How to Get an Agent? What an Agent REALLY Wants

Wendy Alane Wright

Wendy Alane Wright

Getting an agent for acting is crucial. They submit you for auditions, negotiate pay and follow up on your behalf. Here are the must-do’s of getting a great agent.

How To Get an Agent for Acting

Hey, actors! It’s Wendy Alane Wright, the Hollywood Talent Manager in Los Angeles, California. I get a lot of questions and one of those very specific ones I get are:

  • What are agents looking for? 
  • What can I say in the room that’s going to make them want to sign me? 
  • How do I make my best impression? 
  • What do they need? What do they want from me? 
  • What can I do to work the magic? 

So let me clarify some things for you guys. Agents and managers, every single story is known to man when they sit down they’ve seen everything. So for one thing, actors say the exact same thing at beginner meetings, “I’m committed. I’m a hundred percent focused on my career. Yes, I’ll show up to auditions. I’m a timely person. I’m taking this seriously. I’m committed a hundred percent. If you hire me, I promise you this and that.”

What Are Agents Looking For

Just so you know. We will see who is timely. We will see who is on time, who prepared for auditions. We will see who says they are available when we have auditions. We will see who has a good attitude. We will see who is training and who gets new headshots when we ask and we will see that as time goes on because you guys will do it or you would not. And if you don’t, we drop you off our roster. And if you do, we keep you. 

But saying all those things doesn’t impress an agent because we hear them all the time. It’s like, “Yeah, we know.” And we don’t believe you really until we see it.

Now, the other thing is, actors always – actors that are green, that are new, make promises they couldn’t possibly keep like, “I’m going to be successful at this or I’m going to get – I’m going to be famous or I’m going to go all the way or I’ve been wanting this since I was a child. This is my dream and I’m going to accomplish it and nothing is going to stop me etc.”

What To Say To Make Them Want To Sign Me?

If you have a dream, I’m all for it. But I’ve heard that a million times and so do most agents. We’ve heard that. So that’s not like, “Oh, they’re going to be famous and they’re going to go all the way and they’re going to achieve …” listen, nobody can promise that they’re going to get hired or booked in this business. So when you start talking about things like that, we know you’re not dealing with reality. We want to hear actors who understand the business and who are dealing with reality. Actors that don’t think they know how it’s going to all turn out because we don’t even know how it’s going to turn out for you. You don’t know for sure. 

Confidence is one thing, but stupid talk is another. And being educated about the business shows that you’re not in fantasy land. The reality is, you might audition 50 times and not book a damn thing or you might go to an audition and book the first thing. We don’t know. You don’t know. Agents don’t know. So never go into an agent’s office and talk about what you think you’re going to do.

What we are looking for is hard-working actors who when we give them a script in the office, asides or they come in with a monologue or a scene, hopefully, a monologue for me anyway, because I don’t want to read a scene with you, I’m not watching you, that you just blow us out of the water. Your acting should be what it’s all about. Your acting should be amazing. It should say, “Holy cow! This person – whew! They’re a good actor.” 

Then we are listening to hear how you talk. Is it realistic? Do you have reasonable expectations? Are your expectations, “I’m training hard, I’m doing everything I can to get my work, short films, student films, web series, I’m constantly submitting myself, I work hard to make relationships with casting directors,” and as I do workshops, I will let you know who I develop relationships with, “I’m looking for an agent to work with as a partner, I’m going to show up and do my part and I would love to work with your agency.” It’s reasonable. 

And if the agent falls in love with your acting and you sound reasonable and you seem friendly then an agent is going to take a chance and they’re going to think, “OK, this actor seems to have themselves together. They understand the business. They know it’s not like – they’re talking realistically, they’re very good so I’ll take a chance.” And that’s what actors do. That’s what agents and managers do. We take a chance.

How Do I Make My Best Impression?

Now, say we just took a chance on 10 new actors and we submit them to casting directors. Casting directors are starting to get used to these people’s faces. Remember, they see thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of actors every day. So we throw a new one in the mix, they don’t know who that is, they don’t know whether they can act or not act or who they are. Sometimes we submit for a while before a casting director responds to that face and the consistency of our submissions and the casting director is seeing our submission on that actor all year long and they finally say, “You know what? I watched the demo of this person. It looks like they’re right for this. Let me take a chance and bring them in.” Listen, casting is taking a chance too. Everyone is taking a chance because we don’t know, right? We take a chance and bring this person in.

Let’s say I’m just a small agent and I have 10 new clients and I’ve been submitting them and casting is getting used to them now and they take a chance and bring that actor in for the audition. The actor nails it! Kicks it! He killed it. He nailed it. What’s that called? He shoots it out of the park! Hits it out of the park. He is prepared, on time, and can take direction in the room, they feed him something and he gives them something different.

They said, “Let me see something else,” he gives them something else. Blows them out of the water, professional, thanks to them for their time, and leaves.

Casting directors are impressed. And that makes everyone else on the roster look good. “Wow! That agent sends in good people or that manager sends in good people. Next time I see a submission from that agent or that manager, I’m might take that pretty seriously.” 

Now, let’s take the other side of the coin. The actor goes in, not on time, entitled, “I came in here but I was looking for a bigger role but I’ll just read this for now.” I heard someone talk about that this weekend. I digress. Not really prepared, didn’t make strong choices, and acting is kind of just in my mood or whatever. The casting director gives the person a redirection, they do it the same way. They can’t show any range. “Thank you. It was great. Bye-bye,” the casting director always says. And then they think, “God! That manager sends in shitty clients. Why would that manager or agent waste my time submitting that person? I don’t know if I’m going to bring that person’s people in anymore.” An actor can damage it for everybody else. 

So that’s why it’s so important that you are on your game at every single audition, every audition because it doesn’t just reflect on you, it reflects on your manager or agent and then everybody else on the roster. You can damage the relationship that the manager or agent has. And that’s why we get so damn pissed when you guys, you come in the office and you say, “Oh, I’m a hundred percent committed and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

And then we get you on audition and you’re like, “Oh, I was going to go out with my friends on a camping trip and I can’t make it,” or you show up late to an audition or you didn’t prepare, we’re like, “What the hell did we take a chance on your for?” And we drop people all year long because people demonstrate who they are by their actions.

What Do They Need? What Do They Want From Me?

So when you say, what does an agent or manager want? We want consistent, solid, professional action. We want a realistic understanding of the business so get yourself informed. Don’t come in there with some pipe dream that we are all supposed to buy because we don’t, and hone your craft. Be a damn good actor. Know how to cold read. If you go in with a monologue or a cold reading that you’ve been working on, I mean aside, and the agent pulls out something different, I do this all the time, I understand what they do when they walk in and they’ve had a piece for 6 months and they’ve worked on it, I know what that looks like. I say, “I don’t want to see that. Here, do this.” And then I give them something absolutely brand new to read right in front of me, I can tell exactly where their skill level is. If they just start going and they haven’t even read it to themselves, I know they’ve never taken a cold reading class because whenever you get a brand new piece of material, you should always say, “Can I have a moment with this?” And maybe even step back out in the hall and work on it for a minute and let someone else come in. 

If you just start reading it, I know you don’t know how to do it. A cold reading does not mean you just start going at it. You look at it once, get all those words through your brain processing, and then you do it. And if you’re getting a piece of paper and somebody says, “Thank you. Go ahead.” And you’re like, “Hi, my name is so and so and I love fruit loops, blah, blah, blah,” and you look up once in a while, blah, blah, I know that you don’t know how to cold read because if you’re looking at the paper, you’re not looking at me. You’re not looking at the camera. You’re not connecting with the reader. You’re not – a cold read is not a reading. It is acting and you just look down and get the lines and come back up and say them, and you mean what you say and you connect to the person that you’re doing it with. 

So listen, there’s so much for you guys to learn in this business. That’s why I am so trying to help you understand that learning about the business is half of the business. I mean it’s show business. Half of your job is to get good at the show. The other half of it is to get good at the business. And where most actors fail is they don’t get good at the business. And the only actors that succeed in this business are great at the business.

They know how to network. They know how to be professional. They know how to interview agents and managers and they understand that auditioning is a completely separate process from acting. 

What you learn in your acting classes is how to bring the emotion out of you and develop scene work and relationships and characteristics. It’s wonderful. And you have to be in acting class to keep your muscles rejuvenated, warm, and lubricated I mean because when you get an audition if you haven’t been in class for 5 weeks and then you get an audition and all of a sudden you have to go deep within, you’re not ready. You’re not all warmed up. It’s cold and it doesn’t come as easy and then you don’t do as well in an audition. That’s why we say stay in class because auditions come all of a sudden out of a blue and you need to not be like jumpstarting your engine. You need to be already in the game.

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