6 Steps to Securing Your First Acting Agent

Article Image
Photo Source: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Are you ready to find the Aran Michael to your Margot Robbie? The hows and whys of finding an agent who could take your career to the next level are at the top of many actors' to-do lists, but the search can feel overwhelming if you're new to the industry.

Here’s our step-by-step guide on what agents do, how to get one, and even whether partnering with an agent is the right move for you. 


What does an agent do for an actor?

Agent meeting with client

Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Think of acting agents as the bridge between actors and the full expanse of the acting industry. Agents can take actors to places nearly impossible to reach alone. 

In Australia, acting agents frequently play the roles of manager, publicist, and trusted confidante in addition to pitching their clients for projects and arranging their self-tapes and auditions. 

That said, agents are ultimately running a business, and the legitimate ones make money only when their actors do. The best agents will be adept at balancing the artistic and commercial, the personal and the professional. The rules vary depending on where you live in Australia, too. New South Wales and Queensland are the only states with legislative regulations regarding agent commissions, which are capped at 10% unless specified beforehand. In all other states, agents may take up to 20%, depending on the nature of the booking. 

On a tactical, practical level, agents handle administrative and logistical tasks such as preparing contracts, negotiating salaries, and sorting out terms and conditions. On a more creative and emotional level, agents can help define your desired career path and support you every step of the way—invaluable when the going gets tough or if you find yourself navigating fame. Essentially, a good agent is a truly formidable ally.

How to get an acting agent in 6 steps

Researching on laptop


1. Research 

As with all businesses, there are some charlatans out there, so you’ll want to think about how to find a good acting agent. Start by reading through the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) lists of reputable agencies in each state. Search for their websites, social media accounts, and any other information (for example, interviews with agents or their actors) to familiarise yourself with the feel and style of each. Some points to guide your research include assessing whether you fill a gap in their roster (do they already have someone on their books who looks like you?) and if their current clients are working on the kind of projects you aspire to. 

2. Package up your profile

Next, check you have your submission materials in order. Do you have a recent headshot that accurately represents you? Is your CV easy to read and up to date? Do you have a show reel or short video snippet to offer further evidence of your professionalism and potential? All of the above gives agents an idea of whether you’ll fit the mould of their projects and how they’d go about shaping you. 

3. Start pitching to your preferred agents 

If this is your first time pitching to agents, start with just a few, and initially not the ones at the top of your list. This way, you can incorporate any feedback into your subsequent pitches and come across as more confident by the time you contact your first and second choices. 

4. Ask for referrals 

Referrals aren’t as common in Australia as in the US, but they can still be an effective means of separating you from the pack. Ask your actor friends, acting teachers, or any directors, producers, or casting directors you know whether they’d be willing to introduce you to any agents on your list. 

5. Follow the agency’s guidelines

If submitting directly, ensure you submit per the agency’s guidelines, which are generally explained on the FAQ or Contact pages of their websites. For the most part, however, an application will involve attaching a headshot, CV, and show reel to a short, personable email. Some encourage following up a week or two later, but others don’t, so heed the agency’s guidelines here, too. Many agencies focus on the graduating students out of drama schools in the second half of the year, so if you aren’t a graduating student actor, applying in the first half of the year may be wise. 

6. Sign with the best personal fit 

Finally, it’s worth meeting with all offering agencies to gain a fuller idea of who they are and how they work with talent. Then sign with the best fit for you. Although it can be tempting, there’s little sense in rushing into an actor-agent partnership. It can also be tempting to sign with the shiniest agency offering representation, but exercise caution here: You need to think about which agency best understands you, and the work you hope to do, and can give attention to your growing career needs.

Do you need an agent to be an actor?

Actor on stage

Anna Jurkovska/Shutterstock

Getting an acting agent is not always essential. It depends on where you are in your career, where you’re based, and your goals. 

If you’re still relatively new to the profession, it can help to concentrate on training and getting experience through short films or local theatre. You can absolutely still submit to agents when you’re starting out, but having a few credits can really boost your chances. To build up your CV, consider applying for acting jobs on casting platforms like StarNow so you have a short CV or show reel to share with prospective agents down the line. 

If you’re based regionally or in a small market—and intend to remain there—having an agent might not be necessary (or even an option). The key to finding work is building strong relationships with local filmmakers and theatre makers. You may need to volunteer your time and talent first, but demonstrate your passion and proactive nature and you can end up with collaborators for life. 

The final consideration is whether an agent aligns with your career goals. Agents are crucial players to have on your team if you’re after a conventional career as an actor (think: principal roles in major stage and screen productions). Agents get access to the top-tier decision-makers and buzziest projects—access that is hard to come by otherwise. 

However, if you don’t aspire to this type of work, signing with an agent could actually take you away from the work you want to do. For instance, if you want to create your own work or company and focus only on passion projects, having an agent constantly sending you off to commercial castings might be more of a distraction than a delight. 

Remember, too, that there may be seasons when having an agent makes a lot of sense (in the year after graduating from drama school, for example) and seasons when it doesn’t (say, as a new parent existing on little sleep). Ultimately, there’s no objective right or wrong, just what’s right or wrong for you.