Do you need a talent agent if you’re an actor?

When I first started doing acting headshot photography many many years ago, there were a lot of things that I did not know or understand.

At the time, all I pretty much did was have someone come in to my photo studio in Brooklyn, I take their acting headshots, I send them the photography files, and for the most part, I don’t hear from those folks again.

On the occasions when I tried to follow up and see how they’re doing, I’d hear that they’ve given up on their quest to be an actor. And when I would ask why, those that were willing to talk would usually say it was too much work.

Like them at the time, I was very ignorant of one gnawing reality; none of them had talent agents.

The talent agent is really that important? The answer is, absolutely!

Next to casting directors, talent agents are the most important people that you will need in your life when it comes to building your success as an actor. This isn’t a speculation, this is a fact.

Think about it this way: you’ve done some acting in school, maybe you’ve done some stuff on youtube, you know you’ve got talent, and you’re raring to go and land those roles.

Knowing you’re ready for fame and fortune, you go running from one casting call, to another casting call, to another casting call, in an attempt at getting an audition for anything.

As much as you want to be an actor, the physical and mental strain of chasing after auditions is slowly taking a toll.

And, if you’re remotely lucky to get a call-back from one of those numerous casting calls your ran to, more often than not, it probably won’t result in much of anything.

Now ask yourself this, wouldn’t it be great to have a team you can lean on to help you manage working with casting directors, auditions, or even landing roles that you know you’re good for? This is where a talent agent comes in handy.

So, if talent agents are that essential piece of your acting success puzzle, why don’t more actors have talent agents? I think some of the reason have to do with misconceptions of who they are, what they do, how they get paid, and overall plain ignorance.

So, it’s understandable why some people would be a little gun shy about pursuing a talent agent. The good news is, that there is a whole lot more good quality talent agents, and they are always looking for marketable talent such as you.

Now, let’s get into a little bit more detail about these mysterious folk, and figure out if they are right for you.

Who they are, and what they do:

A talent agent is your representative in the entertainment industry. They do the heavy lifting when it comes to meeting with casting directors, producers, filmmakers, directors, etc. etc.

Their intervention on your behalf makes it easier for you to land gigs that are going to put money in your pocket, and help you be successful throughout your acting career.

This doesn’t mean they’ll do all the work for you; you’re going to have to put in some work yourself. What it does mean, is that you’re no longer alone when it comes to trying to figure out what to go for when it comes to roles.

You see, one of the key elements to a talent agents success, is his or her ability to figure out who you are as a person, and, figure out what type of roles would be good for you. This could mean that you might not get any jobs in the immediate future, because the agent understands that none of those roles are meant for you.

But when they do find a role that’s meant for you, you can bet that they’re going to work very very hard on your behalf to make sure you get a shot at getting that role; because you gaining that role means they get paid, and that’s their primary objective.

How do they get paid:

A talent agent makes their money based on what the actor makes; in other words whatever the actor makes for role, the talent agent receives a portion of that pay. In a way, it’s like how liability lawyers operate; they work for “free” at the beginning, and when the settlement comes in, they take their already agreed to cut from their clientele.

FYI, if you ever run into a talent agent that requires you to pay them in advance to work on your behalf, that person may be suspect, and will require a bit more scrutiny on your part.

On the other hand, if you’re coming in cold, and you need head shots, and/or audition reels, then they may either recommend that you get those in advance on your own, recommend someone to you, or charge you to do the service themselves.

While that scenario doesn’t happen often, it does happen, and in my humble opinion, it’s not disreputable; just another revenue stream a talent agent will take advantage of if they’re inclined to do so.

So, as long as they are producing the images and the audition reel for you to present to casting and those other people, then you really don’t have much to worry about.

I know some people are going to complain about why a talent agent should get any of their hard-earned money since they’re doing the hard work. Fair enough. Thing is though, most actors wouldn’t get ANY money if not for the fact that they had a talent agent on their side.

So, it’s kind of a toss-up; do you as an actor want to go it alone, take your chances, get exhausted chasing after every hopeful opportunity, and maybe not ever get paid because you don’t get any roles that pay you? Or, do you get with a good talent agent, get some roles that pay you, and you pay the talent agent a portion of what you make?

If I were an actor, it wouldn’t even be a choice; it’s talent agent for the win, people!