Selecting a talent agency can be daunting and as an aspiring actor, you want to find a talent agent who has your best interests in mind, but one of the biggest problems for aspiring actors and acting school graduates is finding an agent who will do just that. Someone who will work diligently to source you work, give you professional advice and nurture your budding acting career. Many young actors make the mistake of signing up with the first talent agent who offers them representation, thankful to be accepted, with no thought as to whether the agent is right for them or whether the agent is honest and getting quality acting work for those that they represent.
Once you have made the decision to find a casting agency or talent agency, here are a number of points you should consider:
Selecting a talent agency through word of mouth
Word of mouth is one of the most reliable ways of finding out who is a great talent agent and who is not. Recommendations don’t actually need to be directly spoken by a person as you can do your own research online by looking at reviews, blogs and articles. Agents’ reputations change from time to time depending on who is associated with them, so it’s important to shop around. Don’t just commit with the first agent who shows a bit of interest in you.
If you know any industry professionals, acting classmates, teachers or family members who are involved in acting, ask them the following questions about agents.
- Who do you recommend and who should I stay away from? Why?
- How do I contact the agency and who do I speak to?
- Do you know anyone who could refer me?
Trust your gut feeling
When you meet with a talent agent, if you don’t feel right or something feels amiss, it’s generally a sign that the agent is not for you. You will be forming a relationship with this agent so it’s important that you feel comfortable straight away. More often than not, if something doesn’t feel right, it might be a scam.
What your talent agency shouldn’t be doing
When deciding which talent agency to go with, there are a number of activates that you should be wary of. Be very cautious if a talent agent advises you to sign up to classes with them. It is just a way for them to increase income for themselves. If they are a reputable agent with reputable industry contacts, they will support themselves doing what they do best which is representing you and their other clients. Always keep in mind that it is not the talent agents’ job to train actors. If an agent stipulates that you must attend their classes or tells you that they won’t represent you unless you do classes with them, look for another agent.
Talent agency finance and fees
You should be able to get answers on your agents’ financial arrangements without any hassle. Find out whether the agent has a trust account that your money goes into that is separate from their ‘everyday’ expenses account. It will be more likely that you will receive payments for jobs if the agent has this type of arrangement. Always check carefully what percentage of your income the agent will take in commission. If you are signing with a SAG-AFTRA franchisee, they are not able to charge a commission of any more than 10%. For those agents not with SAG-AFTRA, commission of any more than 20% is questionable.
Check to see if the agent charges any upfront or on-going fees and what will the fees cover. Find out what expenses you may be expected meet. There are often some up-front costs that talent-agents will ask for however, these costs should be minimal as the agent should be making their income from getting their actors work. If the agent is asking for any more than $150-$200, you should take a serious look at this.
Before you commit to a particular talent agent, find out if there is a contract that the agent wants you to sign. Be wary about this as contracts that lock you with a particular agent for a certain length of time are not a good idea. Always read the fine print. It isn’t out of the ordinary for an agent to ask you to sign a contract as the reputable agents will have one to protect both you and them, but just read them carefully and if there is something that you don’t like, speak up and ask questions. You have every right to do that.