18 Sep 2014

Avoiding Dodgy Agents – Screenwise Tips

Agents are trumpet blowers, blowing the trumpet on your behalf ensuring the trumpet is heard by all the right people.

An excerpt taken from ‘Get Your Act Together’ written by Denise Roberts, Screenwise CEO and Principal Director.

Why you need an Agent:

Unless the producers or casting consultant has specifically requested you, your agent is usually responsible for getting you the interview or audition. The agent is like a buffer between you and your employer. He or she plays the bad guy on your behalf when negotiating over money, leaving you to work in a creative environment, free from ill feeling or financial pressure.
Your agent is responsible for:

  • Suggesting you for the part
  • Following up with photographs, biographies and showreels
  • Organizing audition times
  • Negotiating fees
  • Finalizing contracts
  • Organizing schedules
  • Invoicing

For these efforts, your agent will deduct a fee of 10% from the money he/she collects on your behalf. This is the commission rate recommended by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance – Actors Equity, the actors union.
Can you have more than one agent?
You can only have one acting agent. Anymore than that would be unethical, confusing and unenterprising. Some actors have been know however to have an acting agent and a modeling agent. In America they system is quite different.
How to get an acting agent?

Like finding the right training school, it is essential to do some research before committing yourself to an acting agency. When searching for an agent remember that there is a limited amount of work on offer compared to the number of actors available and agents’ telephones are running off the hook with hopeful actors desperate for representation. It is hard work convincing a good agent to represent you. So how do you find a good acting agent? With great difficulty.
Unfortunately there are ‘dodgy so called professionals’ in every industry, and the acting and modelling industries have their fair share also so:
Rule number one:

  • Stay away from acting agencies that advertise in the newspaper. If it’s difficult convincing a good agent to represent you because they’re inundated with people banging down their doors, why would they need to advertise in the newspaper?

You can start by purchasing a Casting Directory. Showcast is a good one or a production book. Some public libraries carry casting directories. Directors and Casting Consultants use these directories when casting a production. This book contains headshots of professional actors and the names and contacts of their agents.
It is also wise to ask around – word of mouth within the industry is always a good way to find out who is reputable and who is not. Agents’ reputations, like training schools change from time to time depending on who is associated with them. Remember to shop around. Do not grab the first agent who shows a bit of interest in you. Your agent is your guide. You are both going to be working closely together and it is imperative that you have a good rapport, faith and trust in each other.
Getting an agent to represent you:
As mentioned previously, getting a good agent to represent you is not an easy process. A good agent needs to see your work first and there is a number of ways of doing that:

  • Attend a reputable full-time acting course that holds graduation productions on completion of the course to showcase your talents to the industry.
  • Become involved in co-op or fringe theatre and invite the agent along to watch you perform.
  • Develop a showreel that is professionally produced and directed and shot on location.

It’s important to understand that a good agent requires highly skilled professional actors and to meet that criteria takes time to develop. People don’t become brain surgeons or plumbers overnight. It all takes time, commitment, good training and the four ‘Ps’, perseverance, patience, passion and persistence.

Good Luck,
Denise Roberts
CEO & Principle Director Screenwise

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