I believe every actor’s mum has told him at least once that she will be his manager when he reaches Hollywood. I’ve got at least five people who have promised to manage me if I ever find myself next to Johnny Depp. As a child, the idea of your mum doing all the boring paper work for you till you are forty doesn’t sound too bad. However, getting to know the business you realise your mum’s contacts down the local bakery won’t get you rolling with the RSC.
Getting an agent is vital if you want to work in the industry and get paid more than expenses and a watery coffee from Starbucks. It is extremely frustrating realising that a new production has a character that fits your typecast perfectly – the actor even looks exactly like you – but it’s too late ’cause no one notified you. And why is that? Because you don’t have an agent.
Your agent is the one to push you forth in a business where you will find thousands of other actors who look exactly like you. There are plenty of fish in the sea so you need a specialist to point out to all the buyers why you are better than the salmon next to you. And how are you supposed to be caught by the right people if no one tells them you are there?
That said, it’s not like you can click you fingers and find yourself managed by Ken Mcreddie (a major London agency). If you have a genie, now is the time to rub the lamp and wish, otherwise plenty of hard work and “no”s await you. Because getting an agent is a paradox: you can’t get proper jobs without one, but you can’t get an agent without a proper job to showcase your talent. So what do you do? People say “go to drama school” (in heightened RP and then nod their heads) – but what if drama school is not for you? Is the business then closed to you?
It is like Peter Pan without his shadow – he cannot live without it, but he has to, at least until it is sewed back on. Your agent is your shadow, the one who watches over you and pushes you in the right direction. They are there to make money, and so are you which makes it very beneficial: two people pushing for you to succeed is better than one.
So if you are missing your shadow at the moment it might be intimidating, but don’t give up and let others bring you down. Get as many jobs on your own as possible, show off what you can do, contact as many agencies as you can. Worst case scenario is a “no thank you”, which you should be used to by now. Mother Fortune will wave her wand a little at some point and if not, well, then it’s bad Starbucks coffee and expenses only while mum is doing her manager-magic.
Image credit: Xiaojun Deng.