by Casting Director, Laurie Records
Back for round two are you? For those of you that missed the first article, I am a former LA Casting insider, newly on the outside, sharing with you, the actor, what I know about the industry and how it relates to LA Casting. About a year ago, I was a part of a panel discussion, entitled, “What You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know, About Commercial Casting”. The response from the attending actors was extremely positive, and I was surprised that the info I learned in my years at LA Casting and took for granted was not necessarily common knowledge.
Currently, you are coming to me in the middle of a three part series where I share about the actor, the agent, and the casting director. Last month I touched on the different types of actors: the old school, the hotshot, the pro and the newbie. Call me crazy, but let’s explore agents in the same way. If you are the hotshot or the newbie actor, and didn’t read the first installment, go ahead and click on the September archive issue and check it out. The old school actor doesn’t read online e-zines, and the pro may not need to.
Ready? Let’s move on to agents!
“Old school” agents
Strengths: The old school agent has been around. This means they have long-term relationships with casting directors and have their ear to pitch their clients. This type of agent can spot talent and have a full roster to cover every type. These agents are great to have a cocktail with and talk about the old days of Hollywood… because, boy, they have some good stories. This agent has clout and relies on their history to stay successful.
Areas of opportunity: Because the commercial market changed drastically and quickly about 4 years ago when LA Casting came to town, certainly commercially, agents who had been running their business a certain way, had to change. Some of them immediately realized this. They upgraded their computers, enrolled in a course, learned as much as they could about the new technology, or hired someone else who would. 4 years later there are still a few who resist. Mostly theatrically. Truly, the commercial agents who were “old school” and refused to move with the times are out of business at this point. The commercial “old school” agent today may not ask you to get color photos. They may not push you to get the resume posted online or get your reel posted. If they have the clout to have the casting directors ear… or you are the actor who has been doing this for so long you only attend callbacks, don’t worry. Otherwise, you may want to take the initiative yourself. You won’t have the luxury of your agent nagging you. You have to educate yourself!
The “Hotshot” agent
Strengths: This agent has seen the future of this business and is one step ahead. They capitalize on their knowledge of technology and the industry to get you jobs! They are willing to embrace how casting directors are doing their jobs, even anticipating what the CD will want, and are requiring the talent they represent give that to them… usually ahead of the curve. You only have to think about the first 20% of talent who had online color photos, versus the last 20%, to imagine how many more times they were selected for an audition. Or, how about the talent who had an additional photo of them performing their special skill, instead of just having it typed on their resume. How much more work have they got? I can certainly say – “more!” Well, behind most of these actors who had the color photo or skill shot long before everyone was doing it, was a “hot shot” agent nagging, or even requiring them to do it. There are a hand full of agents who moved themselves and their agencies up the prestige ladder by skillfully becoming a “hotshot” agent.
Areas of opportunity: Sometimes these agents take it a little too far. Sometimes they miss the mark in their predictions of what will keep their talent ahead. Sometimes you think they are crazy, or worse stupid. You may not understand why one agent requires that you post 12 photos on LA Casting when your last one only asked for 3. They aren’t getting kick backs, they are just trying to stay ahead of the curve. How do you know if they are a true “hotshot” agent, or a crazy one? Well, there is no easy answer for that. I think you can always ask for an explanation of why they want the 12 photos, video clips, and require that you get text messaging on your cell. Think less confrontational and more inquisitive. These folks aren’t malicious. You could always ask someone at LA Casting. They can usually attempt a good explanation of why your agent would require these types of things. It will cost you money, face it. The proof will always be in the pudding. You will know if you have a hotshot agent, if their seemingly wild requests result in auditions. If you don’t see any more action, you may be with a wannabe.
The “Pro” agent
Strengths: By definition, these folks have got it down. They have the respect and clout that an old school agent has, with the foresight to keep track of the way the industry is going, and are keeping up. They have balance. They may not be the first agent to sign up to do the “next new thing”, but they aren’t the last. They are careful and look out for what is best for their talent. They are the moderate agent.
Areas of opportunity: Even the perfect “pro” agent will falter. Like the pro actor, even the best agent will falter in some way. Maybe they won’t always be perfect in communicating with you… whether it be that you need a few more shots, or letting you know that they are switching from calling out audition times to emailing them. They may kick back sometimes and rest on their laurels, instead of scrapping to get you work. Believe it or not, agents lack motivation at times, just like you. You should be happy to pick up any slack that the pro agent may need. It won’t be very often, and they pick up yours all the time.
The “Newbie” Agent
Strengths: These agents have enthusiasm and are willing to roll up their sleeves and work to get you work… or at least the ones with any potential are. They will stay late to take phone calls, check their email from home for last minute/emergency times from casting directors. They make sure their talent are at the audition prepared and on time, or they call to let the casting director know they won’t be. They are working to establish their reputation and move out of the “newbie” category as soon as possible. Actors are scared of newbie agents, and rightfully so. There are plenty of duds out there. But pay attention. It won’t be hard to tell if your newbie agent is a go-getter or not. It could be more advantageous for you if your agent is truly excited about representing you, than you excited about your agent. These agents deserve a look from all but the established actor. Because of the tools like LA Casting, your photos are seen by the casting director right next to someone with an “A list agent”. That never would have happened back in the days of opening envelopes.
Areas of opportunity: No matter how much enthusiasm a newbie agent may have, nothing totally makes up for lack of experience. This is the obvious downfall of the newbie. Also, they’re a lot of duds. There are shady “agents” out there that will offer things like guaranteed representation by their agency if you take their class (for a price, of course). There are ones that aren’t shady, but don’t have the essentials, like an answering machine, for example. A newbie agent can’t afford to miss one audition, and they will if they don’t have a freakin’ answering machine. (Can you tell that I just recently ran into this situation?) Some just lack common sense. Some just don’t get it. It takes a lot of elbow grease to get an agency off the ground, even with all the new technology. Think about how much worse it was for the newbie before all the fancy stuff. The up and coming newbies know this, and are doing their share to make sure their agency is a success. The new technology wave has made the newbies possible contenders, and it is their hard work that makes it probable.
Knowing what type of agent you have will help you to know their strengths, and where you might want to be proactive. It is a partnership after all.
Catch me next month as I explore the crazy world of casting.
Laurie Records, Casting Director