After reading interviews of more than 60 agents in Hettie Lyne Hurtes ‘Agents on Actors’ I can honestly say that most agents require the same things in common when it comes to representing actors.
Most actors complain that their agents don’t do enough for them. The truth of the matter is that agents can only do so much for the actor. Their role is to submit a client’s photo or CV and negotiate a contract should the actor get the job.
Of course, there are agents worth their salt who put a lot more effort into the process and if an actor wants to find that agent then listen up because I distilled most of the info in this book into 5 ingredients that are kept being repeated by these agents, again and again, on how to go about and capture their attention.
This book might be two decades old but it still hold true today and the ingredients we’ll cover now are the most common factors of what an agent requires from actors these days, so let’s dive right in:
1. Practicing your craft –
Remember that there’s always someone more talented and better looking waiting for their spot so be sure to show yourself off no matter what it takes.
And how do you do that? By taking private lessons with acting coaches or teachers.
Training is essential especially for lesser known actors. You have to stay in class, get coached, don’t stop learning. If you don’t put in the work, it’s going to show.
Do scene study classes and get involved in plays, even if it’s in Am-dram to keep moving forward in the craft.
Actors should never stop taking lessons. Some might think they are naturals but look at todays celebrities. They are still taking classes.
Katherine Hepburn at the height of her career would go back to the stage every couple of years as did Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.
It’s about never saying ‘I’m as good as I can be’, but always about trying to be better no matter what your level.
Ellen Burstyn spoke at a college mentioning that she still studies acting and reads every new book that comes out about the industry – she’s 90 years old and she’s still in demand.
Devote your time to perfecting your craft: taking classes in acting, singing and dancing. Look for classes that involve relaxation, sensory work, improv and scene study.
Classes teaches actors to be themselves and be real. It teaches them to trust in themselves which is very important especially at auditions.
You can’t fake it on stage. There are no cuts, no double takes, no between scene directions.
Fear is a negative quality when actors walk in to an audition terrified. Casting directors can smell it and it can put them off. How to overcome fear? Get out in front of people and practice your craft.
2. Working your mojo –
Working hard includes not only continuing to become good at what you do, but also marketing yourself. One example is reading the Hollywood Reporter every day to know what’s current and sending out photos to all the production houses that have a movie coming out.
An actor should do some research into an agent prior to an interview. Find out what their hobbies and interests are or who they are as a person. This has a better chance of getting their attention.
When you walk into an agents office there are clues dotted all around about the person. Taste in art, photos of pets or family. If you’re observant, it’s easy. You can then carry an intelligent and interesting conversation that makes it easier on both parties.
When interviewing with an agent ask questions such as how he or she sees you as a type, how many actors on their roster are similar to you; how the agent handles communication; and how accessible are they.
Make sure you give your best at an audition so you can come out and say you did a good job. You might not necessarily get the role but the more auditions you do well the more chances of the casting director remembering you and will call you back for potential roles down the line. It’s about being good, because if you’re bad, they are certainly going to remember that.
After auditions Keep in touch with casting directors on a frequent basis. It’s a team effort. To update the casting directors on what you’re working on and what you’ve been up to. Sending them postcards or letters rather than emails since they’ll most likely get read.
Always keep your agent updated on your head shots and work. They need the right ammunition to do their job effectively. If you have a haircut or change your style let them know about it. At the end of the day they are there to service you.
You have to be self sufficient and self motivated. Agents prefer to help actors rather than baby sit them. If you need your hand held then get a manager. The business is competitive so actors must develop inner strength in order to survive. An actor who is too dependent is at a psychological disadvantage. Assume as much personal responsibility as possible. An ideal actor should have initiative, conviction, talent, skill and some luck.
3. Actors temperament –
You have to be PAT – which stands for personality, attitude and training.
Those are the three ingredients every actor should adhere to.
Personality is vital. Likeability is essential. Do you treat the front desk person nicely? Because if you don’t it will eventually get to the person on top.
Actors with good personalities who are cooperative are the ones who make it in this line of business. They must be able to communicate effectively and keep a healthy mental attitude despite all the rejection they face.
You also have to be wiling to hear what you may not want to hear. Hear the painful stuff so that you can turn around and try to fix it.
You may have lots of talent and be good looking but if you’re going to be a pain in the ass or high maintenance then agents won’t take you on.
You may not agree with every bit of criticism that comes your way but it shouldn’t throw you into a fit of depression. One example is of an actor who found out he didn’t get the role because he was losing his hair is Bruce Willis and he did just fine after that and it’s partly due to his attitude.
It’s a business of making connections. Don’t have an ego. You have to be gracious at auditions while staying in character at the same time. It’s not always easy but those who understand how to do that will succeed.
Ask for feedback on your showreels or head shots. This shows you’re open to suggestions.
What makes you unique? Because society programs us to be alike from the start yet the most prized possession in the world is our individuality. So how can you be valuable or bring value to the table – somebody who’s willing to break the rhythm and expose his or her soul, do the unexpected to catch the agents interest.
Can you be sufficiently aggressive without being obnoxious? If you can that’s an art in itself.
At auditions give them the best you can, so when you walk out the door, you feel good about yourself. If they like you and don’t use you now, there’s always next time. If the rapport was there, you’re in.
It’s an actors attitude, not aptitude that determines ones altitude.
4. Love your craft –
If you can picture yourself doing anything else, then do it, because this business provides no guarantees. It’s not based on merit. It’s simply being in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. To be successful in this industry is to love it.
An actor needs to wake up every day and say they are happy in their chosen profession and mean it. If you aren’t then leave it. The last thing you want is to turn bitter for spending a whole amount of time trying to become an actor when you don’t really enjoy it. If you don’t love it, leave it. Life is too short.
Some agents will ask you to explain the reason why you want to be an actor. If it’s to be a star, to sign autographs or have your ego stroked then they’re not interested. Because more than likely you won’t have what it takes to sustain a career. What they want to hear is that you love being an actor. That lets them know that you’re serious and that you don’t care where you act and that you just love the art of acting.
More importantly trust yourself as an actor. Yes, it’s about your work and craft but if your work is good, you’ll do okay. If you’re an artist and make your decisions based on art, not on money or glory, you’re on the right path.
Actors who forget that acting is an art form are misguided and as an artist you can’t stop growing. If you pursue your art you will succeed.
5. Keep going –
This business is a numbers game and you have to remain persistent and professional. Eventually you knock on enough doors, you’re bound to open one or two.
Be willing to go the extra mile, be willing to be flexible and run around town when the calls come in. You have to be receptive and willing to play the game. Never lose your perspective. Realise that this is a gift and make the most of it.
Planning way ahead is dangerous and one should focus on life on a day to day basis and see where that takes you. You really have to surrender control in this business, because it’s an ever changing market. It’s better to focus on perfecting your craft.
This is a business that requires years of training and experience. Your head has to be screwed on straight. You have to have a realistic approach and expectations. Should you get lucky and become famous, that’s gravy. But just become a working actor, and if you do that then that’s good enough.