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How to Find an Agent... and Survive: Part IV

The best way to get a professional job on a demo tape is to hire a professional who specializes in that service. While casting directors look at tapes sent by agents they know, and some will request them, if the tape is not good quality, it will do nothing for you. Normally demo tapes are edited from clips of actual work you have done; if you have no media work to use, you may select material to record for a demo. If your agency does demo tapes in- house, ask to see some tapes done for other performers to check on the quality. Call a few casting directors to see if they would look at a tape sent by your agent. And as always, find out whether the costs are comparable.

At the present time, some U.S. casting directors are beginning to make use of computer data-base casting services. The practice is not common in Canada. If your career is at a point that you wish to be visible to the U.S. market, you might consider such a service. But check it out carefully first - preferably with the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) if it is a U.S. service, or with ACTRA and the Casting Directors Society of Canada if it is a Canadian service.

Resumes are like photo reproductions: if you prefer to take responsibility for regular up-dates and printing, discuss this with your agent. It can be convenient to have your resume on your agent's computer: it will be updated with each new job, and copies are no further than the agent's printer. As always, investigate the costs; even if you prefer not to take care of your resume yourself, there are professional services that can offer you similar convenience, and the price may be better. Just be certain that your agent always has copies of your resume on hand.

As a rule of thumb, for any service offered, first find out if that service is necessary, check the credentials of the people who will be providing the service, and always comparison shop for price and quality.

In Conclusion

If an agency's fees seem excessive, or if the services offered differ from the norm in the industry, do further research. Check with casting directors, or fashion photographers and studios (for modelling agencies), to see if the agency is known by the people who work with actors or models. Ask the agency for professional references, and check them out. Watch out for circular references, where connected companies give each other good references, but no one else seems to know who they are. A reference is not worth much when given by someone who has no credibility.

A contract is a binding legal agreement; once you sign, you are committed to uphold all terms of the contract. Get legal advice if there is anything you don't understand in the contract. Make certain that all obligations - yours and the agent's - are clearly laid out. Do your research before you sign anything, or give anyone any money. A legitimate agent will answer your questions, and will give you time to make a decision without undue pressure. Do not sign anything until you are satisfied that the agent is legitimate and the deal is right for you.

By Cathy McKim
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