... Which One, If any!
This is probably one question that I get asked about more than anything else, especially by newbies in the entertainment industry, although these days a lot of performing colleges have their own agencies or recommend an agent with which to go to. Sometimes this might work depending on your levels of training and abilities as a performer and how strong you are about where you are heading or what level you want to attain, ie: become a principal performer/ lead in shows or maybe an actor in film and television.
Quite often these agencies will just stick you in a ‘pigeon hole’ because they have seen you come up through the ranks of the college and seen your talents where they lie, BUT only at that point. If you are like most performers, leaving college is only the beginning of your career and as such you need to hone your craft, get better at what you do OR even learn new tools of the trade. For example, if you are a great singer and dancer you may want to add acting as an asset to your line of skills, of course you may be alright as an actor now, but you know that it won’t get you that prized role you have your eye on, unless you increase your skill levels as an actor.
Choosing an agent can be daunting to say the least, quite often you will know someone who is already with an agency and you may ask, what are they like? But the fact remains are they right for you? Now I am going to say something to you that you probably do not want to hear, so here goes. Choosing an agent is a personal thing, it doesn’t matter how well known the agency is, how many great actors/performers they have on their books, if they are not right for you both on a personal or business level, then no amount of experience on your part or theirs will amend this relationship. I have seen new and experienced performers get totally lost in an agency, because they don’t have a good personal relationship with them and they don’t keep in the agents faces with what they are up to or would like to do. There will be too many others on their books doing exactly that, getting in their faces and telling them what they want.
I know only too well how most agents work. They don’t have time to sift through everyone of their people on their books and find out from each and everyone if they have become better as an actor or as a dancer or as a singer, taken on a new line in voice-over work or moving toward choreography or a course in directing. All they know is what you came in with and that is what they will sell you as, unless you tell them otherwise. It is so important to have the lines of communication open at all times.
The complications don’t stop there I’m afraid, you then have to decide what type of agent you will go with. There are some agents who generalise and cover a multitude of categories, while this may sound great they will more than likely lean to an area of expertise. Or another main concern here is that they get on their books, actors/performers who cover each category and make sure that
‘Greg’ the actor only does film, ‘Jenny’ the dancer/singer only does Musicals and the husband and wife team ‘Fred & ‘Fredetta" who do voice-over work, never stray from that area. They do this because THEY are covering all the areas that are within their business and that they will hopefully have one or a few of their artists working in each category at any one time. AND as long as they have that area filled and have commission coming in they don’t always care if anyone else gets work. Can you see what can and WILL happen? That is why I say to you to be in their faces and letting them know you are keen and that you do exist. Not to the point of annoyance but a couple of times a week just call up just to say hello and give them any news they may find useful about you, and maybe call in to the office once or twice a month, but PLEASE only go in with something to talk about.
It has been suggested and many have done it, where they employ more than one agency to cover specific areas. So, let’s say you love Film acting but you also want a piece of the action in Theatre for Musicals, then you can join one agency for ‘film’ and another for ‘theatre’, both these agencies specialise in their field and are not concerned about you doing other stuff, because that doesn’t interest them. I will say though, you have to be diligent in keeping a diary of all your availability and each of the agencies would have to know your moves so that they don’t double book you for auditions, go-sees or a job. They will become irate if you have led them astray with dates of your availability. Let them down once and they will think long and hard about sending you to anything else. I should also say that not many agents like the idea of you being on someone else’s books, even if they don’t cover the area of expertise the other agency does.
Which brings me to another point, a lot of agents, once you are with them, tend to make the actor think you are working for them, it happens to be the other way around you are employing them to act on your behalf and the rest has to be a mutual agreement. Also, I will point out here and now, that it is your job to do the networking, be at all the parties, gatherings, special events, photo shoots etc and it is your agents job to firstly, be there on call during business hours (and beyond sometimes), to sing your praises to potential employers, for them to know exactly what you are capable of (this is also your responsibility, to let the agent know), put you up for the correct jobs, and be your expert negotiator.
Below are some links to lists of agents in most of the states in Australia. There is also a link to another site that has Australian casting agents and some overseas ones as well. Please remember that casting agencies contact normal agents to cast through them, not individuals ringing them, it’s just good to know who the casting agencies are and what sort of work they cast for, so that when your agent sends you, you have a better knowledge of who you're going to see, also you can say to your agent "can I have a ‘Go-see’ with Mullinars" or whoever! Just get seen , put your face out there and eventually they will remember you.
Chookas, break a leg!