the time. They may also want to meet you and have an informal chat about your goals and career plans. Remember that this meeting is just as much for them as it is for you to see if it will be a good match – this will be a partnership and you need to make sure that you like them too.
An agent will charge commission and take a percentage of the work that they find for you. This is usually between 10% - 20% depending on the line of work. You should not have to pay up-front fees.
A co-op agency is run by a group of actors who take it in turns to work in the office and submit each other for roles, you have to be willing to work as a team and not just for yourself. It allows you to be a little bit more in control of your career, as you are able to see the ‘backend’ and see which roles you have been submitted for, what it’s like to be an Agent and what the structure of the casting call process is like. Co-op agencies can be great for those starting out in the industry.
There are a few Actors who choose to go without an Agent, this may be down to personal preference, or they may not have found the right one yet. You will need self-motivation to search for and apply to casting calls by yourself, as well as network and build up a reputation within the industry. There are very successful theatremakers who create their own work and do not have an Agent. Often, if you get a job and do really well, a company can recommend you to another and this will enable you to continue working and build up your own contacts.
Published: 04 March 2019