Your Interview with an Agent
by Katherine Mayfield
When you get that prized interview with a talent agent, you want to be as prepared as possible.
So, Tell Me About Yourself. Do these words strike fear into your heart? Or are you thinking, "Finally, someone wants to know about me!"? What do you say to such a broad opening line?
When you get that prized interview with an agent, you want to be as prepared as possible. You have copies of your favorite headshot and resume, neatly stapled and trimmed, plus a couple of monologues prepared in case the agent asks you to "Show me what you can do." But the first part of the interview is sometimes awkward for both agent and actor, as you both make an effort to get on the same wavelength. The agent has probably already seen your headshot and resume, and if you're lucky, he or she may have seen your work in a play or film. But the agent wants to get to know you a bit more personally, and to find out how you present yourself to people in the business. After all, if you work with the agent, he or she will be sending you to audition for other professionals in the business -- the agent wants to make sure that you'll present yourself professionally.
So the agent says, "Tell me a little about yourself." Or "What's your background?" What do you say? You should prepare ahead of time for this moment, just as you've prepared your photos and monologues. Here's your opportunity to be a writer, to create exactly the monologue that suits you as a person. And you should memorize and practice it, just as you would an audition piece, until you're completely confident about it.
If you have a hobby that is particularly interesting, such as stunt motorcycle riding, you can mention this. Try to give the agent as clear a picture of what's unique about you as you can (but remember to be professional -- you don't want to go too far over the "weird" line), and communicate from your true self, rather than putting on some kind of mask. You don't have to list every hobby you have -- "I do flower arranging, and I have seven cats, and I love books, and every Friday night I go swing dancing, and bird-watching on Saturdays. . ." In fact, it's better if you "distill" your monologue into a 15-30 second distinct image of who you are. Agents are usually short on time, and the more clear your presentation, the more they'll see you as a professional.
Finally, remember that if an agent has invited you in for an interview, he or she is already interested. You don't have to push. Be as relaxed as you can, be as much your "real self" as you can, and relate to the agent on a personal level, as you do a friend or acquaintance. The agent probably hopes you are a down-to-earth, interesting (and professional) person, someone he or she might enjoy working with. View the interview as one of several paths leading to many possibilities, rather than as a career success or failure test.