Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Seeking New Representation

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. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

How to Get your Child into the Acting Biz

I have a daughter who is very young and beautiful. Can you recommend an agency that I can trust to send a headshot to? 

- Jerry Clark, dad from Delaware

Be to sure to ask your daughter if this is something she really wants to do, if you haven’t already.  And make sure that you’re up for it.  Taking her to auditions and callbacks will require a lot of time, energy, expense, and often, disappointment. However, it’s incredibly rewarding when you book a job and get to work on a film or television set. 
If you have a local talent agency in your community, or nearby, start there.  It’s a good idea to build some credits before contacting the bigger agencies.  I’ve listed four agents you can contact in the LA area at the end of this blog entry. 
Remember, when you're seeking representation for your daughter, you should never pay any money up front.  Agents and managers only make money when you, or your daughter in this case, make money.   If they offer to represent your daughter, but tell you they require some sort of fee, turn around and walk out the door.  This isn’t a reputable company.  
Once you’ve signed with an agent or manager, they may recommend getting your daughter into an acting class or workshop to help improve her skills and gain confidence.  This is a reasonable request. 
They will also, more than likely, request that you upload your daughter’s photo & info to LA Casting for online commercial submissions and Actors Access for online theatrical submissions.  These sites have fees attached, but it will be a necessary step for you to take.  Your agent will be able to submit your daughter to casting directors using this service, and you’ll also be able to submit her yourself on certain projects.
Commercial and theatrical agents will take 10% of your gross earnings, but they’re almost always able to negotiate their 10 percent commission on top of your salary. 
Print agents, or the print division at a commercial agency, will take 20% of your gross earnings, even if they’ve managed to negotiate 20 percent, or more, in the contract.  
Managers usually receive a 15-20% commission, which means if you decide to hire both a manager and an agent, you'll be giving away anywhere between 25 -40 percent of your gross income.  When you figure in taxes, that's about 50 percent of your paycheck.  However, this is standard, and your agent and manager won't make any money until your daughter books a job and receives income.  Sometimes the more people you have working on your behalf, the better.    
On another note, for all of you:
As far as photos go, starting out with a good headshot is really important.  It's your key to opening doors.  
Jerry has a friend who is a professional photographer & took this photo of his daughter in the ball field one afternoon.  It's a great shot!

Addelyn is looking directly into the lens with a natural expression and an energy that leaps out of the photo.  Her pink top against the green background makes her eyes pop. 
The photo is simple, not busy.  It captured my interest & will definitely attract an agent’s attention.
When you print up 8x10’s, which is the standard headshot size, don’t skimp on quality.  Find a good photo lab to duplicate your photos.  It’s important to put your best foot forward.
Here are the names of a few top-notch LA talent agencies that have represented me over the years that I highly recommend.  The top two are my current agents.  All have youth divisions, as well as adult divisions, and a few have NY offices or affiliates. 
Visit the agency websites, find the name of the agent that handles the youth division, and send your photo to them with a brief note.  You can send it via email or through the postal service.  Tell them a little about yourself and request a meeting.  
It’s okay to send them a message via Facebook, too.  Be sure it’s a personalized message though, and not a general message that you would send to just anyone.
I’m looking forward to regular updates from you, Jerry.  Wishing you & your daughter the very best!  

Daniel Hoff Agency                  http://www.danielhoffagency.com
Commercial Talent Agency     http://www.commercialtalentagency.com
Abrams Artists Agency            http://www.abramsartists.com              
AKA Talent Agency                  http://www.akatalent.com