This is honestly one of the most difficult parts of the process. It certainly was for us. While it feels like there is an agent on every corner in Los Angeles—and there might be—“an” agent is not what you want for your child! You want THE agent.
Who is the right agent? It depends on you and your kid. In the abstract, it is the “best” agent your child is able to interest, who is also a great fit for you both in terms of personal management and communications style. Like some other close relationships, getting it right on the first attempt is not guaranteed, and getting out can be tricky, so it’s best to take your time and make sure you have the most ideal fit possible before signing a contract.
Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between the level of expertise/reputation of an agent and the difficulty involved with getting a meeting/audition with them. In LA, these auditions are typically referred to as meetings.
When we first arrived in Los Angeles, I went online and researched the “best” youth agents. A great place to start is the Talent Manager’s Association’s Heller Awards, which have, among other categories, one for Best Youth Agent. These are peer-nominated awards, so to me they carry more weight than other ones. A few names popped up on the nominations list repeatedly, and then I did some further research.
Most of these folks keep a pretty low profile, so this is not always easy. The more people you meet, the more you can ask for word of mouth recommendations to add to your list of potential representation. Whatever you do when creating a list of potential agents, cross-reference with the list on the SAG-AFTRA website to be sure they are all franchised. Then go online again and research each agency: their website, as well as whatever a Google search turns up. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. But it’s a critical piece to finding someone who could be in your lives for years.
After doing my research, I decided on a strategy: aim for the top, and only start moving down the list after every effort to get Dove in front of the top agent/s had been exhausted. What I did not understand at the time was that the top agents never just meet with unsolicited potential clients. They are simply too busy taking care of their current, successful clients!
There is also an important distinction here: top agent vs. top agency. There are some great agents at mid-level agencies, and mediocre agents at great agencies. In my experience, and according to the wisdom of just about everyone I’ve ever spoken to about this, the key is the agent—not the agency. Which makes sense when you stop to consider that this is an entirely human-run business.
So… there I was, with my brilliant short list, and contacting these two people (yes, I was that confident/naïve) on a weekly basis, via phone, email, and post, giving them Dove’s headshot, resume, and the best cover letter I could muster. And I got back: nothing. Week after week, until it was approaching the two-month mark. No one returned my calls or emails or responded to the large manila envelopes with my kid’s face smiling out from the top. I was starting to question my methods, and whether I had been crazy to move us here without managing to find an agent first.
In desperation, I contacted one of Dove’s mentors, who had directed her back on Bainbridge Island, and been one of the people who most encouraged us to take the plunge and go to LA. She has a very successful, lifelong career as an actor and director, and many contacts in the business. “Help! I’m doing everything that I can think of to get Dove in front of a great agent—save actually sitting in front of their door—and can’t even get a meeting! What should I do?”
She asked who we were trying to see, and knew one of the names. This one was in fact my favorite. She told me she’d call another agent in town who was very influential, and from her word to him, he would call our hoped-for agent and we would get a meeting. And like magic, within fifteen minutes my phone rang and we were invited to meet with Pamela Fisher. And I will love her forever for seeing the potential in Dove, and taking a chance on her. And for everything else she has done for us over the years since. Sometimes the stars do align.
Were we lucky? Yes. Does it take some kind of professional referral to get in front of one of these prized top agents? Yes, unfortunately. And of course, getting into a meeting with someone is just step one. Your child needs to be ready to be represented by someone at that level, and the agency needs to have a space in their roster of talent that they might fit into. If your child’s “type” is already covered by that agency, they will likely decline, even if they think your child is perfect otherwise.
Or perhaps the agent will tell you to come back after your kid takes more classes or gets some more experience. But every meeting/audition your child takes—whether with a potential agent, or casting director—is an educational experience that increases your child’s chance of success. It’s important to remember this, as it can help you both keep perspective along the journey. If a potential agent rejects your child, it’s ultimately because a better fit is out there.
So, some takeaways from our experience: if you are aiming for the top agents, you must have someone refer you to have a shot at a meeting. Who do you know that could vouch for the readiness of your kid to meet with this agent? If you know no one, then you have a few options: 1) continue auditioning, and every single job your child lands becomes an opportunity to network, and possibly create a relationship that could lead to a referral; 2) revise your list to include perhaps more realistic choices given your child’s experience level.
NEXT: Finding and Getting in Front of the Right Agent: Part 2 of 2
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
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