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(Originally published on the web as, “Agents? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Agents!)
First, an apology to all the agents who might read this.
The original headline was one I just couldn’t resist. To you actors, I assure you that you will rarely meet an agent who smells anything less than pleasant. They all use perfume, cologne, breath mints, etc. – so you will not actually (or very rarely) meet any stinkin’ agents.
However … the original headline is true.
I am asked almost daily about the “getting” of an agent. Or as some like to say, “obtaining representation.” actors ask, writers ask, my dentist asks, my Aunt Imelda is curious.
So, in order to move on, let’s get this agent business cleared up: Here are the facts:
1. Agents are salespeople – who work for an employment agency.
That’s what they do. They call people who have jobs to fill and they try to “sell” the personnel they represent – actors. They are like salespeople at a ‘temp’ agency. Just because they sell actors doesn’t change the basic job.
2. – And most important to understand – Agents do it for money.
Like many working people in many professions – no, like all working people in all professions – agents like to make money for their efforts. Unlike lawyers, agents rarely do pro-bono work.
I’ve only had two agents of my own during the 30 years I needed an agent in my career, but I know a lot of agents – including some of the biggest agents in the business. I’ve gone to parties with them, played poker with them, softball, chili-cook offs, awards ceremonies, charity functions, you name it.
I know these folks.
Please read the following very carefully.
I’ve never heard an agent say, “Yeah, I just took on a client who’s thinking about being an actor. She hasn’t done much on her own, but I think I can teach her to work. I’ve got plenty of time to show her how to be a professional. And even though she’s got the wrong attitude, it probably won’t take too long to explain why her attitude is problematic. I know she hasn’t managed to get going on her own but I’ll just send her out for every part in her age range until she gets work. I know it’s risky, but she’s got a feeling she’s going to be a star, so I’m going to give it a shot.”
I’ve never heard anything like that.
This is what I hear agents say, “Yeah, I just took on a real comer. This guy can do it all. He’s a good actor – wait’ll you see this little student film he did. He’s smart. He’s been making pretty good money … all non-union, but he’s ready. Hustle? The guy’s been in like a hundred plays, he teaches a class to kids, runs a little theatre over in Burbank … go go go. I’m going to make a fortune off this kid.”
Do you see the difference? Of course you do.
In your heart of hearts, you know that this has always been the reality. You know it.
So, how does this help you to get an agent?
In this crucial way;
3. Now you know what agents are looking for.
- actors who are acting for money. (Because 10% of that amount is what the agent lives on. It is his income. There is no income if the actor cannot book work.)
- actors who are getting cast. They’ve been in plays, student films, non-union work, it really doesn’t matter what level of work as long as the actor has a history of getting cast. That is a good indication for most agents.
- actors who work hard at getting good enough to compete for jobs. actors with the right attitude. (They know they have to commit and work hard.)
- actors who hustle.
4. You also know what they are not looking for.
- actors who haven’t made the commitment to act for a living.
- actors who haven’t bothered to do much without anyone else’s help.
- actors who believe that an agent can “make it happen.”
- actors who take an attitude because of that belief.
- actors who think agents don’t know what they are doing.
Now, these real facts can lead us to only one conclusion with regards to your “getting an agent” problem:
5. You can hire a salesperson, easily … IF you are the type of actor they believe will make money.
How you accomplish that seems self evident.
Work for money.
Work at it.
Work to your strengths.
In other words; work work work work hustle.
This is the first step.
As with most first steps, it’s important to do this step… (“…anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) … FIRST.
Believe me, for this part of the process – “you don’t need no stinking agent.”