Unlocking Opportunities: A Guide on How to Get an Acting Agent.

Are you an aspiring actor looking to take your career to the next level? One of the crucial steps in the journey to success is securing representation by an acting agent. Having an agent can open doors to auditions, casting calls, and career opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach. 

If you’re at the beginning of your acting career you might find yourself asking:

  • How do I get an Acting Agent? 
  • Where do I find a list of Acting Agents in Australia? 
  • What do I need to approach Acting Agents to represent me? 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the steps you can take to find and secure the right agent for you. We have also included a list of Australian Acting Agents.

Research: 

Start by researching acting agents in your area or the industry niche you’re interested in (VoiceOver, musical theatre etc). 

Look for agencies that represent actors with a similar profile to yours and have a track record of success. Websites, industry directories, and social media platforms can be valuable resources for finding potential agents, the list at the bottom of this article sourced directly from the MEAA website can also help. 

Polish Your Materials: 

Before approaching agents, make sure you have professional materials ready to impress them. This includes a well-crafted resume, headshots that showcase your range and personality, and a showreel or portfolio highlighting your acting skills and experience. My course Career Supercharge can help in getting everything together before you approach agents.
*Don’t forget you should only approach each agent once every 6 months as a rough guide – so it’s best to make sure everything is ready to go BEFORE contacting them the first time. 

Network: 

Networking is key in the entertainment industry, and it can also help you find an agent. Attend industry events, workshops, and seminars where you can meet agents, casting directors, and other industry professionals. Build genuine connections and don’t be afraid to reach out and introduce yourself.

Submit Applications: 

Once you’ve identified potential agents, submit applications according to their submission guidelines. This may involve sending an email with your materials, attending an open casting call, or meeting with an agent for a formal interview. Tailor your submissions to each agent and showcase why you’d be a valuable addition to their roster.

Follow Up:

After submitting your materials or attending meetings, don’t forget to follow up with agents to express your continued interest and gratitude for their consideration. A polite follow-up email or phone call can help keep you on their radar and show your professionalism and enthusiasm.

Securing representation by a talent agent is a significant milestone in an actor’s career journey. By following these steps and remaining persistent, you can increase your chances of finding the right agent who believes in your talent and is committed to helping you succeed in the industry.

Australian Agents List:

Here is a list of Australian Agents, also available on the MEAA website:

Queensland Agents List

New South Wales Agents List

Western Australia Agents List

Victoria Agents List

Tasmania Agents List

South Australia Agents List

Showreel Guide

What are Showreels and what are they for?

A showreel, also known as a demo reel or a demo tape, is a concise video compilation that showcases an actor’s or performer’s talent, skills, and range. It serves as a visual portfolio and a promotional tool to demonstrate an actor’s abilities to casting directors, agents, or potential employers in the entertainment industry.

What do Casting Directors NEED to see on your reel?
Casting Directors and industry professionals want to see your best acting work on your reel. Showreels play a vital role in the casting process, as they allow casting directors and industry professionals to quickly assess an actor’s abilities and determine whether they are a good fit for a particular project. It is often the first impression an actor makes on industry decision-makers, and a well-crafted showreel can significantly enhance an actor’s chances of securing auditions and landing roles.

What are the ‘trends’ in Showreels?

Showreels are evolving to reflect our current needs in casting, and our digital environment.

One trend we are seeing: Many Actor’s don’t just have one showreel anymore. Different accents, styles, or even languages can be included on different reels to help show your abilities.

It can be very useful to have a Vimeo or Youtube page that you use to showcase your abilities. Clips of any other skills (dancing, singing, unique talents) can be a useful addition as a separate option to your main showreel. Attach a link to this page to any Actor databases you are a member of and update it frequently. You might decide to upload other skills to this page. Tip: keep your showreel as the main focus and have your other videos as supplementary options for the viewer.

How do I get a good showreel?

If you don’t have enough professional footage to make up a good showreel that shows your best acting work, don’t panic.
Showreels are not about production values, they’re about your best acting work. One way to get your best acting work on your Showreel is to use a Self-Test or Self-Tape format, either using a reader or creating a scene as a monologue. Check out my online course Self-Tape Your Showreel for expert help with this.
Filming on a smartphone is fine, as long as we can see you and hear you.

Should I pay a professional to shoot my reel for me?

My advice, your money is better spent on quality Acting Training. If your work is consistently good and you are getting it in front of the right people the professional jobs will come.

  • Using the Self-Tape format advantages:
  • You can update your reel frequently to reflect changes in your acting abilities.
  • You can supplement your professional work with contrasting self-tape scenes to demonstrate a wider acting range.
  • Cheaper – professionally shot showreels can cost upwards of $3000.
  • Lower stress – being in a place where you are comfortable can be a great thing when recording a scene for your reel.
  • Practicing the art of the self-test or self-tape is always a good thing with more and more casting being done in a self-test format.

Showreel Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Do:
  • Keep it short and sweet. It’s unlikely that Casting Directors will have time to watch it all anyway. We are often very rushed.
  • Include your best work at the start and keep it short.
  • Self-Tapes are fine.

Some common mistakes to avoid on your Showreel:

  • DON’T: Use long clips or clips that focus on other actors instead of you. We want to see your acting, we don’t need to see establishing shots, long pauses or other characters. Casting is a high pressure, time-sensitive job and we don’t have time to skip through your reel to try to see your acting.
  • DON’T: Save the best for last. Show us your best work upfront, Casting Directors often only have time to watch 30 seconds of your reel. Hiding your best scene at the end isn’t the best idea here.
  • DON’T: Include clips from every project you’ve ever worked on, that’s what your resume is for.
  • DON’T Spend a lot of money on a ‘professionally shot’ showreel. Self-Tapes are fine, as long as they show you best acting work. You will grow and change as an artist, and your showreel will need to be updated often to reflect that fact.
  • DON’T spend a fortune shooting scenes to look like a ‘professional’ production. Casting Directors always can tell the difference.

Overall, a showreel is a powerful tool that allows actors to showcase their talent, leaving a lasting impression and increasing their chances of being considered for exciting acting opportunities within the entertainment industry. Check out Self-Tape Your Showreel to get professional coaching on your Showreel.

What we should be learning from Character Actors.

What can you learn from Character Actors?

I have a personal fascination with the concept of ‘character actors’. Whatever way you look at it, they’re pretty cool. They’re like the secret agents of the acting world, consistently working in different quirky roles. It’s so great to watch Actors bring a unique energy to a role. Bill Camp, Jennifer Coolidge, Dale Dickey, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Jason Mantzoukas are some of the brilliant character actors who always captivate audiences with their performances.

But what sets these character actors apart?

Physical Traits:

Character actors often don’t fit the conventional standards of attractiveness, but they have succeeded in an industry that can be very superficial. They embrace Stella Adler’s excellent quote: “You have to understand your best. Your best isn’t Barrymore’s best or Olivier’s best or my best, but your own. Every person has his norm. And in that norm every person is a star. Olivier could stand on his head and still not be you. Only you can be you. What a privilege! Nobody can reach what you can if you do it. So do it. We need your best, your voice, your body. We don’t need for you to imitate anybody, because that would be second best. And second best is no better than your worst.”  

These performers have figured out how to capitalise on their unique qualities and turn them into captivating character traits.

Training:

These performers are usually well-educated, but their training tends to be more diverse and resourceful than a standard university degree. They seize learning opportunities wherever they can find them. Reading background biographies of character actors will have you come across a litany of unusual jobs – from Robin Willians as a street mime, Whoopi Goldberg’s time as a morgue makeup artist and phone sex operator and John Hamm as a pornography set-dresser.

Creating Characters:

Character actors don’t wait for auditions to develop their characters. They make bold choices and cultivate these personas over time. Iconic examples like Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna and Andy Kaufman’s Tony Clifton took time to evolve alongside the performers themselves. If you love creating, then it’s important to create. Waiting for someone to come to you with your dream role pre-written is likely to only result in frustration. Create those characters for yourself and learn to enjoy your craft.

How can you be more like them?

  • Work on different aspects of your acting training to become a well-rounded performer.
  • Practice doing impressions and impersonate your favourite characters to improve your skills. 
  • Focus on voice work to handle big choices and loud moments without straining your voice.
  • Step out of your comfort zone by trying new activities that challenge and develop your craft. Sometimes the best way to stretch and grow as a performer is to step out of your comfort zone and into something new. 
  • Check out my course Character Chameleon to help you learn bold character interpretation techniques that will make you shine in the audition room. In this online course we delve into creating characters that align with roles you are most likely to get cast in, so you can make bold choices that show on screen and catch the attention of directors, producers and casting directors.

In summary, character actors possess an authentic and mesmerising presence on screen. They celebrate themselves and their uniqueness while bringing remarkable energy to every role they play. Emulating their boldness and dedication to their craft can elevate your own acting journey.

Is comedy essential study for Actors?

Have you ever wondered how comedians are able to make an effortless jump to serious drama roles? 

Whether you’re a seasoned actor or just starting in the industry, comedy includes a lot of valuable skills that can set you apart in the audition room. Some of these benefits include:

1. Physicality:

Comedy often relies on physicality to enhance humour. In studying comedy you will learn how to use your body as a comedic tool, understanding the nuances of movement, expression, and gestures to bring humour to life. From pratfalls to subtle gestures, mastering physical comedy is a key component of becoming a well-rounded actor. 

2. Timing and Pacing:

Timing is everything, and comedy is the best place to learn it. Acting For Comedy delves into the delicate balance of timing and pacing, teaching you how to deliver punchlines and humorous moments with precision and impact. Understanding the rhythm of comedy is crucial, and this course provides the tools to perfect your comedic timing.

3. Character Development:

Creating memorable and comedic characters requires a unique set of skills. In Acting for Comedy we will study characters with distinct quirks and traits and why they resonate with audiences (and Casting Directors)

You’ll explore the subtleties of humour in character development, learning how to infuse your roles with comedic elements that leave a lasting impression.

In conclusion, Comedy is not just about making people laugh; it’s about honing your craft as an actor. It can make you a more versatile performer and also increase your chances of landing roles by becoming more dynamic in the audition room. 

So, why wait? Embrace the laughter and elevate your acting career with the art of comedic performance.

Check out my online course Acting For Comedy to help develop these parts of your acting repertoire. I hope to see you there,

Peter.

Actor’s Unions

Should I join an Actor’s union?

Unions play a vital role in the entertainment industry by establishing rates of pay, working conditions, and residuals for actors. Through extensive and persistent negotiations over time, actor’s unions have successfully secured the favourable conditions they enjoy today. When you receive payment on set, it’s a direct result of the hard work and advocacy done by these unions, ultimately benefiting you as an actor.

As a Casting Director, I support having a healthy, talented, and well-rewarded pool of actors to draw from. The people who finance and make the films benefit from that too.

I also support productions that prioritise good working conditions for performers. 

In some countries, you have to pass fairly rigorous entry conditions in order to get the benefits. For SAG/AFTRA you must have credits and be a professional actor among other entry requirements. You get significant benefits including health care. See the website for details.

If you are starting out in your career, you might not be ready to join. In Australia, the MEAA membership conditions are low and so are the fees. You can attend Union events and you can become a financial member when you are ready. See their website for details. 

Please see the Actors Equity in the UK for their entry conditions.

Ultimately, supporting a union that helps you will help your career. Joining when you can or when you feel ready will be a good choice if you are serious about Acting. 

Helpful Links: 

MEAA – Australia – https://www.meaa.org/

EQUITY – UK – https://www.equity.org.uk/

SAG AFTRA – USA – Union and Non-Union Work – https://www.sagaftra.org/ 

The Acting Agent and the Actor relationship.

What does an agent do for you? 

It can be very exciting to join the books with a new agent, but it’s important to put realistic expectations on the relationship. Follow this guide for Actors to have a great relationship with your Agent. 

Your agent helps with:  

  1. Representation: An agent serves as the actor’s representative in the entertainment industry. They act as the point of contact between the actor and casting directors, producers, directors, and other industry professionals. The agent advocates for the actor’s interests and negotiates on their behalf.
  2. Audition Opportunities: Agents are responsible for seeking out and securing audition opportunities for their clients. They have relationships with casting directors and industry contacts, allowing them to submit their actors for suitable roles and arrange auditions.
  3. Contract Negotiation: When an actor is offered a role, the agent negotiates the terms of the contract, including compensation, duration of the project, and other contractual details. The agent’s goal is to secure the best possible deal for their client while ensuring that the terms are fair and in line with industry standards.

What can you do to make your relationship work with your agent?

Have good headshots that look like you.
Have a variety of headshots for them to pitch with (4-8 very different ones is plenty)

Have a showreel with your best work on it. An agent can’t sell your work if they don’t have an example of your work to show. Examples of your acting work are the proof that you can do the job you say you can do. Without it, well, there is only belief and the hope that you can do it, and most Casting Directors won’t take the chance of suggesting and Actor they are not 100% sure about.
It’s the same with casting directors, directors and producers. Even with a good audition we want an example or two of your acting work to help us decide if you are right for a role.
Don’t put bad work up. Casting Directors, producers, directors etc WILL assume this is the best you can do. A showreel scene or reel should show the very best you can do. You can shoot scenes at home with a smart phone, good lighting and sound, shooting a script from the internet. You can make acting magic anywhere! 

Check out my course Self-Tape Your Showreel for help getting great work on your showreel. 

Call your agent for business related things only.
Keep them updated on your training. Send them new examples of your work every so often. They get genuinely excited to see great work you are filming in class or at home.
Invite them to plays and film galas you are in. They won’t always be able to come but will love the invite.

Send the occasional supportive message. The job of being an agent can be hard. It’s good to be in the front of your agents mind. While the occasional chat about your acting career is important, it can’t be all you talk about. Also, your agent needs to be focused on the hunt for work and do their work as an agent.

Let them know when you are going away for longer than a few days. Let them know you will be available to self-test if anything comes up while you are away, and keep your self-test skills sharp so you can be ready. 

A few don’ts:

Expecting Emotional Support. While hopefully you will have a support relationship with your agent, they aren’t there for emotional support. Make sure you have someone else to debrief with after an audition or when you’re nervous before a performance.

Private Coaching. Your Agent is not a drama school and it’s not their responsibility to coach you before an audition or self-test. Make sure you are committing to your ongoing training as an actor. Being an Actor is like running your own small business, it’s not your Agent’s responsibility to do it for you. You need to be attentive to your tax, transport, networking and training independent of your Agent. 

The agent is like one of your employees as you go about the business of being a professional Actor. 

It’s a myth that the agent is the only one to find you acting work. As an actor your must become well versed on all people and companies that might employ you.

Q&A

Should I represent myself? 

Representing yourself is fine to do but not usually recommended long term. One of your agent’s jobs is to protect your rights. 

Your agent will assure the minimum payments are met. There are many moving parts even in the most basic deal and your agent will keep an eye on them. There are some jobs that don’t go through an agent where the deals are far worse for the actors than they they should be. Unfortunately there are people who will exploit the lack of knowledge of actors and use their desire to be on set as a way to get the talent they want at a very low price.

Example:

A commercial for a makeup brand, you are offered $500 for one mornings work. Pretty good! Let’s say this is for a global brand and you’ve sold them your image for $500. They have included in the contract that they can use your image anywhere they want forever (in perpetuity is the term used). This means you cannot appear in another similar commercial, ever. Also, you run the risk of being only associated with that brand and no other advertising company will touch you.

Also, You may become so well known for that commercial, it could rule out of a lot of acting roles. This can happen. A comedic example is the TV show Party Down. One of the main characters can only work a bar job because everyone remembers his one line in a beer ad saying ‘Are we having fun yet?’. It’s fiction but it does happen in real life.
Therefore, your agent makes sure fair union standards are met and you are correctly remunerated for your work and the use of your image.

 I got my acting job by myself so why should I pay my agent a percentage? 

My advice – Always pay your agent. There is usually an agreement for you to pay around 10 percent of whatever acting work you get. Even if you get acting work yourself, it is my advice to pay your agent the 10%. It’s a long term relationship and you want them there with you – negotiating your deal and looking out for your interests. 

Where do I find Agents in Australia?

MEAA has helpfully compiled a list of recommended Agents for you to contact, listed by Australian State. View the Agents List.

Should I leave my Agent? I’m not getting much work, they don’t call me very often. 

Here is a checklist for you before you decide to make any big changes. You should be able to tick all these things off confidently. 

  • Great headshots that represent how you currently look. 
  • Showreel that shows your best acting work. 
  • You keep your databases, CastingNetworks, Showcast etc updated with your latest headshots, showreel and CV. 
  • Your CV or resume is up to date. 
  • You update your acting training frequently and promptly add it to your CV or Resume’. 
  • You are available to go to auditions (often at short notice)

These are all important things to address before you think about leaving your Agent. Actors frequently blame their Agent for their lack of success in the industry, but more often than not the Actor needs to do a lot of work on themselves before the Agent can confidently put them forward for speaking roles. 

Don’t forget, the Agent gets paid a 10-20% commission on any paid work you do. That means that 90% of the work needs to be done by you.

I highly recommend my online course Career Supercharge for help navigation all parts of the Australian Film Industry as an actor.