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How To Find A Good Acting Agent

Monday, 20 July 2009

As an actor the roles you get will be less dependant upon your abilitites than the abilities of your agent.

A harsh reality, an even harsher reality when your agent isn't very experienced or has different goals than you do.

So how do you get a good acting agent? 

2015 UPDATE: Dominic Purcell once said to me "You get 90% of a job's pay, your agent gets 10% - you should be doing 90% of the work." I beleive this whole heartedly.

Once you do the work the good agents (and some sharks) will be attracted to you because you are  making a name, agents, like any business partner like ot work with people who get off their butt and make the work happen.

In the meantime you study marketing and advertising and learn how to position yourself, how to sell yourself, your strengths and your Unique Selling Point - what makes you different, truly different from the hundreds of thousands of actors out there.

What is your market niche? What are the genres you suit best? The characters? What roels are you very good at? If you say you can do anything you've already lost. If your USP is you are good looking - you have lost. Look at it from the Casting point of view, not your own perspective to get an honest appraisal - better yet ask industry people you know for their opinion if you have trouble comign up with this yourself.

Once you get all this going you'll know who a good agent is if they understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.

 Even some agents wh odon't understand will be good in that they have established reputations and deliver time after time.

So in effect, what is a good agent? YOU.

You are your best agent, get good at it if you want to work often.



Now I am retitleing the following previously written article to 


As you will be representing yourself mostly you put yourself in the shoes of the agent:

...think about this. First impressions are very important, especially in an industry when the first casting decisions are made by taking 5 to 60 seconds by looking at some portfolio photos and possibly a quick peak at your showreel.

And your agent is your representation, first and foremost the casting director will get her (most Casting Directors I've met are female) first impressions from your agent. A good Acting Agent will make a good first impression. So how does your agent scrub up?

Not only physical appearance but his ability to sell you as a special unique product and a lot of this comes down to whether your agent believes in you (and themselves).

In a situation that occured for me recently I had a discussion with a new agent for a casting for a new movie. He said to me, don't worry if we don't get you in as a fighter (character) then we'll probably get you in as a bodyguard (movie Extra), they don't get paid as much but they get more days work.

Can you see a fundamental problem in this approach right there?

The agent sees me as being Extra material, as taking 3 steps backwards in my career. In fact being an Extra is a step I purposely skipped at the start of my career, I have never played an Extra. To suggest this as a possibility is slightly insulting to all the work and time I have put into my career.

So why does this new agent think I am interested in an Extras role?

One reason is that many people are desperate for money or a movie part, even a small one and he may just have assumed that I was like the majority.

The second reason could be that he does not have the confidence or experience to know how to go about positioning me correctly, or maybe he just thinks the more people he places the more commission he gets.

Consider the difference in these two approaches for an action movie where the character roles are all fighters:

1. The casting agent calls and my agent sends in my photos and biog in a big pile with everyone elses with no special attention drawn to it, with instructions to submit the talent to all available roles (character and Extra roles)

2. Calling the Casting Agent directly. "I have found the guy you NEED. He is 7 feet tall and built like Arnold Schwarzenegger and is a Thai movie star! He has International movie experience, in fact 13 movies now, and get this he was a professional fighter for 9 years! When are you free to make an appointment to see him, I think he'd be perfect for the main villian. Is next Monday or Wednesday better for you?"

Do you see how your agents introduction can make or break you as an actor? Regardless of how good you are. Can you also see the first impressions difference. In marketing this is called positioning.

By making me out to be a special product, a unique and irreplacable character that will bring value to the movie it gives me credibility. By positioning me as a valuable addition to the movie instantly we start from a position of strength in negotiations. No longer are we grovelling and hoping to "please pick me for your movie" we are getting the Producer interested in me so that they want me in their movie.

Big difference there. If you want in their movie OR if they want you in the movie. Which do you think pays better?

If a Producer/Director decides he wants you in the movie initial budgets could be thrown out the window, the Producer/Director will have what he wants if the price is within reason.

If the Producer/Director does not decide he needs you then you are just another replacable commodity, another Actor out of thousands, which is not a good position to be in.

So how do you choose a good acting agent?

Ask him how he will present you to Casting Agents and see his response. BUT first you must make yourself into a unique product in whatever way you can, which is why I call myself the World's Biggest Action Hero - it is a position that is memorable and it contains everything a Producer/Director needs to know about me, I am big and I play action roles.

If you were making a movie and needed a big guy for an action role you'd be hard pressed not to at least look at the fellow who calls himself the World's Biggest Action Hero...

... in marketing it is called a Unique Selling Point (USP) and it depends on how you position yourself.

If your acting agent can do all this then sing praises to the lord (whomever that may be for you) because it is indeed a rare commodity in my experience. 

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