About Talent Agents

by Cathy McKim

Professional male talent agent

A talent agent, or booking agent, is a person who not only finds jobs for actors but also negotiates the deals and sees that his or her client is treated fairly.

In objective terms, your agent is your professional representative. He or she will suggest you, as appropriate, for roles that come to his or her attention and will negotiate your contract when you get the job. An agent also deals with the creative aspects of the business, providing networking and support services.

In subjective terms, an agent can be mother, father, shrink, salesperson, facilitator, publicist. An agent, says Michael Oscars (Oscars and Abrams Associates Inc.) is "a champion, never enough for the client, far too much for the employer." An agent is an actor's lifeline to the industry in a fifty-fifty partnership.

Agents expect honesty, loyalty and professionalism from you. An actor needs to be working as hard as his or her agent to achieve their common goal of getting work. Your end of the deal is to provide your agent with up-to-date photos, resumes and tapes so they have the tools that enable them to sell you to prospective employers. When you get an audition be prepared, off script if possible, be dressed appropriately, be early and do your absolute best to show casting that you are the one for the job.

You must communicate with your agent; this includes everything from changes in hair style/colour and availability in terms of where you can be reached and vacation times, to the types of roles you'd like to be doing. No agent likes to look like an idiot because they thought they sent a brunette to the audition and what casting saw was a blonde. It's also not fun for agents to have to play detective in an attempt to track you down for a booking.

You must know yourself and be honest with both yourself and your agent about your own limitations and strengths. Don't tell your agent you can water ski when you've only done it a couple of times when you were a kid. A limitation can become a strength with proper training and consistent, conscientious work at the craft of acting. Actors also need to be aware of what's going on in the industry. Watch TV, especially the productions that are shot in Toronto, be it home grown or imported.

Also be familiar with who's doing the work out there; your agent can help provide you with information on production companies, producers, directors and casting. The more familiar you can be with the shows that are out there, the better prepared you'll be if your agent gets you an audition for one of them. Go to the theatre too; not only can you see what's happening in terms of live work, but you can find yourself some great networking opportunities among the casting,production, and acting communities. Get out there and circulate. Don't expect your agent to do everything for you.

The agent's side of the bargain is to know your strengths, sell them, find opportunities for work and negotiate the best contract they can for you. Your agent can be a great resource for information on photographers, classes, casting and production and, in some cases, may draft your resume in house. Prospective roles don't all come in through the breakdown service and it is your agent's job to keep informed about what's going on when. You can help by letting you agent know if you hear about a production through your own grapevine; they can find out more and see if they can get you in to be seen. They will help you get ready for auditions by providing background info on the role and assisting you with wardrobe selection and line preparation.

A good agent will be available, often twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to discuss your career in terms of: visual presentation (packaging), what types of roles you're interested in and/or best suited for, who your competition is, how best to sell you, prioritizing goals and suggesting what you need to be doing for yourself to achieve them. An effective agent will be compassionate and understanding of your needs as an actor and can be a good sounding board for your professional and personal concerns. An agent can be your cheerleader before you go to audition for a job and your shoulder to cry on if you don't get it.

To find SAG-AFTRA franchised talent agents, visit Actingland.com. Actingland provides contact information for thousands of agents along with casting notices and auditions.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you're fresh out of theatre school is to assume that, once you've got your agent, you're all set and, if you were getting leads in school, you'll be getting them now. Only a very rare and lucky few get their careers off the ground right away. You need training and experience. Once you've finished the main bulk of your training, you'll have to invest up to an equal amount of time to get yourself established in the professional world. It's a full time job and you will have to sacrifice time. money, and social life to get what you want.

If you don't have an agent, start making initial contacts before you graduate. Send a photo and resume with a well thought out covering letter and invite them to see you perform. All photos and resumes must be professional, up to date, and a good representation of you; these will cost you money. You need to shop around for a good photographer and seek advice on drafting an actor's resume. Referrals from established actors can be helpful as well. Do some homework first and find out about the agencies you'll be sending stuff to. It is not a good idea to answer ads in newspapers or magazines; use reliable sources among teachers, actors, TAMAC, ACTRA, Actor's equity and publications like this one to find legitimate talent agencies.

Having an agent doesn't mean that you can sit back and relax. Whether you have an agent or not, it is always important to brush up on skills, learn new ones, and gain experience. Check out local workshops, classes, community theatre and independent theatre companies; get involved in a fringe or festival show. Sandi Sloan (The Sloan Agency) has two words for the new kids getting started: "persistence pays" and goes on to say: "I have a lot of respect for those young kids because it's tough out there." It's not glamorous; it's no business to be in if you want to be a star; you have to be prepared for a lot of rejection while you're working your butt off trying to get auditions and trying to pay the bills with a part-time job.

You may want to set yourself goals in terms of "in ... number of years, I want to accomplish ..." And, as impossible as it may seem, try to keep a life happening in spite of all the hard work you have ahead of you. Any outside interests that you maintain can only round you out both as an actor and as a person.

So, you still want it? Wanting it is important too. You have to want it, believe in yourself and work like hell to do it. A very wise acting teacher once said that "we are the damned." He was half joking but it only goes to show that a sense of humour about all this craziness is paramount to keeping your sanity. It's hard work, but when it's working, it's damn fun. As Jennifer Goldie (Golden Talent) says: "Assume your position! Carpe diem!" Cheers!
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

i am a 14 year old boy from minnesota and i just want to live my personal dream and just wanting a little bit of the world. Any role will be okay as long as i am shown


Posted by Daniel Lema (2012-01-20) 5396

hi my name is lerato liralover or you can call me liraliciuz (20), i am soo inlove inlove with dancing and being a presenter but most of my cousin says my body is suitable for being a model. i want to well known dancer or a presenter hence i need your help in oder to succed. would love to hear from you.

Posted by lerato makgai (2011-11-22) 5233

hi, My name is Danica won I always wanted to be an actress i like to sing i woulld love to start an acting careeri tried acting it turned out great i always wanted to get discovered because of my talents i used to play the piano and i would like to become an actress thanks

Posted by danica (2011-09-23) 4801

hi, my name is Sara Sylvester, I am fourteen years old and in highschool. I have a passion for singing and acting, and I have been told that i am great! I am taking voice and I am in the Brandon Conservatory Choir. Singing means so much to me and i can't imagine my life without it! When i am performing i feel so alive, and the stage is like my second home. I know i have to do something with my talent but i don't know how to get discovered...any thoughts? I really appreciate the time you took to read this, and any help would be greatly appreciated thanks so much c:

Posted by Sara Sylvester (2010-11-16) 2779

Hello; I am an 18 year old girl whose name is Casey Charlotte and I enjoy being able to take on a role of someone that is not me. I love pretending and having the chance to be someone else for a while. I love acting, it has always been a passion of mine. I would love more information on how I can break out into this industry. I want to do something in the world with my acting, and with what I could do. Please; I would really, really appreciate your help. Thank you.

-Casey Charlotte

Posted by Casey (2010-06-25) 2611

Hello, I am a eighteen year old girl,who is passionate about acting.I love acting and all my life I have always wanted to act, I am currently studying Public Relation and will to get a partime job as an actress,I am hardwork love to communicate with people i do not know,I also know how to sing,but if i can find an agent who will help me succeed...


Posted by Gugu (2010-03-16) 2427

my name is hannah i am 13 year old i have always loved acting for years and i have bee told i got some talent but i dont know where to start i have look for agents i have looked to auditions i need a little push in the right directions we arent a rich family but we arent poor if anybody can help me please can u

Posted by hannah (2010-01-17) 2306

My Name Is Jessica Leger.Im 14 Years Old.Im Younge.But I Have A Passion For Singing And Acting. I Know That It's Got To Be My Calling. I Was In The Robert Power's Company But Hes A Rip Off! I Wont Give Up On This! I Want Nothing More Than To Be An Entertainer. I Have Been Singing Ever Since I Could Talk. Choir Is Everything To me. Aint Really Acted That Much But I Want Too. I Have Been Acting Since I Was 10. I Love It! When Im Singing Or Acting I Feel So Complete And Happy. Lol May Showed A Lil Stupid But To Me Its Everything.My Family Doesnt Have All The Money In The World. I Dont Know Wat To Do To Get My Dream,Plz Help Me out


Posted by Jessica Leger (2009-09-13) 2080

I'm 16 and a junior in high school never acted, but I'm very good at making people laugh and i was thinking of doing stand up/ Acting/ improv for starters and getting my name out. Me and my family are low on income I'm not looking at acting as a way out, its just that i have a desire for some reason to act. I have no previous experience in acting. I'm new to this game. But is it to late to start at 16? Ive done my homework and i see that most "actors" are born with middle class parents who can afford acting lessons and taking them all over to make their kids known. My mom and sis are all i have. And we have trouble making it. But through our odds we're making it. Also say i did get it, my family cant move to Hollywood or New York. If your in a low income family then what happens were do you go? Anyway I'm in band right and i play the drums i was going to change one of my electives to drama class. And beginning my career their. Before i wanted to be an actor i wanted to be a doctor or a video game designer. I figure that if i had to choose between those i should choose the one ill most enjoy. So what if you were in my shoes. what would you do?

P.S. this letter is to help me figure out what i should do and thank you for your time.


Posted by Michael Young (2009-06-22) 1635

i want to be a actor and a dancer

Posted by tykeam jones (2009-06-10) 1569

Please Send Me more Information

Posted by Manuel Guillermo Vallejo (2009-02-16) 1017

I've been shooting home video and scits, ect., How can I take what I shot and
present it to prospective managers to determin if I've got what it takes
to be an actor.

Posted by G.L. Skywinn (2007-12-06) 10

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