Actors along with many others form part of what is called the ‘Creative Industries’. For some people the yoking together of these two words is in itself an oxymoron, however the truth is that if you want to make a living from the practice of your craft, someone, somewhere needs to pay you.
Since the number of actors in the profession greatly exceeds the available work, competition is fierce. In order to be the recipient of limited resources you need to promote yourselves in the most effective way possible.
For most actors (but not all) securing the services of an agent is crucial to being considered by producers/directors/casting directors.
An agent will act as a portal; a way for people in the industry to approach the artists, whose contribution to the creative process is key. An agent will also guide an actors career, ensuring that the choices they make are, in the short and long term, the right ones.
CHOOSING AN AGENT
The word choice implies an infinite variety of options from which you make a careful selection. For a few lucky and talented actors this may be true (at least while they are young and/or popular) but for most the notion of there being an abundance of agents from which to choose would be laughable if it were not so disheartening.
When selecting agents to approach an actor needs to have a realistic idea of their worth; that is their intrinsic abilities combined with the industries desire to employ them.
Finding the right agent can be as difficult as finding the right partner and the assumption, that the highest profile agent is best, is a flawed one.
Confidence in your ability is important but so too is a pragmatic understanding of how the business perceives you. A high profile agent may well receive the cream of scripts but if you are a small fish in their very illustrious pond you may well find yourself passed over in favour of better-known faces.
The best agent is therefore is one who has faith in your skills, shares your aspirations and can communicate both to the rest of the industry. Finding the right one for you will take time, effort and a great deal of research.
VIEW THE AGENTS WEBSITE
It’s important to know what kind of agent you are approaching and discover who else they represent. Most agents are wary of duplication - that is having more than one actor with a similar profile. You will save yourself a lot of time and postage if you make sure you fit a niche that is currently unfilled.
When submitting your photo and C.V to an agent make sure you apply in accordance with their requirements. If they say no emails they mean it. There are sound reasons why some agents and casting directors prefer not to accept email submissions. When your business is dependent on networked computers the last thing you need is a virus sent by a hapless actor. Even the best virus scanner is not foolproof so it’s not worth taking the risk.
Responding to submissions is just one of many tasks the agent has to do and there are plenty of others that take priority. Making calls to chase up your application is likely to hinder its success. The best way to ensure you are given careful consideration is to:
Enclose a short, clear, factual letter including your email address and your phone number. This information should also be on the back of your photo and C.V. in case they are is separated from the letter.
Your (printed) letter should be written and addressed to a particular agent (or the agents assistant if this is specified) with their name spelt correctly.
Your C.V. should be no more than one page and arranged chronologically in reverse order (separating Theatre, Television, Film and Commercials is a matter of personal taste.)
If you have show reel material a link should be included near the top of the C.V.
Only ONE recent B/W 8 X 10 photo is required and a large self-addressed envelope with the correct postage (if you want your package returned). It’s worth remembering however that should your approach be successful you will need a variety of photos in different file formats for various forms of publication. See useful articles link.
Very few agents will consider representing an unknown actor they have not seen on stage unless their resume speaks for itself. So it’s a good idea to time your approach when you are soon to appear in a production.
If you should be fortunate enough to be invited to an interview make sure you are well prepared. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism.
You should be familiar with the agency and the clients they represent if that is public record.
Even if it is not requested it’s a good idea to take, your photo, CV and any broadcast material you have appeared in.
You must be punctual, polite and smartly dressed.
Never speak ill of your current agent (if you have one) or anyone in the industry. You are asking someone to invest a lot of time and effort on your behalf so make sure you have done your homework.
CHOOSING A PHOTO
An actor’s headshot is part of his or her C.V. One is of limited use without the other and great attention should be paid to both.
First and foremost a headshot tells the director, agent or casting director the gender, age range, ethnicity and physical attractiveness of the artist. It may also signal the appearance of social class, role type and the genres in which the artist will predominantly work.
So a headshot must be an accurate representation of what the actor looks like or it fails in its primary function. Sounds obvious? It is. But it is also a fact often ignored. The classic mistake is one of vanity (or more charitably ignorance), the actor chooses a photo that is flattering to their idea of beauty whether it is truthful or not. This is career damaging for many reasons. Firstly it sets up a false impression, it leads people to believe you are something that you are not. It includes you in one sub group and excludes you from another. If you are selected for audition on the basis of an inaccurate photo you will be attending under false pretences, this wastes your time and the time of the person you are interviewing with. But perhaps more importantly it means you are not being selected for castings for which you would be more suitable.
A ‘good’ photo will also communicate something about the spirit or personality of the actor. It can be in the expression (coy or insolent) or the format (close cropped or loose) or the wardrobe (corporate or casual). Whichever way the actor chooses to present them selves it’s ideal if the photo can capture something that conveys the uniqueness of that particular actor.
The most popular and established directory for actors is Spotlight and it’s advisable for a would be actors to apply for listing on it’s database.
The Spotlight offices in central London display the Spotlight books and some photographer’s portfolios. It’s good idea before choosing a photographer to look at these. Contact those who’s work you like and discuss your requirements. Don’t make price your guiding principle, it’s a false economy but make sure you understand fully what you are paying for. How long is the session? How many shots will be taken? Who owns the material? Is there a cancellation fee? It’s important to get all these issues resolved before the shoot so you can be as relaxed as possible.