Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hi, I'm a teenager from ____, how do I get an agent in LA?

OK, I feel I have to start here because if there is one thing I'm here for, it's to help actors (and aspiring actors) avoid scams and false promises.   Going forward, please know that this blog is not really geared towards actors under the age of 18 or out of towners, so if this article doesn't apply to you stick around there will be more to come.  But since there is an entire business PREYING on young, aspiring actors that don't live here and their families, and this is the most frequently asked question to me, I gotta knock this one out.

Ready?  So we're going to start with the one thing that anyone with dreams of being an actor who doesn't live in L.A. doesn't want to hear.  You simply can not get representation with an agent in Los Angeles if you don't live in Los Angeles.  (Or, you can't get representation with an agent in NYC if you don't live in NYC.)   Why?  Because agents have positioned themselves to cover projects that audition locally, which means they need actors that live locally.   These auditions can come up quickly, so flying in for auditions isn't realistic, especially when many of the projects you would need to audition for are jobs that will not pay you enough cover the cost of your flight & hotel assuming you beat out all the other great actors auditioning and book it!  Not to mention before you get to the booking stage, most auditions have callbacks or, in TV, a producers session (a 2nd, smaller audition) that you would ALSO need to attend, which could be held several days later.   

But! You're thinking.  What if I'm DISCOVERED???  More bad news.   NO agent is going to incur the expense of moving you here, or babysit you if you are underage and your parents won't move here with you, no matter how talented or special you are.  If a talent agent from NYC or LA happened to find you in a convention (for example), your family would STILL have to relocate to that city or be within a very reasonable driving distance to actually be with them.

"But why can't they just PUT me in something!?", you insist,  "I'm cute! I'm talented!  I know I can do this!!!"   Unfortunately, agents can't do that.  They can't "give" you work even though they wish they could!  They can only submit you for consideration to a casting director that is organizing auditions for whatever project they are currently casting.  (And by the way, that casting director doesn't make the ultimate decision either.  Their job is to provide the best pool of talent possible to their client --the person hiring them to cast  something-- to chose from, so they look at all the submissions from many agents and pick who they want to see.)   

This is one of reasons the HUGE nationwide business of modeling/acting "schools" like John Robert Powers, Barbizon, and John Casablancas drives me absolutely NUTS.  They are able to charge HUGE amounts of money for classes by deliberately selling to young, inexperienced actors and their parents the concept of being "discovered" and considered for projects afterwards that they physically CAN'T be considered for, because as long as you are in Columbus Ohio, you can't audition for that show on Nickelodeon that auditions in Los Angeles, or 99% of the commercials on the air, no matter how many thousands of dollars you spend to take their classes.   They very well may lead the way to very expensive conventions in NY and elsewhere that LA and NY talent agents attend, but remember before you go that the incredibly talented young actors who do go on to work after attending only do so because their family was willing to relocate to LA (or NY) afterwards...   Not to mention, most actors do not find their agents through conventions, there are much less expensive ways to do it, trust me.

And please know that no matter what a school may tell you about how famous you should be, only agents, not schools (and you can't by law be both), can represent actors for work.  Agents stay in business by taking a percentage of what you book through them (10% is standard in for "union" work but on "non-union" work that dominates the middle of the country 20% isn't uncommon--that's another blog), but no matter what the commission, they can not charge you money to be with them.  They don't have one photographer that you must shoot with, or specific classes that you must take.   And unlike an "audition" for a school that wants your parents money, agents have nothing to be gained by selling to crowds of people -- they have to be extremely picky with who they take on.  After all, if they don't think you can make money how could they stay in business?  10% of nothing is nothing.

That's a lot of bad news, sorry, but stay with me, all is not lost.  If you are under 18 and can't move here that's OK! because you will grow up and then you can move wherever you'd like :)  Also, you do NOT have to twiddle your thumbs and do nothing in the meantime.  Ready?

Three Things you can do, NOW

1.  There is a lot you can learn about this business through books so that when you DO turn 18, you have a huge leg up on every other teenager moving to LA.  There are so many books on the business of acting that you can find on, authors like Judy Kerr, K.Callan, and many others have written mega books that cover the basics, and the lessons can be applied to local "markets" (cities) as well.  I'll do another blog sometime on my favorites, but just look up those authors for now you'll see what I mean.

2.  You can find a LOCAL agent.  You will have to be very careful, but you can usually open your yellow pages and look under TALENT AGENCIES (again, not John Casablancas, not John Robert Powers, not Barbizon even if they are listed, right?) to see who is working in your area.   If you are in or close to Columbus, for example, there is "CAM" Talent, Creative Talent, and a couple others.   You will have to do some research because there are still plenty of scams out there and you have to know how to submit, so be sure you did step #1 first!   There aren't going  as many things to audition for in a local market, but that doesn't mean its not worth finding one if this is what you want to do.

3.   Find ways to act where you are.  Sure movies would be fun but you have plenty of time for that.  Find out what the local community theaters are and call them to ask when they hold auditions, put on shows in your church or school, just keep acting and build your resume!!  And you can usually find acting classes through a local theater as well.  

That's all for this week...
Lots of love,
Secret Agent

1 comment:

  1. Great post, I audition for alot of LA things and I don't live there! Most of my friends who go to Pilot Season don't get discovered because acting isn't a Hit and Splat, it's a hit and miss! I made that up! LOL. My point is i agree 100% with this post, keep em coming!