The Secrets to Getting An Agent, Part 2 | Parents Guide for Child Actors Series

by Kirsten Clarkson on July 11, 2011

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Read Part 1 of this article, Secrets to Getting An Agent.

Meeting Potential Agents

When you meet with agents let them know you are meeting with a few and tell them you will be deciding in a few weeks. This eliminates the “first date” uncomfortable feeling when they offer to work with you but you have an interview with another agent the next day. That rejection is not nice for anyone and agents feel it too. If they are offering to work with you it is because they see you as a new partner and someone they believe in. Having that offer rejected is a drag. Set the meeting up well and every agent you meet will respect your professionalism.

You need to make sure you like your agent. This doesn’t have to be a love relationship but it really helps if you really like your agent.  Most likely this is a long term business agreement and it’s best to form those with people you have some affinity for.

Also, if your child is anything other than Caucasian, ask if the agent submits cross-culturally. If you hear there are no auditions for brown kids or yellow kids or red kids or whatever beautiful mix your kid might be you might want to consider another agent or ask your agent to submit to your child’s type and not skin colour.

I think life it too short to ascribe to those kinds of values and those blocks in working, thinking and living. When I was an agent I treated the sexism, racism and other biases in the writing of scripts and breakdowns as a mistake. I submitted across the board if there was nothing preventing it (like the characters are described as identical red-headed, left-handed, skateboarding Chinese speaking twins with a pronounced lisp).

Most casting directors are not bigots and they will see the actor. At least they did when I submitted. Different ethnic groups get “hot” at different times. Since there is currently a larger buying group in Canada that are Asian or South Asian there are more opportunities for actors in those groups. This is a case where actors can also strike when the iron is hot.  You can also take advantage of cultural biases. If the character is written as a Caucasian computer geek who loves math why not submit a child who falls into the cultural bias?

Do You Have Your Tool Belt Ready?

Once you have selected an agent and you are working together supply your agent with the tools they need, and create a strong working relationship remembering to update them about every loose tooth, haircut and vacation plan.

Tools agents need are the following:

An Acting Demo Reel: Put together two contrasting scenes that are SHORT. Reels should be about 2 minutes in length. Make sure to think about your child’s type or hit when selecting scenes. This is a marketing tool not a painter’s palette.  DO THIS WITH A PROFESSIONAL. Bad sound is the bête noir of production. People will watch a great performance with a not so great image but they will not tolerate bad sound.

A Voice Over Demo: Not as important at the start as an Acting Demo but a great supplementary tool. VO is an industry that does not die and is a great way to have fun and bring in college money.  It is equally important to have a professional demo for this. Have a listen to the reels on for an idea of what this will sound like.

Updates On Training: Let your agent know what your child is studying and with whom. If they have just taken a commercial audition class it is likely that the agent will then send them on commercial auditions!

Special Skills: If your child plays a sport or game, speaks another language, can dance or sing – you MUST let your agent know. Auditions are often about special skills. This can be a foot in the door. Don’t miss out on the new Barbie commercial being shot in Mandarin because your agent assumed your very Caucasian looking daughter didn’t have the language. Special skills also allow for quirky things like your child being an amazing baker or hoola hoop champion at the age of 6. Speaking of championships: include awards from academics to volunteering. They all spark interest and reveal the soul of the child.

In my experience it is best to communicate with agents via email. Actors invariably call when an agent is doing breakdowns and very busy. It’s easier to read an email and get back to you at their convenience.

I would say it’s really important to be unreasonable when helping your child along this path. Reasonable people end up accountants (not that there is anything wrong with that). Unreasonable people set impossible goals like being a successful actor. Don’t be reasonable in your ambition but do be reasonable about the steps you take in this journey.

I have notice in my more than 20 years working as an agent, casting director, producer, director and finally now as an acting coach that parental support is the magic that makes the journey an exciting ride to success rather than a terrifying journey. Kids and teens need your love and support even more when they are working toward a difficult dream.  In fact they need to believe that the impossible is just a short distance away.

To quote the fabulous standard “Crazy He Calls Me” sung by the incomparable Billie Holiday, “ The difficult I’ll do right now… the impossible will take a little while.”

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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