An agent passing an actor a contract and showing them where to sign

As Actors, it is instilled within us about the importance of getting an Agent. Usually, those first meet and greets of a cast start with “where did you train”, closely followed by “who are you with”.

Well, are Agents all they all they are cracked up to be?

Before I begin it is only fair to explain my situation. I’m currently unrepresented by an Agent. In my past, I’ve been part of small Agencies which, in my experience, are usually not very good. I’m studying at Drama school and have met Agents during my studies for Q and A’s and beyond.

Getting an Agent

If you are reading this I’m sure you’re already aware of this rather frustrating cycle:

The Acting Agent Cycle

Now although this is generally correct, you must remember that it’s not always true. Agents make money by taking a percentage of the money you earn. It is in the interest of an Agent to have working people on their books. So why not start creating your own work. How To Do Theatre has tons of articles that can help you in taking the initiative for creating your own work – give them a read and see what happens.

Also try getting involved in your local Theatres. Asking around about Auditions is always a good start. Paines Plough, a thoroughly brilliant Theatre Company that you must check out immediately if you haven’t already, will often hold open auditions to anyone.

Anything you’re in, whether created by you or someone else, invite an Agent, so what if they say no or don’t turn up? Just keep knocking on the door as persistence really is key here.

Keep talking to other Actors. Actors have a great network of communication. They can tell you about upcoming auditions, workshops with big directors, start-up theatre companies looking to create new work. It is very helpful to speak to other people in the industry as a way of acting as your own Agent.

What I’m trying to say is: throw yourself in. Jump into the deep end get yourself out there. Yes it’s hard, but Agents are out there and they want to be paid, so they want you to be working for them.

Do I actually need an Agent?

Having said everything above you might start to wonder why you even need an Agent? If you’re getting Auditions, you’re hopefully working – albeit working for little money, if any.

Having an Agent means a second person looking for work which is good, but they will also sort out your contract, the legal stuff, the stuff you really don’t want to be wasting weekend after weekend reading up on. A lot of people when first starting out have to find their own work even if they have an Agent, but once you find it you can send them to your Agent to do the boring bits. It can save you a lot of time, effort and a lot of anxiety.

However, I cannot stress enough the importance of choosing your own Agent. Choose an Agent that is right for you. Don’t panic pick someone that doesn’t feel right to you, you need to have a good working relationship.

It’s a strange feeling to finish off an article saying I cannot give you a black and white answer to the question of getting an Agent and if you need one but there truly isn’t one. I know Actors who have huge Agents yet don’t work – but then I know Actors who have small Agents and can’t stop. I know Actors who haven’t got Agents and I’m incredibly jealous of the work they are doing!

I suppose all you can aim for is a harmony of both and finding your own work whilst your Agent looks after you at the same time.

John Francis Collins

John is a graduate of the YEP Actors and Writers courses and is currently studying Acting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He continues to write his own plays in his own time. He is also an avid football fan and is trying to make his debut into the Liverpool first eleven. Acting was always the plan B.