Work one-on-one with Ben Hopkin

Private Sessions

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Secret Agent Man: the Search for the Perfect (or Any) Representation

Any actor embarking on a professional career faces the loveliest of Catch 22's.

I can't get work without an agent.

I can't get an agent without showing them my work.

It's not the only Catch 22 that exists in the biz. There are others. Like the whole Screen Actors' Guild thing. You know...can't get a SAG card if you haven't worked on a SAG film, but you can't work on a SAG film without a SAG card.

At times we might begin to wonder if it isn't some big conspiracy where all the currently successful actors are trying to keep all the new ones out. Us.

Here's the thing, though. I've said it before. These are not walls that are erected to keep us out. They are only there to make us figure out how bad we really want it.

Is it tough? Sure. Want something easy? Try something else.

So, once you've decided to go ahead and work the unworkable system, there are all kinds of options to try. I'm going to give you a run-down of a bunch of different things to work on. This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, but it is a good place to start.

0. There's a reason this is zero and not one. This is a total must-do. TAKE CLASSES! Is this self-serving advice? Sure. I teach classes. They are awesome. You should take them.

With that said, I want you to take classes wherever you decide to take classes. Just take them. We want to constantly be stretching as actors.

Think you're "beyond" classes? I'll say this in the most loving and gentle way I know how.

Grow up. :)

No one is. We are ALL still learning. If not, we might as well just hang up our acting hat, 'cause it's all downhill from there. If we're not moving forward, we're sliding backward. There is no standing still when it comes to art.

1. Make your own work. I can't stress this enough. If you want to act bad enough, you will act. Period. It can be memorizing monologues and performing them to your cat, but keep acting. Preferably with someone else, but at the end of the day, just act. Eventually, you'll start realizing that you can do some pretty amazing things if you just decide to keep showing up and keep practicing your craft.

2. Make friends who are like-minded. Form a support group. Sit around in a circle and share your triumphs and failures together and hold one another while you weep. Commune with one another. Heck, refer back to number 1 and act together. This will help us overcome the discouragement that can beat us down when we're on our own.

3. Audition for anything and everything you can. Theatre, student films, no-budget web projects, staged readings, WHATEVER! This will help you to continually meet new people that are also trying to make something happen. Learn their names. Connect with the ones that you resonate with. Refer back to number 2. There are online sources for auditions as well as Back Stage for these kinds of auditions.

4. Send out your materials. Headshot & resume. Make sure they look as professional as possible. Don't know what's pro? Check out #HeadshotTuesday to start to get an idea of what looks good. The comments are pretty solid for the most part, & you can start to see what you need. Get a reel together (professionally edited) from the projects you've been working on (see number 3). Get them into as many hands as possible.

5. Do your research. Watch TV & films and wait through the credits. When you're watching something that you think you should've been in, see who did the casting. Send them your stuff. There are physical and online sources galore for finding casting director contact information. IMDBpro is a good start.

You may think, "Wait. This is good stuff, but he hasn't mentioned agents yet." I know. This is the preparation, guys. Getting to know good CD's is a really good step in the right direction.

6. Offer your services. When you contact these CD's, instead of just telling 'em you want them to cast you, offer to be their reader for free at a moment's notice. Most of them usually have people to do that, but sometimes things happen. If you have the opportunity to be a reader for a casting director, JUMP at the chance! Making good friends w/a CD is a wonderful thing.

All of the things I've mentioned will do the following: they will get you familiar with the market and some of the players in it. The longer you work at it, the more you know what you're doing. At some point, it will become clear to you what your talent level is, where you fit in, what you can do.

You'll notice that I still haven't talked about how to get in touch with agents. There's a reason for that. All the previous steps were to put you in a place where agents will contact YOU, or you will have another industry person help you set up an appointment.

Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We're setting up a life-long career, not a meteoric rise to fame and fortune.

You can occasionally land appointments with agencies by doing mailings of HS's & resumes or cold-calling. That does work (and I'm not telling you not to do it). It is a completely different ballgame when you're invited to meet with them. It puts the relationship in the right perspective, which is that they work for us.

This list isn't perfect. It's not all-inclusive. It's probably not the last time I'll address the topic. But hopefully it's given you some food for thought and some very specific things that you can go out and do right now. Because really, there's no time like the present.


  1. I DMed you Marion's advice. I wish you the best. Let me know who you sign with. Marion's career is really on the upswing, and she has a great TV season coming up. I will ask her any other questions you might have. molly

  2. Keep on bloggin' on Ben.

    As was written above, find your path... That's the path you create not the one you hope will happen.

    It's up to you.

  3. Well said! I think your list taken in general could apply to anyone who should make good use of an agent or someone else to keep themselves moving forward.

  4. THIS WAS A FANTASTIC POST. I follow you on twitter and rarely read your posts, because they seem pointed towards your classes, but this is something every actor evaluating his goals should think about.
    I love that you put the agent at the end, so the agent will hopefully be looking to meet YOU, not the other way around.