How to apply to an agent, the dos and don’ts

Agent Stuart Piper in the offices of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management
Agent Stuart Piper in the offices of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management
Stuart Piper is managing director of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management Ltd
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If there's one most common question I'm asked by actors I don't represent, it's how do I apply to an agent, ie, questions relating to what medium to use, if in writing how to draft the cover letter, CV questions, when to follow up and when not to.

So here's my attempt at some do's and don't's. These are only my opinion and might not apply to all agents, but I hope will provide at least some guidance:

1) Should I phone, write or turn up at the office?

The latter sounds like a joke, but it happens. Don't EVER do it, unless you are already close personal friends with the agent, and even then, I wouldn't.

If you are 100% certain that the agent knows who you are and is familiar with your work, then phoning is quite a nice way to open up conversation. If you get through straight away or your call is returned with haste, that's a good sign.

If you're not sure the agent is familiar with you, by phoning you risk a negative response by not giving the agent a chance to mull over your CV and think carefully. So in this instance write. I think there are probably older agents who still like hard copy letters, but I prefer to save the trees and receive email.

2) Should I use social networking?
Facebook is not ideal, because messages are sometimes lost or forgotten - though I do endeavour to always reply to anyone who uses it. Twitter is fine for short exchanges but not for the official submission.

3) How should I draft my letter?

And from here on in, the advice is simple. Less is more, cut the bumph and reduce to key information. Us agents are busy, and prioritising working for existing clients rather servicing prospective ones. So we need to be able to glance at the cover letter only briefly (which might include a swift simple reminder of when you've before met, or what work they might recently have seen or why you're writing to said agent) before clicking into the CV. I open every CV I'm emailed, but the cover letter might sway how much uninterrupted attention I give the attachments.

4) How should I present my CV?

Cut the fillers. For me, it's about quality not quantity. Don't remove past credits if you think they are not what you want to headline - the agent needs to understand your journey. For instance if you are a musical actress but that wants to move into straight acting on stage and screen don't delete your leading musical roles, it's better the agent decides their relevance.

Always endeavour to stick to one side of A4 - unless your career has been truly long and illustrious in which case you deserve as many pages as you like!

5) How should I follow up?

I suggest you avoid chasing where possible. I'd leave for one week from submitting before, emailing just one reply perhaps copying in assistant in the unlikely event anythings gone astray. I personally wouldn't recommend calling to chase. Once you've emailed a second time, copying in 1 other, you can rest assured if you don't get a reply its unlikely you will.

Not all agencies can reply to every submission, though I'm sure every single one would like to, simply because of the sheer volume that some receive. Don't think its laziness necessarily, it might be simple economics - there might be too many for the number of employees to be able to handle, when as I said earlier, existing clients are the priority.

 

I hope that helps demystify the approach, and if anyone disagrees with anything, do use the message board below, on which we encourage healthy, respectful debate. I'm sure not all advice is universal, but it's my best attempt for advice to apply all our readers.

Good luck? (Is it bad luck to say good luck to an actor when it's not about a performance? If so... Break a leg!).

7 Comments

  1. Enjoying the blogs. Food for thought. My only disappointment is that you are unable to reply to all submissions even if it is with a standard “no” email!

  2. Yes, I agree Sarnia!
    – I also appreciate that agents are busy people.

    I think what would help is a page on every agent’s website on which it outlines whether each agent’s books are open.

  3. Well said Stuart. I endeavour to reply to all emails (if they use the contact form on my website) even if this takes me 2 months! I recently took someone on perhaps 3 months after their initial enquiry because his approach was professional and courteous. When starting out I thought it would be much easier to reply to all these enquiries but some weeks it is totally mental and there simply isn’t time. I would add if you are going to send me a link to your showreel then make sure it is relevant, I don’t know any agent who likes video montages at the start with a load of overpowering music, leave it out, for me a title intro then straight into your first scene, I simply don’t have time to waste watching 60 seconds of video/musical montage without any dialogue. In a nutshell you’ve got about 20-30 seconds to grab my attention so put your best first! Good luck people, it’s the toughest career but with hard work and determination it’s possible.

  4. This is good straightforward advice. What I think might be really useful is if the agent one applies to has an automatic generated email which says something along the lines of..”We have received your email, if we feel you might be right for our agency we will be in touch” sort of thing, then at least the person applying knows their email went to the right place. Some agents do this but a lot don’t and in the long run it would save actors hassling agents with follow ups to see if they actually received their initial application and give the actor confidence that their application went to the right place….Just a thought.

  5. Great advice from Stuart. Be to the point in your cover letter and make sure your CV is laid out well and easy to understand. Remember to send it in PDF format as not all computers can open certain file types. We need to see and hear you as a performer so if you are not in a show at the time of application get yourself a showreel and voice demo- it doesn’t have to be much but anything is better than nothing!

  6. Can someone please explain to me why send CVs in pdf if just under one click there is a Spotlight profile with headshots, credits and showreel? Wouldn’t this be easier?
    Thank you!

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