I’ll admit, I’m a little excited and a little scared. I’m attempting to tackle a topic that doesn’t have a clear answer: How an actor finds commercial representation. I’ve had many actors ask and my answer is always something close to shrugging my shoulders. But that’s a cop out. There are MANY ways an actor can obtain a commercial agent and I know of plenty of them. The painful part of the process is no one can say which one or which ONES will work for you. There are variables that are in your control and out of your control at any given time. In the end, you just need to try things and work at it. But making informed decisions is a good thing, and that’s where I (hopefully) come in with some help.
Let’s start with the basics:
Actor submission direct to the agent. This is legitimate. Although it may feel like it, I don’t believe your submission goes into oblivion. Make sure you follow the submission directions very carefully. Every agency is different in the method they wish to receive submissions. When you don’t follow the directions, it’s entirely possible your submission is thrown out. Pay attention to detail when submitting.
Participate in an unrepresented actor submission program by Casting Networks (or other online platforms). There are “non rep” programs that will send/make your online account available to agents specifically as an actor seeking representation. Start thinking about how extremely important your headshots, resume and reel must be in this process.
Agent showcase. There are showcases out there where you can perform in front of agents for the sole purpose of gaining representation. In general I believe you have an option to deliver a monologue or perform a scene with a partner. I’d suggest doing your research on the various showcase companies before handing over your money to participate in something like this, but it certainly is an option. You have a captivated audience and a rare chance to actually deliver a performance. Just be sure you are GREAT. Your scene/monologue should be GREAT or it’s a waste of money, yes?
A recommendation/intro from an actor friend to their agent. I’ve heard rumors of this happening forever and I didn’t believe it actually occurred… but it DOES! And I think it’s great. I don’t recommend asking rando actors for an intro to their agent, that’s weird. Ask the ones who have fantastic things to say about their agent, the ones you’ve taken classes with or are members of your actor accountability group. Ask the actors you admire and with whom you’ve proven yourself to be dedicated and fantastic at your craft. There would be no awkwardness there, unless you are the same commercial type.
Performing. I’m a huge theatre fan, so sure, I’d say do some theatre. But maybe a more hip and appropriate suggestion when seeking commercial representation is improv/standup or even storytelling. Agents are going to see these shows, I guarantee it. If you have the opportunity, make a “seeking commercial representation” note in your bio or direct industry pros to your personal website where you have that noted.
Commercial classes. Some commercial classes advertise that they put unrepresented actors in front of agents by having them sit in or via sending them a link. It also should be a given that the class instructor should have connections to commercial agents. There will be no shortage of other commercial actors taking the class alongside you that could possibly offer an intro to their agent. Commercial classes could be a hotbed of leads in getting a commercial agent.
Recommendation from a casting director. Please proceed with caution. This can be highly effective for obvious reasons but should only be exercised when you have a very good and established relationship with them. Ideally, you would have been called in numerous times by the CD over the years. I think this is typically used when an actor is ready to make a move from one agent to another, or when an experienced actor has been dropped from their agent.
So what if you’ve done all the above to no avail? Look at your TOOLS. In fact, don’t wait until you’ve exhausted every last option. If you are seeking representation and are getting zero nibbles, take a look at the materials you are submitting:
Your headshots. I think there is an idea floating around that an actor shouldn’t get new headshots before seeking representation, because it’s likely the new agent will ask for additional/new headshots after taking the actor on. This is entirely possible. But it seems like a long uphill battle if you are seeking commercial representation with bad or even average headshots. You have to let the agent know, just like with casting directors, how you should be cast. Agents need to know (quickly!) how you’ll make money for them, so SHOW them in your headshot(s). I’m talking about your commercial types. Don’t leave it up to the imagination, few industry pros have the luxury of using that imagination thing often.
Your resume/reel. I think your special skills are important. Your theatrical credits are important, yes for commercials. Your training (including classes you are currently in, not what you did 10 years ago) is certainly important. The commercials you’ve booked are wildly important. In fact, if I were you, I’d put a commercial reel together with the sole purpose of securing commercial representation. Or, have the full length commercials posted for them to view. The resume you use to find a commercial agent may be different than the one you use when they are submitting you. Name those product names!! The fact that you’ve booked commercials will make you very attractive to an agent. If training is an underwhelming part of your resume, do something about it.
Just booked a commercial? Use this to your advantage! It’s a great selling point when seeking representation.
Do you really need a commercial agent to have a successful commercial career? YES. Are all commercial agents equal? NO. Is having any commercial agent better than no commercial agent? It depends. That may be a topic for another day. Don’t be lazy. Do your homework and pursue the agents that are respected and able to represent you, where you are at in your career. Make sure your tools are beyond up-to-par and take every avenue necessary to get a yes! You will get one. Keep at it.
**Want to take a 4-week Commercial Class with Laurie Records? Check it out and sign up now at: www.laurierecordscasting.com.**