Do you have to move to Los Angeles for your kid to get a Hollywood agent? How can you get an agent if you don’t live in LA?

A parent reached out to me recently after listening to one of my podcasts. The story of featured a young actor who lived far from Los Angeles, yet somehow signed with an agent here.

The parent was upset because they had been told that they would have to move to LA to get representation.

“So explain why so many managers and agents state ‘you have to live in LA for you to get any work and or for representation. We can’t do anything for you if you don’t!’ Why do I continuously read stories on young successful actors that DO NOT LIVE IN LA… It’s so discouraging…”

I sympathize with the frustration.

In fact different agents say different things, and sometimes they say different things at different times to different people.

No wonder parents of young actors get frustrated and discouraged! The messages are mixed at best. But why isn’t there a clear answer to this?

The answer is that whether an agent is willing to sign and represent an actor who lives outside of LA depends on a number of factors. Let’s take a look.

Nine factors that affect whether a Hollywood agent signs a young actor who lives out of town:

  • If the actor wants to audition for commercials, they really do need to live in or near LA. This is because commercials are cast and shot very quickly and unlike film and TV, they generally do not use a self-tape in auditions. The notice is typically 24 hours or less for a commercial audition. So it makes no real sense to fly in, or drive many long hours, just to audition for a commercial.
  • If the actor is just starting out, it makes little sense for them to sign with an LA agent unless they live in the LA area because the TV opportunities that are available for developing actors are typically co-star and guest star roles. Most of these are cast and shot very quickly—generally within days, which means they also generally do not use a self-tape. These also typically have only about 24 hours notice for an audition. Co-star and guest star roles are the gateway for bigger roles. But you pretty much have to be where they are cast to get them.
  • Young actors in development may not be ready for film or TV yet and some agents may prefer to start them in the commercial department while they continue to take classes and develop their skills. Which takes us back to the first bullet point. It is in fact much easier to get commercial representation than theatrical (TV or film) representation. But if you can’t be available to audition for even commercials, this can be a sticking point.
  • Big film roles—and important, series regular roles in pilots—often do begin with a self-tape, which can be done from anywhere. But after the first round or so of taped auditions, those auditions can go through a number of rounds of callbacks. An agent will want complete confidence that an actor will be able to attend those rounds of auditions. And that should they book the role, their family will be able to manage relocating if necessary. Most of these bigger roles are not available to beginning actors. Smaller film roles are frequently cast locally—outside of Hollywood. Keep reading to see how this can help you!
  • Finally– since LA has no shortage of trained, talented, hardworking actors, of every age and type—agents don’t have much incentive to sign someone that they can expect will have difficulty in keeping audition appointments. They already have plenty of talent to choose from. In fact if an agent gets an audition for an actor who does not show up, it can make the agent look bad and damage their relationship with the casting director. So they actually have an incentive to NOT sign actors from out of town.

Even the biggest agents have to work hard to get their actors a chance at the very limited audition slots for a given project. Few things are more upsetting to an agent than working really hard to get their actor one of those coveted spots only to hear that they can’t show up.

Of course there will always be exceptions to these factors, and a few young actors will manage to get signed by LA agents even if they live far outside the area. How does this happen?

  • Sometimes an agent is so overwhelmingly impressed by a young actor that they make an exception to their own policy and sign them anyway, with a promise from the parents that they will absolutely fly in for big opportunities. This is rare.
  • Sometimes a young actor gets their start outside of LA as a “local hire” in a film and this performance gets the attention of an LA agent who is willing to represent them based on the quality of their work. Again, the promises of a parent that they can and will fly in whenever necessary for auditions and work are key to this. This can be a great reason to look for local film opportunities in your area. State film commissions are a great resource for this! Download my free list of state film commissions HERE.
  • Sometimes a young actor can sign with a big agency nearer to where they live, and if that agency has a branch in LA, the LA office may be willing to represent them as well. This is most likely with New York. A few of the bigger Atlanta agencies have relationships with LA agencies as well.
  • Finally, sometimes less choosy talent agencies (read: less successful) may sign anyone they think has a remote chance of success. But this doesn’t necessarily translate into real opportunity for these young actors. Getting signed feels great, but if the agent doesn’t believe in you, fight for you, and submit you for auditions, having “representation” doesn’t mean very much. In fact it can be worse than having no agent. Now you may be locked into an exclusive contract with someone who is doing nothing for you. Exclusive contracts are standard in Los Angeles.

I know young actors who lived outside of LA when they first started and who represent each of those exceptions listed above.

But they really are exceptions. Most agents, most of the time, do not want to sign actors who live outside the area and have little incentive to do so. And their reasons are very practical.

Some young actors who manage to sign with LA agents and still live out of town go back and forth for years before finally moving permanently to LA. Your young actor may be one of them. But if it doesn’t happen, know that you are in good company. Most actors really do have to be in LA to build a career. Movies and TV shows may film all over, but most are still cast in Los Angeles.

Do you feel stuck trying to help your kid achieve their dream of being a professional actor? A single consulting session with me can make a huge difference. Let me save you months of time, and thousands of dollars. Sign up for a Skype session today! Or if you’re in LA, we can meet in person. Sometimes a couple of tweaks in your approach can make all the difference, giving you real progress, and peace of mind. Sign up here: https://bonniejwallace.com/consultations/