The Agent Hunt

After a year of meetings, mailings, emails, and phone calls, I’m happy to say I’ve finally linked up with a theatrical agent.  The difficulty in finding a good agent to work with leads many actors to quit the business.  I thought I’d share a little about my journey in this arena.

A year ago, my agent at the time asked me to re-sign with him – that is, sign another one-year contract that meant he would represent me exclusively for TV and film roles.  I really liked him personally, and felt we had made some career progress in the year and a half I had been with him.  I booked my VERY first audition with him, which was a great sign and huge confidence booster.  He also got me in several times to audition for a top casting director at one of the major networks.  Although this casting director has not yet hired me, he called me in 3 times within a period of a month or so.  A solid relationship has developed and it seems like just a matter of time until he hires me for something.

After about a year, the frequency of auditions slowed down along with the quality (types of shows, size of roles, etc).  While I still really liked my agent, I had this feeling it was time to make a move – time to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING.  I just felt the need to shake things up.  There’s a lot of talk in the acting community about how much it really matters who the agent is.  At the level I’m talking about (boutique, 3rd tier “starter” agencies), I’m not sure it matters all that much in the sense that being with one agency over another matters all that much in how often you’ll get auditions and bookings.  In other words, yes, it matters if you are talking about being with a top, corporate-type agency like CAA or ICM as opposed to a tiny, one-man agency.  But when you are talking about being with one agent or another within the same tier or at the same basic level of the game, for me it boils down to a feeling.

My career wasn’t where I wanted it and I felt I needed to shake things up.  I didn’t blame my previous agent.  He was doing the best he could with my limited number of credits.  Sure, I had the ambition and hope that I would “upgrade” to a more experienced and prestigious agency and I thought I had a good chance at doing so since I’d just completed filming my second starring film role and was about to shoot my third.  It didn’t work out anything like I had planned.

I thought I’d be able to get a new agent right away, but it was not to be!  I asked everyone I knew who I’d worked with in class or on films, actors I knew who had respectable careers who could make referrals for me.  I have to admit, that was a very difficult step for me to take.  It’s always been hard for me to ask for help.  But this was actually a HUGE lesson for me during this process.  In asking my friends and peers who are a bit further along in the game to take a look at my reel (and make a referral if they felt it appropriate), I’ve been able to develop present and future allies.  I’ve gotten out of my shell a little bit and have asked others who are working in the business to take notice of my work.  There is no downside here.

People thought I’d made a mistake in leaving my previous agent before having another one lined up.  In retrospect, I may have done it differently.  But I have to say that being without an agent made me HUNGRY.  I hustled!  I took audition and career marketing workshops and got insider tips on how to approach casting directors and agents.  I found out about new online publications and services (they are popping up all the time) to help get information about roles being cast.  I began to utilize Facebook and Twitter to develop my brand and get myself out there.  It used to be about pounding the pavement and dropping off headshots.  Now, it’s about developing an online presence and connecting with folks through social media!

I took several meetings through referrals and got a few others through being active on Twitter.  One of my contacts put me in touch with a top agency (not one of the top 5, but just below it).  I REALLY wanted to be with them.  And, while we had a great meeting and  he told me he really liked my reel and my tenacity, he’d need a few more current TV credits in order to “sell” me to the rest of the agency.  But, that’s cool.  He said to stay in touch with him and let him know how my career develops.  Maybe I’ll be able to get in with them down the road.  The seed is planted.

Then I met a really small agent (I’d been doing a lot of research and I hadn’t heard of him) who came through a trusted friend with a VERY successful career.  This guy said it was “non-negotiable” that I had to get with him “across the board” in order for him to rep me theatrically. (basically, he wanted to have me for commercials in order to justify sending me out theatrically.  This is common among the smaller agents in LA because commercials a more aplenty and have the better probability of generating revenue).  But I already have a great commercial agent I’m really happy with.  I wasn’t about to jump ship with one of the top commercial agents in town for a tiny agent I knew nothing about and had no idea what he could do for me.  (Not to mention I just didn’t get a good feeling from him.  Didn’t feel like he “got” me.)

Then I reached out cold to another smaller agent via email.  I emailed her an introductory email with a link to my reel, photos and resume.  A good friend was being represented by her, but I didn’t use him as a referral because he hasn’t been entirely happy.  Sometimes, I’ve found, it’s good to start a relationship really fresh – let them feel as if they’ve really “discovered” something.  Some agents still see that as their job:  to scout and develop talent.  And this woman got back to me the very next day asking me to call the office to set up a meeting.  We met and we just totally hit it off.  It probably helped that I’d had close to a dozen meetings up to that point.  I wasn’t desperate, I’d made rounds, I knew the drill.  We really hit it off.  I really liked that she took the time to watch my reel all the way through and was impressed by my work.  (You’d be surprised how many people don’t even watch the reel!)  I really liked her personally – I got a great feeling from her.  It also didn’t hurt that she had “Obama ’12″ t-shirts, pins, and bumper stickers adorning the office.

We chatted and chatted.  (so long that I had a parking ticket when I came out!)  She liked that I had ideas about how to cast myself that she hadn’t immediately seen.  I told her I tend to do bad guys very well – this isn’t usually apparent to people because I come of as such nice guy :-)  This intrigued her.  When we ended the meeting, she said, “call me tomorrow!”  She seemed very excited.

Well, it took a couple of days to FINALLY get her on the phone and she was concerned because, she said, she already had several actors in my category, etc. (they all say that.  Always.)  And, she said, she hadn’t really had the chance to process and think about it because some things came up in her personal life etc.  Wouldn’t I email her in a couple of days?  Of course, I would.

And I did.  I put together a heartfelt email that I edited all weekend that included a personal tidbit and story about me and about how I make this professional decisions based on feeling.  I got a good feeling about our meeting and really would like her to be my agent.  How could she say no?  After a year of hustle and hard work.  I found an agent I feel comfortable and compatible with.  The journey and struggle was all part of the growth process.  Had I not been agent-less for a year, I would not have had the fire in the belly to step out of my comfort zone and ask for help and put myself out there in the way that I did.  Now, it’s time to book some work.