I recently left an agency and am looking to be involved with a well-known agent who actually books jobs. I have been involved in independent projects, some of which I created and was a part of. Is it difficult to get into a well-known agency without having a recognized name in the industry?
- Haig Mardirossian, student & aspiring actor
Yes, it's usually difficult to get into a bigger agency if you have very few credits and no name recognition. Unless, you’re young, have a unique look, or something interesting to offer. Agents can build careers when they discover actors at a young age. They’re also interested in actors who are creating their own projects, like you.
My advice is to seek a mid-size agency that isn’t so big you'll get lost in their huge pool of talent and not get any attention. It's sometimes better to be with a smaller agency where they’re passionate and excited about you, rather than a bigger agency where you're one of hundreds. However, it's best to get out on auditions so you have a possibility of booking jobs. If you're not getting out, you need to have a meeting with your agents and find out what you can do to help them get you auditions. Then, if nothing changes, it's time to move on and seek new representation.
I've been with large and small agencies, and though they’ve both been good, I seem to do better when they have fewer of my type on their roster. Your work isn’t over once you sign with an agent though.
You need to be sending out your photo & resume and marketing yourself, not relying on them to do everything for you.
I started my professional acting career in Davenport, Iowa, where I grew up. I performed in every high school play, and got my first paying acting job during my senior year of high school, working on stage in Fiddler On The Roof at the Circa ’21 Dinner Theatre. This was an excellent credit to place at the top of my resume.
Following my first professional play, I applied to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and had a regional audition in Chicago, which was a 3-hour drive away. I was accepted and moved to NYC right after high school. At the end of my first year there, all the friends I’d made went home for the summer, but I stayed, determined to find an agent and begin working. I actually found a manager first and he opened doors to various agencies. After taking a few meetings, we selected the agent that had the most clout and was most enthused about working with me.
Later in my career, when I felt it was time for new representation, I sent my photo & resume to a few agents that I knew were really good, accompanied by personal handwritten letters, telling them about myself and requesting a meeting. I followed up with phone calls.
The agent I’m currently with was recommended by a casting director who hired me in a feature film. When I needed new representation, I asked her for suggestions, and she offered to contact an agent on my behalf. This was the easiest method and also landed me an agent that was a good fit.
So you see, there are a variety of ways to seek representation. Be creative and do your research. I went to the Screen Actors Guild and looked through the Agency books to view their client lists. When I wasn’t familiar with an actor’s name, I looked them up in the Players Directory to find out if they were direct competition. Next, I targeted the agencies that didn’t have many of my type. This approach required a lot of effort, but worked well. Now, there’s so much information available online, that you can do much of your research from home.
Good luck, Haig. Or, as they say in the theatre world, “Break a leg!” And remember: Perseverance will bring you results.