Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Arthur McBain: 5 tips for working without an agent

Arthur McBain Arthur McBain
by -

Arthur McBain, 23, is an actor and director who trained at the Oxford School of Drama. He has recently toured internationally with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre of Scotland in Dunsinane, which has taken him to North America, Russia and south-east Asia. He directs 501 Things I Do in My Bedroom at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Here are his tips for starting your career, as he has done, without an agent.

1. Don’t panic

Loads of people leave drama school every year without an agent. Rest assured, not getting an agent at your showcase doesn’t mean you’re a bad actor – it simply means you didn’t get an agent at your showcase. Starting your career without an agent can be liberating, if you let it be. Don’t stress – it doesn’t help anything. Everything will be just fine.

2. Focus on the work

An agent is a brilliant and important thing to have, and you must trust that you will get the right one eventually. But how can you make sure this happens? Agents work really very hard to know who’s doing great work and where, so concentrate on being the best actor you can be in everything you do. Invite people to see your work but do your research and be selective, a few well-crafted, personal and informed letters bring better results than a blanket email to everyone and anyone. In the meantime, you are your own agent – which leads me onto my next point…

3. Share the wealth

Knowledge is power, and like all good things in life, it’s best shared with friends. Create a support network around you. Keep your eyes and ears open for one another and share important information. You have now become your very own cooperative agency. It’s more fun than going solo and a whole lot more effective. Besides if you get tunnel vision and only focus on yourself, you might not even see an opportunity that’s just to the side of you.

4. Make friends

There seems to be a lot of pressure on being instantly successful in our business, but breaks come along for different people at different times. The race is only with yourself. Don’t be jealous. It’ll eat you up. You can smell a bitter actor a mile off. Chances are, the more positive you are for everyone around you, the more people will want to work with you. Most of the work I have got is as a direct result of genuine friends I have made.

5. Put your neck on the line

Probability has a lot to do with success. The more times you put yourself into a situation that might potentially yield opportunities, the higher chance you have of getting a lucky break. Challenge yourself. Don’t believe that luck is something you either have or you don’t. If luck is about being in the right place at the right time, then be in more places, more of the time. It’s a numbers game. You are as lucky as you choose to be. So keep at it.

And one more thing… try to spend a few moments every day reflecting on, or writing down, the positive steps you have made, no matter how small. It’ll make you happier.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.