Welcome back to Stage Door Shrink, a regular column aimed at helping performers chortle their way to a #win. This week, our session is focused on the big A – AGENTS.
Apart from having a six-pack, belting F’s and doing triple turns, having an agent is the most important part of getting seen for auditions. Whilst you can sometimes get yourself an audition or create your own work, there will be more opportunities and you will be taken more seriously if you have representation
Halfway through my first year at dance school, I approached Shanahan Management. Because you know, they represented Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and the like… I obviously felt ‘the like’ was me. Turns out it wasn’t. Unbelievable right? (I aim high and lack all forms of self-awareness).
If you’re young, you may need to start with a smaller or newer agency that is willing to take someone on with less experience. Unfortunately, we’re in a time when lots of big agencies have recently closed, leaving many extremely experienced actors unrepresented. The flow on effect is that young talent may struggle to secure representation.
See the Actor’s Equity list of registered theatrical agents in NSW: www.alliance.org.au/agents-lists.
According to Jayne Ambrose
Jayne Ambrose started her professional life as a sales and marketing executive at GTV Nine in the 80s. She spent years managing sports events and players alike, in both LA and Australia. She owns and runs Ambrose Artist Management and has over 20 years experience managing both celebrity and general performers. She has represented everyone from iconic musical theatre stars to young graduates. Receiving regular representation requests, she regularly sifts through emails, showreels and headshots. Here is her wisdom on how to successfully approach and book an agent.
Come with recommendations
If the talent is unknown, the best way to get an agent interested is by a third party recommendation. If a well regarded singing teacher, MD or producer has recommended someone to me, I will always take that seriously. I also call those people for references. Once I was told, “the kid has serious talent but has a serious attitude.” I’m not their mum, and I’m not about to take on someone who needs to learn right from wrong.
A showreel is vital
You can’t expect an agent to take you on with no evidence of your abilities or skill. Unless they have seen your work, or your resume is full of professional work, you will need a showreel. Try to incorporate all your skills into a 2-3 min reel. You can be the best dancer or singer, but if you can’t act you’ll never land a lead role in a musical and you won’t land acting jobs. It doesn’t necessarily have to be professionally made, as they are very expensive, but make sure its good quality.
Make the most of your showcase performance
I attend as many showcases as I can. If someone has trained for 2 or 3 years, the least I can do is offer them one day or night. This is easier than putting on your own show and inviting agents.
Timing is everything
Avoid sending representation requests in September, October and November as most agents are waiting to see what comes out of the graduating showcases. I’ll accept enquiries any time but March to August is best.
Invite the agent to your show
If you’re not graduating a course, invite agents to your cabaret or independent theatre show. We know what work goes into preparing these things and do our best to come. We are always willing to look at the work of new talent. Nothing is better than seeing it on stage. Find a mutually suitable night and provide tickets.
Look your best
Your look equates to the type of roles you will land. When I meet with talent, I always give them the, ‘keep your teeth white, get a six pack (for boys), look after your skin, keep taking dance class’ etc. chat. Not everyone needs to look like Hugh Jackman or Deborah Krizak, but it’s disappointing to watch a showcase where talent have trained for 3 years, to get themselves to peak performance artistically, but have neglected their appearance. On the other hand, the industry is made up of all shapes and sizes and ultimately talent will win over look.
Network at industry events
The importance of networking cannot be underestimated. Independent theatre, opening nights, showcases etc., are good opportunities to network. Sometimes I will enquire about various artists at these events.
Be working in the meantime
I always look for people in existing productions or with experience that come highly recommended, both in terms of their work and their personality. Also, someone whose talent I consider is unique.
Ensure their commission structure is transparent
In NSW the commission structure is fairly standard, and most agents adhere to that. Ask those awkward questions about money, and check with Equity if necessary as to its legality. In this regard, it’s good to have it in writing. For example, some agents don’t take commission on rehearsals or co-ops, and others do. Make sure you are clear.
Make sure the fit is mutually beneficial
I won’t take someone on if I don’t think I can make a difference to his or her life. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly and if I don’t think the person and I are a good fit or I can’t see how I can better their careers I will suggest they keep looking. And it’s also a numbers issue. As a boutique agency there are just so many places, I can’t sign everyone I like, it has to be a business decision – for both parties.
Rachel Cole is a Research Psychologist masquerading as understudy for Miss Honey and Mrs Wormwood in the Australian production of Matilda the Musical. She likes to think about what makes people tick. She also likes: Podcasts, politics, pepperoni pizza, property, puns, puppies and cheap things. If you know of a political podcast full of puns we can listen over a cheap pepperoni pizza while we walk a cheap dog looking at cheap property, we might just be fast friends.