I have been a self-represented actor since leaving drama school. After two years of small theatre parts and roles in student and independent films, I had marked 2020 as the year I would look for an agent.
I was waiting for new scenes for my showreel before sending my emails out. I have finally had the scenes back from the editor and I am really pleased with them. Of course, in the interim, the lockdown was declared and the industry is now in a different place from where it was a few months ago.
I wanted to get your take on whether it is still worthwhile approaching agents for representation at this time? I would imagine many of them are struggling either to keep their own jobs or to find work for the actors already on their books. On the other hand, if I hold off until the industry gets going again, my worry is that it will so busy that my stuff gets lost in the flood.
I have been asked this question a lot recently but, given that agents are people, and responses to the current situation differ from person to person, it is hard to give a generic answer. In or out of lockdown, the generic approach is almost never the right one to adopt when sending out a pitch in any case, so perhaps this is a good thing.
The fact that you are even considering the mood on the other side of the desk or screen when your submission arrives shows you are already putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. This is something most actors are extremely good at doing in performance mode, but not always when it comes to crafting business communications. I have seen quite a few attempts to network with agents, producers or other third parties flounder because they are overly focused on the benefits of the connection to the actor (‘I need your help to take my work to the next level’) and not enough on what the advantage might be to the person they are hoping will work with them.
‘Here are some things I have been doing off my own bat to acquire the skills that would make the next level a realistic option’ is a much more enticing approach. Tailoring your submission has always required preliminary research and that is no less true in current circumstances. Exploring agency websites and talking to existing clients if you can is wise, not only in getting a feel for whether the agency is working effectively with their current roster, but also to avoid all too common mistakes such as sending screen-orientated CVs to agencies that mainly deal in theatre or vice versa.
Social media can be particularly useful for giving you clues as to how receptive individual agencies might be. Some have already said they are actively seeking to connect with prospective clients during this downtime. But I have seen social media posts from other agents suggesting they are struggling. On a business level, this might be an indicator that now is not the right time to send your chirpy ‘this is me’ email, but on a human level, that doesn’t mean you can’t send kindness (as long as it is genuine and without an agenda).
There has never been a time when the number of actors seeking representation didn’t outnumber the agency spots available and the current scenario hasn’t changed that. But that is no reason not to do your research, pluck up your courage and go for it. The only pitch absolutely guaranteed not to get a response is the one you never send out in the first place.