How to Get an Agent

Here's the truth.  Getting an agent isn't easy.  It's like the Holy Grail for actors.  If it were easy, every actor would have one, and everyone would be auditioning for the next Aquaman.   There are over 120 talent agencies in New York, and over 40 TV shows filming, and thousands of actors who want to be represented and get in those rooms.   Not everyone is ready to compete at this professional, highly selective level.  So be honest with yourself.  Are you ready to get an agent?   Are you ready to be in front of major casting directors?   Do you know your type, have a kickass demo reel, and most importantly, are you GOOD?  I don't mean "My friends think I'm funny" good, I mean are you TALENTED?  

"If only I had an agent...."  I hear this all the time.  The truth is, even if you start freelancing with an agent, it might be a while before you start getting auditions, never mind work.   You have to put in the time, be patient, and remember that it's about talent, type, and marketability (also, luck).   Yes, there is a HUGE element of luck.  Some very talented actors never find an agent, and sometimes people get an agent without ever having taken an acting class.  It can be a weird business.

As I discuss in my book, the best way to get an agent is through an industry referral.  That is, a casting director you know (or have met) personally calls an agent on your behalf to say how great you are.  How do you meet these casting directors without an agent?  Well, some people go to those controversial pay-to-meet workshops at Actor's Connection, The Network, Actor's Green Room, and build relationships that way.  If a casting director really responds to your work, they can get the ball rolling.  I'm not saying go sign up for a bunch of these workshops right now and spend your hard earned money, because not everyone is ready to be in front of these casting directors.    But if you play your cards right, and are smart and educated about it, then that might be the way to go for you.   Check out for up to date info on who is cas

Or perhaps you are in a play or film, or a class, and one of the other actors is working with an agent, or a casting director is coming to see them in the show.  There's nothing wrong with you asking for a referral (IF it's clear that the person likes your work).  The important thing here is that they are seeing you do what you love, where you are in your element, and that is the best way for someone to respond to you.

Another way is through blind submissions, whether it's over email or from sending out hard copies.  This is what all actors do when they are first starting out (as I did), but it's kind of a shot in the dark, and very hard to get someone to respond to an email or hard copy that doesn't know you.   If your headshot and resume are amazing, and you have a great look (i.e. young and hot), this may work.  If you are going to do this, then come up with a targeted list of 10 agents who you think are right for you.  (Again, I'm assuming you are READY to have an agent.)  Buy "Henderson's List of NY Talent Agencies" for $10 at the Drama Book Shop, read "The New York Agent Book" by K Callan from cover to cover, look on IMDB-Pro to see who the agents represent (make sure they don't have a bunch of people just like you), and come up with an educated list of talent agents who may be right for you at this given time.   Do your research!  Maybe you send out headshots, resumes, and a link to your demo reel, along with a short cover letter of recent jobs you have booked.  Then send a postcard every time you book a job, simply to stay on their radar.  And on top of that, perhaps you pay a little to meet them in person, or engage with them on social media (in a not creepy way).    If you are going to send out, the best time is April-June, or December, as that tends to be a slower time for agents, and they are more likely to have the time to open submissions.  Remember, they are working their asses off to get their own clients work (who pay their rent!), so it's a lot for them to take on somebody new and develop them.   They have to be really, really excited about you.  And in turn, you have to be offering them something to really get excited about.

Let's say you have no credits, not much training, but have a great look.  Maybe you want to pursue a commercial agent.  My sister Becki Newton started working in commercials and then crossed over to TV and film.  For some actors, this is a great way in, as it gives them valuable experience on set, with "on the job training" that gives them credibility when approaching a TV or film agent (who is interested in your "look" just as much as your talent).    This could be a great way in, especially if you are making tons of money for a commercial agent, and they also have a theatrical division (film, TV, theatre) which you could cross over to.  Commercial agents are big on improv training, so be sure to check out classes at the Pit, the Groundlngs, or UCB.

The last way is through Pay to Meet workshops.  It means spending a bunch of money to get in front of a bunch of agents for the "in person submission."  You have to be beyond amazing to secure representation from this.  Many actors do this, and many simply aren't ready, and are throwing their money away.   It feels like a "get rich quick" scheme, where you can pay to meet an agent, and think that suddenly your life will change.  It's not like that.  Yes, some actors get signed from these, but that's not the norm.   You may have to meet an agent six or seven times before they really start to remember you.  That's a lot of money!   There are pros and cons to this route, and you need to make sure you are being smart about it.  If you are going to do it, DON'T do the 10 agent panels (too impersonal), and DON'T do it in February and March (which is pilot season, when agents are way less likely to take on someone new).   

Good luck!!!!

Want to learn more about getting an agent?  Check out my "10 Steps to Making Acting your Business" seminar with Brian O'Neil (author "Acting as a Business") on February 22nd.  


5 WAYS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF A CALLBACK by Matt Newton and Brian O'Neill

From a recent article in Backstage

OK, actors. Pilot season is almost here, and the auditions will start rolling in. Represented or not, it’s a busy time for actors in New York City and Los Angeles—a time for last-minute auditions, same-day callbacks, screen tests, and frantically memorizing lines the day of and the night before.  

You race around to auditions, and you get that call saying they want to see you again. Congrats! You made both you and your agent (if you have one) look good! Most of an agent’s best clients get called back a lot and then don’t get the job. Most of the time. Why? Because only one actor can get the job and most of the time it isn’t going to be you. For one role on an episodic TV show, they might get 1,000 submissions, bring in 20 actors to pre-read, and maybe bring five back for producers. 

After years of coaching actors for auditions and callbacks, here are what we have come up with for the best ways to get the most out of that callback.

1. Focus on winning the room. This is about so much more than “getting the job.” It’s about making fans in the industry, and getting back in that room again, and maybe in a relatively short period of time. That’s how an actor’s reputation grows. If they keep bringing you back, you are doing your job. The casting director is trying to find the right part for you. The more casting directors you have on your side, the better. Getting callbacks means you are doing something right. 

2. Show them you take direction well. Be ready to play. For a TV callback session, the director and producers want to see that you can take direction on set, as time is very valuable. Do exactly what you did in the pre-read, wear exactly the same outfit, and then be open to change. Be ready for quick adjustments from the director or show runner. Being in a room with a few producers is one thing, being on set with 175 crew members trying to race through their shots is very different. They need to see that you can handle the stress.

3. Use it in your marketing. A callback? You betcha. If you’re freelancing, you can use it when staying in touch with other agents, through postcards or email. You have the right to do this, as you are not signed to anyone. We cannot think of anything an agent wants to know about you more than the casting directors who know you. And if you’ve gotten a callback, they probably like you. Also, if you drop a line to a casting director with this information, it tells them that their colleagues and peers are noticing you. It’s called “vetting” and it can be very powerful.   

4. Don’t brag on social media. Word of caution here: Wait on the “I got a callback for a soccer mom on ‘Constantine!’ ” post until you find out whether or not you have been cast, which happens quickly in the world of episodic television. Understandably, in today’s climate of “instant information,” many industry people don’t want it broadcast as to where a project is in the casting stages as the process is still unfolding. Some casting offices make you sign NDA agreements, as your callback sides carry confidential plot information.

5. Ask for feedback from your reps. At this point in the casting process, it’s down to a few people. Agents have different styles where getting feedback is concerned. Depending on the stakes and your overall track record, some will ask for it only when they think the information will be genuinely helpful to all concerned. Some believe in the old adage “Your feedback is you didn’t get the job.” If you were called back for a big role, there’s a specific reason you didn’t get it, and you have a right to ask your agent or manager. They may not be able to get that information, but it’s worth a shot. If it’s a series regular, it’s about charisma, likability, and bringing depth to the scenes. Feedback helps actors grow. If it’s something you can control—(“He didn’t hit the emotional beats,” for example)—then you have something to work on. If it’s out of your control—(“His hair was three shades too dark”)—then let it go.

Want to learn more?  Matt Newton and Brian O’Neil are teaching a special one-day seminar “10 Steps to Making Acting Your Business” on Sunday, Feb. 22. To learn more, visit