Yes, indeed, Happy New Year to us all! I sure hope your first 24 days have gotten off to a solid start.
I do feel most humans view the turn of another calendar year with hopefulness and perhaps a sense of renewed inspiration. The new year doesn’t always have to be a fresh start, but within the acting profession, 2024 might just have that effect on you. Where we tend to begin as actors in a new year, or just prior to the end of the previous year, is the idea of NEEDING a new, better, different or even initial agent and/or manager. I would, however, ask you to bear in mind that you’re not the only one. I do believe one of the reasons I’ve managed to have career success is that I do not conflate acting-pretending with living in dreamland all the time. Try to avoid avoiding reality when making the effort to pursue the business of acting.
In consideration of your current representation situation and a relationship which you may have already started back in mid-December before the Holidays, be sure that you ask yourself the why. I’m not questioning your rationale; I’m merely making sure that you know exactly WHY you may or may not be seeking to make a representation change. Do you feel disconnected from your point person or the company? Do you feel they really haven’t focused on you enough? Is your pure audition actor activity sub-standard? Do they exude a lack of professional behavior that you can no longer engage? Or, to me, the most common reason, that you literally cannot get them to communicate with you at all? Do know, going forward, I’ll do more on that in the future.
While I do not necessarily recommend having dozens of representatives in your career, it can happen if you’re a professional for long enough. I do encourage you to view them distantly similar to an intimate relationship without the intimate part. Ha. Point being that we either have, or know someone who has, stayed in any relationship too long. When it comes to consulting actors from all over the world, for more than three decades, I have found that the most common reason is: not being able to get another one.
Certainly, I understand that fear because so many agents and managers typically have a knee jerk dismissal attitude to 99% of actors. How many actors do you know that have heard: “Sorry, we’re not looking to add anyone to our roster right now” or “We have someone just like you,” or “It’s a bad time in the industry for new clients.” From this point forward, please trust and know two truths about the above statements: they’re all 100% accurate and can be 100% bullsh*t. Why? My career has always revealed that representatives are NEVER seeking and ALWAYS seeking. The question is always are you what they’re seeking? Period.
Finding a terrific representative, similar to an intimate partner, tends to come down to a bit of timing, mood, chemistry and absolutely various attributes of the other person. Therefore, staying firmly in my dating analogy, when you view your attributes as your physical body aka your headshot, how strong your professional contacts are, and how unique and memorable is your demo reel? Agents and managers have to pay rent. It’s a business, and they view us differently than our partners or family view us. We are a product, and I’ve been discussing that REALITY since 1991, which can be challenging for a performer to accept.
Naturally, most actors view some professional attributes differently than representatives. While that isn’t necessarily our fault, I do believe that better understanding their perspective is a psychological key to surviving and thriving in the business of being of acting and seeking new representation. Some of the other attributes that are pondered by representatives who may be considering meeting with or representing you are: current professional “heat” (aka, good success energy surrounding you), your credits, and of course, your talent or craft. Part of the challenge for almost all non-star or non-established actors is what we WANT them to consider and the weight of those considerations, versus the weight THEY put on them.
Ironically, when you’re not necessarily coming into a meeting with guaranteed money, because you’re working all of the time, being organized, professional, friendly, fun, likeable, talented and a proper idea of your TYPE as it applies to the real business can be the ultimate factor in having someone want to REP you.
So, how are you going to get a new representative without a meeting? As we all know, what we’d like is for someone of note to refer us to an agent or manager, who will meet with us and consider us simply because of our referral. Yes, this is always the easiest way, with little or no effort to get a legitimate representative meeting. However, in my personal opinion, far too many actors WAIT or COUNT on that and do nothing else. I’m not built that way in business. Therefore, I recommend that you create, a “Target List,” which I initially pioneered at The Actors’ Network back on/about 1992. Please know that as an actor, a target is a complete stranger, and an individual or company you’ve identified as a client destination.
Cool, Kevin, so how in the hell do I create one? Glad you asked.
Start by accepting this is unpaid work for your career, but with all respect, back in my day, research in the analog world was much harder. Today, with IMDBPro and the internet, gathering information on people and companies is still tedious but far easier. There are (5) key ingredients to a good representative target list: 1) Being honest about your type, which includes the 7-year age range in which you genuinely are castable, 2) Proper perspective on your credits, as we tend to forget there are people like ourselves working every week, 3) Researching existing client lists to see if they’re without anyone like you and/or they have a few like you who are decent names who will always be unavailable, 4) Researching specifically for theatrical agents or managers versus commercial, and noting even for you, these are likely different companies, unless you’re in a small market, and 5) Having your target list separated by type of representative as well as 10% of them lower-end, 10% dream-list and 80% logical business per their history and your existing status but no more than 15-20 of each type to start.
To create meetings, most likely you’ll use the 3rd party casting sites and attempt to message them within the existing options for electronically submitting to them. Yes, I get it. While I’m not an advocate of blindly emailing representatives or messaging them on social media if you discover they have a public email, then fire away, but KEEP the body of your email to 2-3 short sentences. Avoid long, diatribe emails, that give someone your entire life story. No. A link to your online profile, maybe personal website, (1-2) small file pictures, IMDB w/an existing demo reel is essentially the whole package you need, nothing more.
Sure, if you have fellow peers that will genuinely speak to their representatives first and then open the door for them to be desirous of your submission, make that play, but be judicious in which fellow actors with whom you engage or request. Also, no, I don’t consider, “Yeah, sure use my name,” when submitting a legitimate referral. If I were to refer you, I would give my rep a picture of yours, and THEN if they liked your look I would properly connect you to them. But my favorite thing to do, was always try to wind up “bumping into them” somewhere by accident, on purpose. What is great about social media and the internet? Sometimes, you can discover an event or location they may be attending, and be able to briefly introduce yourself, but ONLY briefly, don’t be weird and nagging to them in public. ☺
Ultimately, now that we’re past COVID, you WANT to meet them in person, be it at an office or a public location during the day, which is far more common now. At minimum, you would want an initial zoom, and if there are multiple agents or managers at the company then a group zoom to solidify their interest. The MOST dangerous place you can be about a “New Rep” is fear of doing nothing or only saying “yes” a representative as you only had one meeting or one option. This is where dating is a really good analogy.
And finally, regardless of how many meetings you create with whichever type of representative or type of company you’re seeking, never lose sight of the VALUE of meeting professionals in your marketplace versus only seeing the result. For nearly 100 years people have used the “It’s who you know” cliché, and yet far too often, if you meet with a representative and the answer is “No, thanks,” we view it as failure and forget about THEM. That attitude and decision is very short-sighted and professionally unintelligent. There are dozens of reasons an individual or company can say “yes” or “no” on a given day. Also, that main person, may be at a different company in six months. They met with you, that has value, as they’re now a contact.
Kevin E. West is a veteran television actor with nearly 70 credits including guest starring on The Righteous Gemstones, Hawaii 5-0, Criminal Minds, Bones, Castle, CSI: Miami, Justified, Leverage, Lost, 24, Desperate Housewives, NCIS, Alias, CSI, and dozens more, as well as a former stand-up comic.
Kevin has been a national speaker since 1991 including: the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, UCLA, and A Date with Hollywood panel (Swedish Film Institute-Stockholm). As the Founder of The Actors’ Network, Kevin is an expert on the ‘business of show business.’ The Actors’ Network is the most endorsed actor’s business organization in the U.S., with consecutive BackStage West “Reader’s Choice” awards (06/07). Alums include Emmy Nominee Masi Oka (Heroes), Chelsey Crisp (Off The Boat), Chris Gorham (Ugly Betty), and Maggie Grace (Taken).
Kevin is considered by many to be the top educator for the Business of Acting. He created, the interview series ActorBizGuru, voted the #1 online educational resource by BackStage West and co-Authored the audio CD, The Actor’s Guide to GETTING THE JOB. You can read more of Kevin’s “The Acting Biz” columns here.