How One Actor Got a Talent Agent | Answers for Actors

March 9, 2013 at 9:00 am | Posted in acting | Leave a comment
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PR_sm[Note from Paul Russell: Ian Gould, a great guy and  Access to Agents student, has landed what many actors try to doggedly obtain day-after-day in an actor’s mapping to representation. His clear-eyed candor of his trek to a talent agent is both humorous and instructive. Ian, sharing his journey’s tools to getting an agent, is this week’s insightful Answers for Actors guest blogger. An acting-career actor-to-actor must read. (Thank you Ian!)]

Answers for Actors guest blogger, Ian Gould:

Ian GouldI had a brand-new experience recently despite many years as an actor in the Big Apple: an agent offered to sign me.

Many actors believe that an acting career follows a particular path: first you find an agent, then the agent gets you auditions, then you book work, then you do the job. For some actors, that might even be true, but it was certainly not the case for me. I pursued agents as soon as I finished graduate school, and got some encouraging feedback, but no one offered to take me on. A few months into my agent search it became abundantly clear that if this tall, quirky-looking character man was going to work professionally, he was going to have to get gigs on his own. I became, essentially, my own agent. This was tough to face, but I’m glad I did, because though I continued to pursue representation while I looked for work on my own, I got exactly no interest from agents. Not even freelance. For years.


Of course, building a career is a long game – a good amount of success is down to simple perseverance and accepting, as best you can, that unless you’re incredibly lucky it’s probably going to take years longer than you’d like. Or even were prepared for. And if you are incredibly lucky and find enormous success quickly and with little effort, you could find that your early success also stalls out early – many’s the young 20-something breakout stars that woke up on their 35th birthdays having not worked in four years. It may be a blessing to have a career that develops slowly rather than one that burns out early, but it’s cold comfort when you’re in the early, slow stages that seem like they’ll never amount to anything.

You can’t make an agency sign you. You can pursue representation, and you can work to make the best impression possible, but you can’t control the result. I decided to focus on what I could control: I kept an ear to the ground for work at all the theaters that interested me. I met with casting directors, in addition to agents, at pay-to-play seminars. I sent headshots (with well-written, brief, specific cover letters) to casting directors, to theaters when they asked for them, and whenever I could, to directors of specific shows themselves (how did I figure out where/how to contact them? I had an edge. I’m going to share my secret: Google). And I kept working. I found small companies in Manhattan that did really good showcases and I worked with them (and they could care less if you have an agent or not). Because I didn’t want to be a professional agent-seeker or a professional auditioner, I wanted to be a professional actor. Actors act. Plus, performing in the city gives you something to invite industry to. I sent out lots of invites. I think once or twice someone from the industry even came.

Did I, unrepresented but indefatigable, usually get the appointments to audition for the high-paying gigs? No. Did I get them as often as not? No. Perhaps occasionally? Yes. Was I sometimes even called back? Yes. Did I land on Broadway? Only when the sidewalk was slippery.

I went to EPAs. Lots of them, lining up at dawn. Everything I could possibly get in for, I did. When I was non-Equity this was an all-but-hopeless exercise, but  eventually I got something that got me into the EMC program, and then it became merely a usually-hopeless exercise. But eventually I got my Equity card and then…well, I didn’t start booking things left and right, but I did start getting gigs from them. Eventually, really good gigs from them. So don’t let anyone tell you EPAs are a ridiculous thing the union makes theaters do that never result in anyone getting a job. I guarantee you at least 10-15% of EPAs are worth your time. How do you know which ones? You don’t. It’s a numbers game. But if you get good at auditioning for them they may just go somewhere (and I definitely “got good”. Some people just thrive in the audition room. For me, it was very much a learned skill. But master the skill well enough and no one can tell the difference).

When I at long last found the agent who wanted to sign me, I had amassed a resume as impressive as many of her clients’, and that’s what impressed her – anyone who can do that on their own is someone with marketability an agent can work with. So agent yourself – not only because you don’t have an agent, but because you’re essentially campaigning for one when you do. Besides, where else do you have to be at 7AM on a Tuesday?

Ian Gould has booked work off-Broadway, at over a dozen regional theaters, in two independent films and on an ABC pilot, and is very happy to finally have an agency contract.

AMIYB_AmazonRead advice from legendary talent agents,
plus Hollywood & Broadway actors in Paul Russell’s Best-Selling Book ACTING: Make It Your Business!





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Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul has taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU and has spoken at universities including Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit

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