Best questions to ask a talent agent before signing
Right now is considered by many to be “agency signing season” in the film industry. Pilot season is over, and episodic season hasn’t begun yet. Agents actually have time to respond to actor submissions and set up meetings. If you are out meeting with agents, remember: you are choosing your agent just as much as your agent as choosing you. Ask questions! Get curious. Find out if you are truly a good match. One thing’s for sure. The agent you are meeting with is thinking: can this person make me money? Is s/he marketable? Just know this going in. But also know that you have the right to be selective as well. At 3-2-1- Acting School in Los Angeles, we ensure that your students know the best questions to ask a talent agent before signing. Here are some suggestions:
1. What is my primary career focus, and can this agent help me to reach my goals? Perhaps you are primarily focused on theatre — or maybe you really want to appear on network television. Or perhaps you want to work on commercials. The types of agents that handle these areas of the industry are quite different. Be sure that you are clear on what area of the entertainment industry you want to pursue. While many actors are represented “across the board” at single agencies, this isn’t necessary unless you are targeting all three kinds of representation.
2. Do casting directors know the agency? How many years in business? There are agencies that are less than reputable, having either no relationship or a poor reputation among casting directors. Beware of such agents! Even if they’ll submit you to the breakdowns, the casting directors may not want to call you in. But if your agent is respected, casting directors will listen to their pitches. Also, do your research. Find out who is casting the shows that you are right for, and look at the agents that represent the co-star and guest star actors on those particular shows. These are the agents you want to meet with.
3. Are they franchised? Do your research— a list of franchised agents can be found on the SAG-AFTRA website. Actors are protected as long as their talent agency is franchised. For instance, guild franchise agreements limit the commission to 10 percent for union work.
4. Will I stand out on their roster? While it’s great to work with a big name like WME or UTA, you might get lost in the shuffle of all of their well-known actors. Some boutique agencies have a smaller number of clients and will give more focused attention to their developing talent. Check out the clients lists on Imdb Pro to see if there are any other actors who are similar to you and be sure to see if the agency has actors who are working?
5. Do they seem enthusiastic and excited about representing me? You want to work with an agent who truly believes in your talents and is willing to email, pitch, call, and fight to get you into those rooms. While I don’t recommend asking, “Do you believe in me?” in an agent meeting, you will know by their willingness to work with you. Use your actor intuition. How excited are they? Are they as excited about your career as you are? And when an agent does believe in you, they will want you to succeed.
6. Do I enjoy communicating with them? This is a business partnership. An agent is another person playing on your team. You have to feel good about working with them. And upon booking a role, you should feel good about giving them their well-deserved 10 percent of your paycheck. Just make sure they are willing to work for it.
Ultimately, I tell students and parents to go with their gut. Who do you feel is the most excited by talent or your child’s talent? Who do you think will work the hardest to promote it? Trust your intuition!