One of the biggest questions I get from new actors is related to obtaining representation: “How do I get an agent or manager?”
Unfortunately, there are no direct answers. Some people are lucky and meet the right people at the rig
ht time. Others might go years without any representation at all. So, whether you land an agent or not, the best strategy – first, last, and always – is to be your own agent and manager!
There are several resources online to help you understand the difference between a manager and an agent. In layman’s terms, an agent is more official and will help with legal issues, such as negotiating rates or verifying contracts. A manager takes a more intimate, ground-level approach, helping make strategic and tactical decisions about your career. Here are some tips on doing those jobs well for yourself:
1) Your first job is as a voice-over actor. Early on, you need to take advantage of opportunities that will help develop your acting and VO skills. You should take non or low paying jobs to build your resume, potentially add to your demos and gain exposure to industry professionals. Like an athlete, you need to be constantly developing your muscles (voice-over technique) by taking on as many opportunities as come your way. This includes both auditions and gigs. And when you get those opportunities, present yourself as a professional and always be prepared for an optimal performance.
2) Your second job is talent agent and manager. The best way to distinguish yourself, and most effectively present yourself as a potentially potent voice of a brand is to creatively and professionally brand yourself. This means that you must approach the industry not as an individual actor trying to land a gig, but rather as a business to business venture. You are a contractor bidding for a contract from another company, and consequently you’ve got to present yourself as a credible and successful business vendor. So, think about what successful businesses have in common: professional branding and packaging.
This means applying the best tools of the trade to your business. Those tools include a logo, website, templates for any deliverables – including cover letters, resume and invoices – and finally, a unifying theme, design, color scheme, etc. across all of it. By having that as your goal, you can impress with your creativity and business acumen, which oftentimes will be the competitive advantage that books you the job over other, equally talented folks who don’t present themselves quite as professionally.
You want your client (you!) to be the best of the best. But you do not want to continue investing a bunch of time doing jobs for no or very little pay. The talent agent/manager in you will decide when you have had enough“exposure” and free lunches and are ready to take it to the next level.
Here are some ideas to get after
Be slick, but not sleazy: Using a separate or professional email address to inquire about auditions and jobs is fine (and recommended). Showing up at castings uninvited or sending unsolicited submissions where they’re clearly not welcome is not. Play in the grey to get your foot in the door. However, don’t go overboard. You want to be included in the mix, but you do not want to cause unwanted attention to yourself by sending a $500 gift basket to a casting director or producer, in hopes of getting a call. Stand out at your audition with solid demos and professionally branded deliverables, and they will remember you in a good way. Pound the pavement and keep networking and eventually, the opportunities will come. It is not easy, but with a little internet sleuthing, you can find a million resources for job opportunities. Just don’t be weird.
The work of a successful actor is equal parts art and commerce. There must be a balance to succeed. Talent representation helps with the business side of things, but that does not mean you are hopeless without one. If done right, you will build a business that any agent or manager will eagerly want to go into business with – if you even still want them!
About the Author
Alan J Schwartz has many years of diversified experience as a voice-over artist. His versatile voice has been heard worldwide in TV and radio commercials, promos, documentaries, animated films, video games, animated films, radio imaging, audio books, political campaigns and educational and industrials productions.
He’s done national commercial campaigns for Sprite, Verizon, Yahoo!, Smirnoff Ice and TGI Friday’s; and narrated numerous documentaries for Discovery, TLC and A&E. He is also “Alex,” the voice of the Mac Operating System, iTunes and the iPod Shuffle.
Alan’s demos and additional information can be accessed on his website at www.ajsvoiceover.com.