One essential for most actors is getting a good talent agent. This can be hard work, because most reputable agents are beset with far too many people wanting them to act as their representatives. Some steps can make getting an agent more likely, which is important because the likelihood of you being discovered while working at a local coffeehouse is pretty slim.
Even if you’re not currently working as an actor, you need to be around people who are. This means continuing your education by taking acting classes or employing an acting coach. Unless you’re lucky enough to be born into an acting family, your best chance of getting an agent is through referral by fellow actors or acting teachers. By networking and constantly improving your skills, you'll keep yourself ready for a referral.
You also need one or two excellent headshots. First, you should decide where you want to work, since styles in these photographs vary. If you plan to work out of Los Angeles, you want an L.A. photographer to do your headshot, while if you’re a devoted New Yorker, have the photos done there. Getting a photographer is a lot easier than getting an agent. Look through books or magazines to see the photographer’s best work, and get referrals from fellow actors. Plan to spend anywhere from $300 to $1,000 US Dollars (USD) on two 8 X 10 inch (20.32 x 25.4 cm) photos.
You will probably need to have two headshots done: a commercial one, which generally is more “smiley,” and one more geared toward the type of work you’d like to do outside of commercials. Headshots should represent the type of characters you’d like to play. A good way of determining how the second photo should be constructed is to ask your friends, peers, and acting coach what kind of roles they see you in. Take your own feelings about acting into account as well before scouting for a talent agent.
When applying to work with an agent, you'll also need to compose a resume to attach to your headshot. Even if you haven’t had a great deal of experience, you can impress an agent with a good cover letter. Look for examples of actors' resumes online to research how to write an effective one.
Referrals to a talent agent get you in the door, but you should also research the background of any agent you see. A reputable one should be approved by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) — this information can be found on their website. If the agent fails to do the job competently, you can report complaints to SAG.
If you get an interview, prepare two monologues: one comic and one tragic. You will probably only deliver one, and it should be short but effective. Also prepare a list of questions for the talent agent. If the agent will represent you, he or she will probably offer you representation immediately following an interview. Before you sign on the dotted line, however make certain of a few things:
- Thank the agent for the offer and explain you have a few more appointments, whether or not this is true.
- Let the person know you that will get back to him or her by a certain time.
- Take any contract home and read it thoroughly.
- Do not sign a contract that gives an agent more than 10% of your income from acting jobs.
If you do plan to submit a resume without references to a talent agent, choose your time carefully. The best time to canvass for an agent is in early summer. The absolute worst time is in January to February, since casting for all new television shows begins then and most agents are not interested in recruiting new actors during this time.
Don’t just think about an agent; think about acting opportunities as well. Every day in most major cities, casting calls go up for different shows. You can get a job without an agent, though this is often more difficult. Getting a job can also make getting an agent easier, since you have proven yourself marketable. Choose any opportunity to work, even in a small venue — it’s not impossible to be discovered at a local theater. Each time you work, you increase your visibility and make more contacts, which can only benefit you.