Acting Agents – What Do They Do and How to Choose One

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The unsung heroes of the world beyond the curtain, acting agents are the master puppeteers pulling the strings that draw our favorite actors to our favorite films. Vital parts of the whole pizzazz, acting agencies are the first to know when a certain star fits into a certain role and thus often responsible for the most fruitful collaborations in the industry.

Film, theater, or otherwise, it’s difficult not to understate their important. But how do you know when you need an agent? More importantly – how will you choose one? One of the key factors is that he or she can best channel your qualities into a solid final product that both of you can be proud of. In what follows check out the signals that should tell you that you need an agent, the qualities, and tasks of an agent, as well as the best tips on how to choose one.

acting agent screenshot from orson welles


What Do Acting Agents Really Do?

If you’re asking yourself this, you’re probably new to the business. So here’s the gist of it:

Acting Agent Dos

  • Find and land auditions. That’s the primary function of acting agents. Think of it this way: if they don’t find you a job, you don’t have anything to do; if you don’t have anything to do, you’re not making any money. If you’re not making any money, they’re not making any money off of you. So, it’s in his or her interest to have out and about, giving everything you have.
  • Try to sell your talents. Another way to look at this is that there’s probably no other person in the world who could possibly say more nice things about you. No matter the inauthentic reason behind it all – money – it’s extremely helpful when you don’t really have the experience yet do possess a particular set of skills.
  • (Re)negotiate the terms of a contract. Acting agents are the ones who approve all the details of your contract with a casting director or a production house. They know the ins and outs and they’re the ones you should be talking to about that raise. Because actors do get raises and, like any other employees, are allowed to apply for a raise.
  • Respond to career-related emails. Emails are difficult means of communications. Often times a simple one-liner can be misinterpreted as a passive-aggressive response. Or worse yet, you yourself can misinterpret something like that – the consequences of which could be disastrous. Fortunately, your agent’s got everything covered. No more worrying about whether you still have a job.

Acting Agents Don’ts

  • Make you less sucky. No matter how much you may fail at acting, your agent won’t try to make you better. At most, he or she will try to give you acting advice or recommend some good acting classes (which may or may not be good depending on how honest your agent is). Some corrupt acting agents are only in it for the money – they’ll have you taking three different acting classes (from which they obviously get a small incentive) before leaving you altogether.
  • Build your actor image. The way you show up at auditions has nothing to do with your agent and everything to do with you. The image that you build for yourself will ultimately determine whether you get hired or not. For this, you should consult your agent – but don’t rely too heavily on their advice.
  • Handle your social media. Even though they may find you the man or woman to do this for you, they won’t do it themselves. So don’t assume your Instagram will get updated, your Twitter twittered, or your Facebook fully-scheduled. Get someone else for this job or if you’re just starting out, do it yourself. Build yourself a solid online presence and you’ll quickly develop a fan-base.
  • Try to become your best friend. Your acting agents are not your best friends so don’t assume it. They may become good friends; your relationship may develop up to the point where you’re inseparable. However, that may not be a good thing. A top agent, however, will know how to separate their work persona from their non-work one. Not all of them do – so be careful.

person browsing through files

How to Choose an Acting Agent Perfectly Tailored to Your Style

Okay, okay – in before we tell you how to get one, we should probably, maybe also talk about when you need an agent. Fortunately, acting agents are everywhere, especially if you’re living the dream in the City of Angels. Therefore, the best advice we could give you is: find an acting agent as soon as you decide you want to be an actor or actress.

If you’re just starting out, the best advice we could give you is not to go for the big ones. The grand famous acting agencies are too tied up in the big shot business to care about someone like you. So, lower your standards and opt instead for your everyday acting agency, the one around the corner even. Get to searching, gather a bit of info about it, and go for it. You’re probably not George Clooney so don’t act like him.

Here are our best picks for tips on how to choose the best acting agents:

  • Find out if the agent/agency is legit or a scam. This may be the trickiest part of the whole process. Still, if you do your homework properly, you may save yourself time, effort, and a lot of money in the long run. Sometimes, a simple Google search could give you the answer. If that does not work, go on and check if the agency has SAG/AFTRA certified. Last but not least, try to figure out yourself whether the people there are trustworthy or not.
  • Do some thorough research before making contact. Don’t stick to a Google search – ask everyone you know. Better yet, find people you don’t know and that should be knowledgeable. Ask them too. Get a clear image of all the acting agencies you want to apply with.
  • Talk with friends in the acting business. No matter what, don’t forget this step. Even if you’ve only met someone once during an audition, ring them up, leave them a message, or try to contact them by all means. A poor choice now could mean waving goodbye to a fruitful and lengthy career – so do think twice.
  • Selectively submit your materials to the agencies. Don’t just choose one agency and hit send. Make a detailed portfolio and send it to up to 15 acting agencies at the same time. If multiple agencies answer your call, sort out the results and go to the top ones, out of which you can then get set on a single agency. You’ll probably end up running with them for a long time – so you should definitely think twice.

Talent agents for actors come at a high price – 10% off of everything you make. However, I’d argue that the range of services they offer definitely do make up for that. In the next part of our complete guide to choosing acting agents we’re going to talk about situations you want to avoid in an actor-agent relationship.

acting agents browsing through scripts for their clients

Things You Don’t Want in an Actor-Agent Relationship

Let’s say that keeping everything professional is the end goal here. However, if you’re looking for a more in-detail rundown of what must not go down between you and your current or future acting agents, here goes:

  1. Romantic engagements. Although romantic relationships are not necessarily bad, they could very well become disastrous. Therefore, it’s best to avoid any kind of closeness unless both parties are absolutely sure of their roles and what they should or shouldn’t do.
  2. Passive-aggressive behavior. Agents have no special interest in keeping you as a client. That’s especially true if they have tons of other, successful actors in their league. So the slightest misbehavior on your part could end up irreversibly damaging your career. Be polite, be sincere, and most of all be respectful when talking to your agent.
  3. Refusing too many roles. If you refuse too many roles, the acting agent may mark you as a very pretentious actor. Once that happens, you really don’t have anywhere to go. Either the acting agency dumps you or you end up with nothing to do. So do your agent a favor and accept a few roles once in a while.
  4. Accepting too many roles. Unless you want to turn into the Nicholas Cage of your agent, don’t go about accepting every single role that you are offered. While it’s your agent’s fault if too many offers make it to you, it’s still your decision in the end. This ties well with another tip: don’t be too confident in the materials or scripts that your agent chooses. Always check them out before accepting.

How Acting Agents Can Change Your Life

To sum up – acting agents do make up an important part of the whole filmmaking industry. If you want to make it anywhere, you’ll have to sift through the offer and pick one perfectly tailored to your style. Seeing as both the acting agents and the acting agencies count enormously in your landing of important role, it’s best to go out looking for them as soon as possible!

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