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Dear West End Producer: ‘Is there a bias against casting unrepresented actors?

West End Producer West End Producer. Photo: Matt Crockett
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Sadly, yes. The business is a whole lot harder if you are not represented. That is not to say it is impossible, but the odds are stacked against you. There are so many actors out there already that casting directors and directors are much more likely to go with those who have an agent, and a top one at that.

It is simply to do with the huge number of submissions that casting directors receive. For a typical musical or play, thousands of actors are submitted and those that are represented are considered first. It’s all about time – and, sadly, the implication is that if you aren’t represented you aren’t as good and you’ll waste an audition slot for somebody better. It’s not fair, but it’s how it works.

There are now nearly as many agents as there are actors

And even when you have an agent, there’s no guarantee you’ll get castings. There are now nearly as many agents as there are actors – some good, some bad and some ugly. And it is only the top five who receive all the big movie, TV and theatre breakdowns. Indeed, some casting directors and directors use only the top two agents. How depressing, dear.

However, even if you are unrepresented, you should still submit yourself for jobs. Online there are websites that list castings (such as castings.thestage.co.uk) – not all paid, but some offer good opportunities. And of course there is Spotlight – where you can read castings and submit yourself – however there are only a limited number of jobs shown. But it’s a start. Also, if you hear that a show is being cast, email the casting director or director, suggest yourself for a specific role and explain why you’d be perfect.

But how should one approach an agent? Here are some tips to help you on your quest:

Don’t stand outside an agent’s office and recite your audition speeches.

Do send a nice email, explaining why you want to be represented by them – and compliment some of their client’s work.

Do get yourself into a showcase, or fringe production – and invite agents along.

Don’t send more than one email or letter. If you hear nothing back presume it’s a no and try someone else.

Ask your contacts if they have any agent friends – a good recommendation can get you an agent meeting.

Do go to press nights – they are brilliant places to meet agents. But, if you meet one, try not to get overexcited and proclaim ‘I’m an actor.’ Stay calm, breathe, and have a nice conversation about Elaine Paige.

Don’t post an agent ‘clever’ things in an attempt to stand out. I’ve heard stories of people sending photos of themselves in shows as a child (‘I’ve been acting since I was a toddler!’), or attaching fake cheques that say ‘I will make you millions’.

Do send your headshot (preferably one that looks like you), current acting CV, and showreel (if you have one).

It won’t be long before an agent will bite, realise your brilliance, and you’ll be the next Bendydick Cumberbatch. Good luck, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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