How To Choose the Right Talent Agency for Your Child

Wendy Alane Wright

Wendy Alane Wright

When you are looking for a Talent Agent to represent your child, most parents start the process by googling “Talent Agencies” to come up with a names of agencies. But just reading them only gives you a list of names. You won’t know the difference between them, which ones are good and which ones are legit. 
 
When parents are just starting out in this business it is so confusing and you are left in the position to “guess” which agency is right for you. I know it can feel overwhelming as you struggle to determine who to believe, what to ask them, or how things work once your child is signed to an agency. 
 
Let me take a few minutes to clarify some things for you.
 
When you meet with potential Agents (or anyone in the Industry):
 

1. IGNORE ALL EXAGGERATED PROMISES LIKE “I CAN MAKE YOUR CHILD A STAR,’ OR “I WILL GET THEM ON DISNEY.”

That is not how it works. No one can predict who is going to be a Star, not even Agents or Managers. Reps can find opportunities to submit your child to casting directors but they can NOT guarantee casting will WANT to see your child. No one can PROMISE you Disney, a whole Network has to agree on every single person cast. 
 
Here is how it works. Agents don’t guarantee you jobs. NO ONE can guarantee you ANY paid gigs. When you sign with an Agent they submit your child’s package (headshots, resumes and acting clip(s)) to Casting Directors. IF your child’s package is strong enough to interest casting AND your child fits the description of the role…casting MAY call them in to audition out of 4,000 other submissions for that one role.

IF your child knocks it out of the park at an audition, casting MAY invite them for a callback. IF your child nails the callback, casting MAY invite them to audition for Producers. IF they choose your child out of the final 3-5 choices at the Network auditions, your kiddo COULD POSSIBLY book the role. There are NO guarantees.

All of those IFS are dependent on how GREAT of an actor your child is, how compelling their work is, how interesting their acting choices are, IF they can apply the CD’s re-direction, if they like their personality, if they are professional and well-behaved and IF everyone AGREES that your child is right for the part/project.
The bottom line none of that has anything to do with your Agent and everything to do with your child, their confidence, charisma and their acting ability. That is how it works. SO GET THEM TRAINED.
 

2. DO NOT PAY UPFRONT FEES TO AGENTS AND MANAGERS.

You may have heard this over and over again, yet some people still fall prey to people who are intentionally misleading. Legit Agents and Managers ONLY get paid when your child books a job, they do NOT accept upfront fees for representation ever. Then they earn a limited amount of commission usually in the 10% -20% range (Union/Non Union). There are NO exceptions to that rule.
If you submit to a Talent Agency through their website, or directly through email or through a showcase of some kind here are a few more BASIC things to understand:
 
Talent Agencies and Management companies look for kids of all races, sizes and types. They are looking for the best actors and the most professional and responsible Parents/kids. When Agents meet with potential clients, they have already decided they may need your child’s type on their roster, otherwise they would not be wasting their time having a meeting.
 

DURING THE MEETINGS

Agents will be evaluating to see if you have reasonable expectations as a Parent. They will expect you to understand, or develop the understanding, that there is no such thing as overnight success. It can take years. You will have to work hard to support your child – continually providing your Agents with new headshots as your child grows and changes, keeping your online casting profiles and hard copy resumes up to date, providing acting clips to them and keeping your child in training. Plus you will need to learn how to navigate recording your child’s audition videos, editing them and uploading them through programs like ECO Cast. You will become more tech savvy they you thought you could or they can not help you.
 
Agents will also expect you to understand, or come to understand, that this is a very competitive business and your child will be competing against thousands of other kids for one (1) role.
 
Agents will be observing your willingness to take their direction and your ability to follow their directions. They determine this over time but initially in meetings they will observe whether you brought the requested items to the meeting and showed up on time.
 
They will also be observing your child’s behavior in the meeting, their ability to follow directions and your interactions with the child. Additionally they will like to see if you allow you allow child to speak for themselves or if you hover. You need to allow them to speak for themselves unless they are toddlers.

12 RULES FOR CHOOSING THE RIGHT AGENT FOR YOUR CHILD

1. There are many great agents and they all do pretty much the SAME job: Submit and pitch your child to casting. 
I suggest you choose an Agent who is excited about your child and believes they have a place in the business. This potential Rep should be honest with you about the crazy amount of the time and effort it will really take to get your child working. They know your child may have to audition 50-100 times before they book one (1) job. They should be telling you this as well. There are always exceptions, but exceptions are not the norm.
 
2. Your potential Rep(s) should be able to tell you what some of their success stories are with other actors they represent.
 
3. Your potential Rep(s) should be able to tell you what kinds of roles your child will likely audition for.
 
4. It doesn’t matter the size of the agency as much as it matters the dedication of the Agent.
 
5. Agents are usually very brief in their communication. Every second an Agent is on the phone with a parent explaining and answering questions is time that they are not submitting and pitching their clients to casting. Time they are not making money. Some are down right rude and you do not have to put up with that.  Find an agent that knows how to be kind even during stress. Sometimes you will only figure this out over time. That will help you determine if you are going to stay with that agency.
 
You can do your part by realizing Agents are not google, so don’t expect them to jump every time you have a little question. Do your research. Manage your expectations and in your initial meetings you should have a clear conversation about how they would like you to communicate with them – via phone, text or email. They should be communicative enough to help you feel comfortable. Some will hold your hand more than others. 
 
6. CAUTION: When you meet with an agent if they demand you shoot headshots with one particular photographer that is a red flag. They should give you a list of several photographers to choose from. They should always give you a choice. The same goes with acting classes. A legit agent will always give you options and not require any particular vendor in order to sign your child.
 
7. Choose an agent that has a good reputation in the business. To find out more about that you can join your state’s actor facebook groups and ask the members there which agencies they recommend. Also check with your local SAG-AFTRA office and ask for advice in the facebook group CHILD ACTORS 101: A Parent Resource Community. 
 
8. The Agency you choose should explain to you what market(s) they will be submitting your child for. Sometimes you will have agents in different markets like one in LA and than other in the South East. Some kids are signed to 4 different agencies for Print, Voice Overs, TV/Film and Commercials.
There are also Agencies that sign kids for ALL of that within one (1) agency. That is called ‘repping your child across the board.’
Some Agencies will only rep kids across the board and want to keep everything in house. Kids can become successful either way.
 
9. You can sign your child with an agency outside of your state for TV and Film auditions and they can have you self-tape your child for the bigger Hollywood Jobs. You can put your child on tape for the 1st audition and if your child gets a call back you will be expected to pay to fly you and your child into the bigger market for the callbacks. Going there is NO guarantee your child will book the job as they will still be competing against 30-50 other kids in the callbacks. 
 
Parents in this business make an ongoing financial investment keeping kids in continuous acting classes and on-camera training in order for your child to participate in these opportunities. 
 
10. Pilot Season. Some parents go to LA for the Summer or Pilot season and spend 2-4 months away from their families and other children at great expense to see if their child can book something bigger. Some kids do, more don’t. Some kids have been to numerous pilot seasons and have not booked anything. It is all a gamble.
 
11. Choosing a Commercial Agent. Commercials are often next day auditions so agencies tend to ONLY sign kids for commercials who live in a 100 mile radius from the agency. Don’t worry about getting your child signed to a commercial agent in the big cities unless you can drive there in a few hours. Instead, get your child LOCAL experience first in acting classes, theater, student films, web-series. Then sign to a local Agency in your state first to book local commercials. 
 
12. In smaller cities and states outside of the major industry regions there are “MOTHER AGENCIES.” These mother agencies often offer classes and headshots to get your child started. Some of them are very good and often that is all you have around when you are in smaller markets. That is the exception to the photographer and acting classes rule. In a city with lots of choices the agent should give you choices. 
 
But that being said, some of these Mother Agencies are just grooming you for the expensive conventions and showcases where Agents and Managers from the big cities come to scout for regional children. Agents and Managers scouting at these events are looking for the most exceptional children they can find, kids that stand out, are talented and already booking in their own state.  They also are looking for Parents who understand the expense and competitive nature of the business and are ready to travel at their own expense for bigger opportunities. 
 

A NOTE ON EXPENSIVE SHOWCASES

You do not have to pay ridiculous sums of money to be seen by these Agents to get your kids started in show business. You can submit your child for FREE in the facebook group CHILD ACTORS 101: A Parent Resource Community. There are 40+ Talent Agents and Managers in the group, many of the SAME Agents that travel around the country and go to the big showcases. You do NOT need to spend thousands of dollars to meet Agents.

So that should make things clearer for you and help you make more informed decisions when choosing the right Talent Agency for your child. 
 
Lastly, make sure when you do sign that your contracts they have the standard 4-6 month out-clause that says “If the agent has not presented you with a viable job offer within 6 months of signing, the contract can be severed by either party.” 

Never sign for more than 1 year at a time. 

Ask you make your way through the industry ask your agent how YOU can help them support your child. Take notes on what they say and DO it!
 
Enjoy the journey!

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