How to Find an Agent... and Survive

by Cathy McKim

Street sign
Major modeling agencies in urban centres such as Toronto will generally recommend either one or more reputable imaging specialists or a short list of photographers to test with. Again, you should visit each one, look at their work, and select the one you feel the most comfortable with. modeling agencies and schools outside of urban areas such as Toronto are more likely to directly arrange the test sessions for their prospective models.

If you are booking a photographer through an agency, find out the name and credentials of the photographer, what services are offered, and what you will be charged for them. Ask to see samples of the photographer's work and make sure that he or she is a working professional photographer. Contact other people in the industry to find out the photographer's reputation. Comparison shop: get price lists from other photographers, but remember that price is not as important as quality. Find out what this photographer charges for a session not booked through the agency: the price should be the same.

Keep in mind the differences in photographic requirements for actor and models. An actor needs a black and white 8" x 10" headshot. Actors do not need portfolios. A model does need a portfolio and "comp cards". The initial portfolio is developed through test shoots with fashion photographers, and is then expanded with tearsheets of the model's professional print work. Some of these pictures are used in making up the comp card. Models being promoted for commercial television will also need a "TV glossy", or 8" x 10" headshot.

Child actors under eight do not need professional photos. It is acceptable to promote children with inexpensive snapshots, and most agents do this to avoid the expense of having new professional photos taken for children every few months as they grow and change. Child models may require comp cards, based on the agency's policies, but should not require the extensive portfolios that an adult model needs.

Actors will need prints made of the headshot that you and your agent have selected from the contact sheet provided by the photographer. Models will need prints of their TV glossies, blow- ups of the shots to be used in their portfolio, and multiple prints of their comp cards. It may be convenient for your agent to maintain the supply of prints and promotional photos, and bill you for reproduction costs. Check the costs first; find out what a reproduction house would charge you for prints. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that your agent has a supply of your promotional photos on hand at all times; you don't want to miss out because your agent had no photos to send out.

Classes and Workshops
Talent agencies sometimes offer workshops for actors, bringing in a well-known or respected specialist for an evening or weekend session. If attendance is optional and prices are not excessive, this practice is acceptable.

When talent or modeling agencies offer on-going classes in-house or make arrangements for clients of an agency to take classes at a specific school (which is often affiliated with the agency), you need to do some investigation. Check the training, experience, and other credentials of the instructors. Check the cost against fees charged by independent schools or instructors. Find out if you must take the courses provided by this agency before you will be represented. An agency that does not accept training from other sources is not serving your best interests.

There are many places to get training: universities and colleges offer acting and drama courses, and some colleges offer programs in fashion and modeling as well. There are independent schools with good reputations for both actors and models, and many highly regarded individuals who offer classes, workshops and private instruction. Local school boards may offer acting and modeling or "self-improvement/self-image" courses through their continuing education departments. A model's most valuable training can be the "on-the-job" experience s/he receives in the course of shooting his/her test portfolio.

Some modeling agencies, especially those outside the heavily competitive Toronto area, run legitimate schools which serve both as self-improvement or "finishing" academies for young men and women who are not planning a career in modeling, and as introductory training schools for those who are. The hallmarks of such legitimate schools are honesty with respect to an applicant's potential, strong ties to the local business community, and connections with national and international "high profile" agencies. Most also participate in one of the Canadian modeling associations: the modeling Association of Canada (MAC) or the Canadian Model and Talent Convention (CMTC). To check out such a school, request local business references, and ask about affiliations with national and international agencies and modeling associations.

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Cathy McKim is an author and blogger living in Toronto, Canada. She studied visual arts at York University and acting at George Brown Theatre School. By day, she works as a copy editor/staff writer. After hours, she can be found acting, scenic painting, or involved in other forms of visual arts projects. She also finds time to write short stories, personal essays and blog posts. Her article is an excerpt from "An Actor's Guide to Agencies in Toronto" published by Moonlighters Publishing Inc.

With thanks to: Jeff Andrews, Colin Armstrong, Shari Caldwell, Cari Fallis, Michael Gaitt, Jennifer Goldie, Megan Goldwell, Carolyn Govers, Frank Hogg, Gerry Jordan, Cindee Karnick, Peter McGuire, Fran Messinger, Sandie Newton, Penny Noble, Michael Oscars, Louise Parent, Mark Preston, Nancy Ramos, Estella Ruston and Sandi Sloan for their time, insight and humour.

Copyright © Moonlighters Publishing Inc. Used with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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Reader Comments

Hi my name is Tabitha West, I'm looking forward to becoming an actress, I'm a very nice person and I'm looking for an agent because I'm trying so hard, and I'll never give up because acting is my life, so that mean that I'll never give up on myself
My name is Tabitha West
I'm 15 years old
Please email me an agent, please

Posted by Tabitha West (2012-07-12) 6133

Hello, my name is Alicia Cook and I'm really trying to get my foot in the door of becoming an actress. If you can help me find an agent to represent me I'd be more than happy. I just graduated from a career and modeling center in May 2011. I'm ecstatic about getting out in front of the camera and do what I have to do. I believe that I would make an awesome actress!

Posted by alicia cook (2011-10-03) 4864

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Posted by Darryl Zeigler (2011-03-29) 2989

d becoming an actress is like to me. I'm going to start taking acting class in 01-7-11. Please can you help me to find and agent because i know that i have the skill that an actress need. I kind of need more information.

Posted by Merlande Jeanty (2010-10-11) 2745

hi my name is nicole and i really want to be in the acting buisness. I am 13 years old, but i look like i am 14 or 15. I really want a agent to help me audition for movies or tv shows.

Posted by Nicole Greco (2010-10-01) 2725

i was wanting more info on how to get me an agent. i have done some extra work, i would like more so that i can do this for a living. i am 40 but i look 20. this is my passion.

Posted by hello (2010-05-17) 2532

Hello, my name is Shaquille Lanclos and I am 17 years of age. I was looking for an agent to help me out on my acting career. I'm very funny, a people person, awesome with directions, and understand how much hard work it takes to be an actor. I know how to play the political game, and will swim, not sink. Acting is my passion. I have practiced different acting roles independently, and I have no stage fright. Plus, I will bring many new ideas in the acting business, because as a virgin islander, my culture and views are unbiased. I am relaxed and fun to work with. If you choose me, you will not regret it.

Posted by shaquille lanclos (2010-01-19) 2308

Hey, my name is Milan and im 15, turning 16 in April. Im from Bosnia and Herzegovina and im looking for agent who can provide me a job in "Film Industry". Im willing to play in theater also. I have British accent, but i can simulate any other accent.. Sometimes i make mistake with my grammar but i can fix it also.. :) My mum is willing to move in other city if i need to.. If you wanna test my skills please send me e-mail.

Posted by Milan (2009-11-22) 2198

hii my name is geore and im looking for an agent im a good actor ive been acting in my church and in my school im from united states but im living in Mexico, Nuevo Leon, Monterrey

Posted by jorge (2009-11-19) 2194

Hello, my name is Rae. I am 12 years old, turning 13 in December. I am somewhat tall for my age, and I look as if I am 14 or 16. I have been the lead role in the play 'Antigone' and I am looking for an agent who would help me live out my dream.

Posted by Rae (2009-11-14) 2183

looking for help in finding an agent for modelling to make my dream come true, its my passion & i would like to see my self reaching another level, i will be glad to find what im looking for.


Posted by peggy pretty (2009-03-28) 1214

hello,my name is danielle I am 13 years old but I look like I am around 9 or 10 years old. I want a future in acting so please contact me please

Posted by danielle (2008-10-13) 471

Hi!.. my name is Hana Greene and i am an aspiring actress who's looking for an acting agent to help me book auditions for hit t.v. shows. i am 15 years of age and is looking forward to a career in acting.

Posted by Hana Greene (2008-09-04) 331

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