Actors landing a talent agent may be the simplest career chore on an actor’s to do list. The harder toil? Keeping an agent; growing a successful professional relationship with the talent agent demands of the actor more than just booking gigs and paying the agent commission.
Hollywood and Broadway talent agents are approached and asked, “What can an actor do to maintain a healthy actor-to-agent relationship? The variety of talent agents either have offices on the east or west coast, or are bi-coastal. The agents represent TONY, Emmy, and/or OSCAR winners. Several talent agents represent developmental actors. Each talent agent responding has a long-standing reputation for championing actors with a genuine love for the actor’s craft.
Included among the agents are: Michael Goddard (Owner Partner – CGF Talent), Craig Holzberg (Owner – Avalon Artists), Ann Kelly (Senior Legit Agent – Judy Boals, Inc.), Ken Melamed (Owner Partner – Bret Adams, Ltd.), Jack Menashe (Owner formerly of Independent Artists Agency), Chris Nichols (Owner – Revolution Talent), and Diane Riley (Harden-Curtis & Associates).
10 Tips from Talent Agents to Actors on a Successful Actor to Agent Relationship:
1. Take responsibility for your career.
One talent agent is resolute on actor career responsibility:
“Proactive clients—we like people who participate in their career. I can’t feel like I want it more than you do. [The actor] knows what’s going on. I can ask, ‘What’s out there that you are right for?’ and they can name 5 things off the top of their head.
They realize that this is a business, and they engage as if they are the president of their own company.”
2. “Communication, communication, communication!” one agent echoes her colleagues. She continues, “If you want to be seen for a project, give us as much info as possible i.e. ‘I know the director from grad school.’ Or, ‘I did a 4-week intensive with the casting director, etc.’”
A NYC talent agency owner agrees and expands on the importance of actor-to-agent communication:
“Communication is the most important part of the actor/agent relationship. Any time I have ever had the relationship go south it is because communication has broken down on one side or the other. Like any relationship, [communication] takes work. I don’t ever want clients to feel like that they can’t talk to me. In this age of emails/text I find that actual communication is often lost.
90% of the contact between actor and agent is on the phone or email. When you are going to be coming by the office MAKE SURE YOU LOOK GOOD. It is our frame of reference for you. There are times where you will have to come by on a moment’s notice but if our frame of reference is of you with your hair under a bandanna and wearing a pair of Uggs it makes our job harder.”
A competing talent agency owner adds that communication is organic:
“I’ve been either an agent, or an assistant, or a casting assistant for a lot of years now and the one thing I find comforting when talking to my clients or even other actors is the sense of family; that we are all in this together and in that, there is a respect that can’t be made up. It must feel authentic when deep in conversation about our business and if it doesn’t—you know it. I can’t fake the thrilling moments I have when an actor is so good they sweep you off your feet. I love it when we can talk; when we can trust each other in the work each of us does in search of ‘the best.’
To call a client a friend really makes me feel good. We are more than just a business relationship. There is passion both ways. A feeling that I treasure and am thankful for.”
3. Be contract savvy. Contribute to negotiations.
4. Be ready when opportunity knocks. Be prepared and on time for all auditions, and meetings with industry.
5. Constantly work on honing your skills. No matter how proficient you believe your skills continue to take on-camera classes, dance classes, acting classes, and actor branding-marketing classes. A good portion of the agents agents stress that their clients take business of acting classes no matter how proficient the actor may believe themselves at marketing who they are in and out of the audition room. One agent was emphatic:
“We’re partners in your business. Equal to me, I expect my actors to effectively engage in expanding their marketability. The business of the business is constantly changing. Continue to learn it by taking classes on the business of acting.”
6. Continually provide your representation with updated materials, headshots, resumes and reels.
7. Have defined goals for your career, and a strategy to attain them.
8. Focus on the long-term and not just what’s happening now.
9. Focus on booking the job for every audition room you walk into.
10. Network. Network. Network.
Each of the talent agents emphasize the absolute need for an actor to be a networker, including this talent agency owner’s advisory:
“Go to EPAs. Get in front of casting directors who may have forgotten or are unaware of you. In addition, attend casting director workshops. The more a casting director sees you the more they remember you.
Revel in your relationships with casting. Send ‘Thank you’ notes. Casting and agents do read and appreciate these. Don’t listen to the naysayer agents and casting directors who babble that they never read a thank you card. They’re either liars, or overly self-centered.”
The talent agent-actor relationship is a marriage. The union is firstly based on mutual compatibility. The actor going into the relationship solely with the thought of, “What can this agent do for me,” is the actor bound for a short-lived career. While an agent collects 10% commission from the actor the duo of actor and agent is a 50-50 partnership promoting the actor to attain desired goals.
Actors who believe the agent “does all the work” while the actor reclines waiting for texts and emails from their champion is the actor with a career coming to a close faster than the curtain fell on the original Broadway musical Carrie.
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, Elon and Wright State University. 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 www.PaulRussell.net.
Casting Directors, Talent Agents, Directors & Actors
Love the Best-Selling Book for Actors
ACTING: Make It Your Business!
Actors everywhere who are trying to succeed in the business, young or old, on stage or on camera, anywhere in the world, take note:
This is your roadmap!”
— BERNARD TELSEY, casting director – CSA
(NBC’s Peter Pan – LIVE!, Into The Woods – The Movie, Wicked, Sex & The City)
“All the right questions asked and answered…
and with a generous portion of good humor.”
— SUZANNE RYAN, casting director, CSA
(Law & Order, Unforgettable)
“I love this book!
Paul’s book tells you what you don’t want to hear but really need to know
EVERY actor should read this book!”
— DIANE RILEY, Senior Legit Talent Agent
Harden-Curtis & Associates
“Paul’s book made me proud to be a part of this community we call ‘show!'”
— KAREN ZIEMBA, TONY & Drama Desk Award Winning Actress
“Paul Russell’s words are not only blunt & accurate they zero in on all the questions every actor wants to know but is afraid to ask!”
— KEN MELAMED, Talent Agency Partner
Bret Adams, Ltd.
“I had my Business of Acting, BFA Seniors, class do book reports on a variety of “business of acting” books and ACTING: Make It Your Business came out a clear winner—considered to be essential for their bookshelves!
— Dr. NINA LeNOIR,
Dept. Chair – Dept. of Thtr.