The Secrets to Getting An Agent | Parents Guide for Child Actors

by Kirsten Clarkson on June 30, 2011

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Fairytales can come true, it can happen to you – but it probably won’t.

I don’t hate dreams but don’t think they are particularly useful past the initial inspiration stage. In my own life real has been so much better than dreams. It’s great to dream you’ll get an agent and end up with a fabulous career but it’s much better to work step by step toward making that real. This article is a step by step map to getting a real agent who will then help you get a real career. I’ll write about how to help create and handle a successful career for your child in another article.

Odds are your child won’t get an agent standing in line at H&M but it does happen. Even if it does happen that way getting an agent is not the whole of the moon.

Looking for an Agent

Selecting an agent is the first step in your journey. If your child’s acting instructor says “get an agent” – get one. There can be timing elements involved in a child’s career. If your instructor knows its Kid & Teen season (late spring to early fall) and your child is ready, they will encourage you to get an agent and give you referrals.

If your instructor isn’t comfortable doing this (for whatever reason) then ask friends and other kids in class. A referral is worth its weight in gold. Also, ask your instructor why they won’t refer. Maybe they don’t know any agents taking clients or maybe they have been burned by clients previously. It’s important to pay attention to the reasoning. It could be your child is not ready. If they are – strike while the iron is hot.

If you have no connections through friends, contemporaries or instructors have a look at Vancouver Actors Guide. There is a comprehensive list in the information section of the guide and there is a wonderful mastermind group of actors on the forums who will help you with their mostly unbiased opinions.  They love to help. Let them.

Character “Type”

The agent you select for your child should have a roster that does not include more than one of your child’s HIT or TYPE. The hit or type is what your child will be cast as: bully, geek, girl next door, sporty, class clown, etc. If your child is blond and blue eyed – you have a marketable but common type for a child actor– it’s tough to find an agent without a couple of cute blonde kids but it is possible. It is important that your agent have a reasonable sized roster.  Like in any business if you are taking care of too many clients the ones who are bringing you the least money suffer.

Business of Agents

Agents work for free in the beginning of a client’s career, helping develop them by getting them out to Casting Directors for auditions via two primary services: Casting Workbook and Breakdown Services. You will pay to have your child on Casting Workbook (a nominal yearly fee) and the agent pays for Breakdown Services (a larger monthly fee the agency pays). It is imperative that agents have access to both services as Casting Directors use both. Ask. If they are not on both they are not real agents.

Agents take a 15% commission in Canada and 10% in the US. Don’t worry about US representation at the beginning of your child’s career. Your child will be better off developing a career in Canada, compiling a list of professional credits and press in all media. If your agent has a reciprocal (commission split of any sort) with a US agency, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s fine too. It’s not imperative at the beginning and actors often find US representation after they are cast in series or film produced by the larger US production companies.

Submissions

In order to submit to an agent you will need a short professional cover letter. You will have researched the agent or had a referral so DON’T submit to, To Whom It May Concern. Know who the agent is and address them by their correctly spelled name.  You will need Headshots and a resume as well.

Great Headshots: If you are new it helps to look professional. Don’t cheap out. Most photographers offer reasonable deals to kids and teens. Get referrals from the usual suspects: instructors, contemporaries, and agents.

A Professional Resume: There is an example on the VAG. Casting Workbook also has a great system for setting up your resume online. Don’t worry if you have nothing but training to put on your resume and DON’T LIE. As long as your contact information (phone and email only –  no one needs to have access to where your child lives) and training is on your resume you are fine.

Next time we’ll continue the “getting an agent” article with details on what to expect when you meet with a prospective agent, and building that relationship.

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Kirsten Clarkson
is the Founder and Senior Education Advisor at Young Screen Actors Academy. For over 20 years, she has been coaching Vancouver’s top young actors who have book everything from actor to leading roles on films and TV shows. Kirsten has experience as an actor, writer, director, development executive, casting director and talent agent.

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