Drama alumni share advice for choosing a talent agent

Finding your first talent agent can be nerve wracking, but it doesn’t have to be. Alumni from the UNCSA School of Drama share their best advice for students and recent graduates about what to look for in an agent when you are new to the market.

Find the right relationship

Dave Thomas BrownDave Thomas Brown ’10
Broadway’s “American Psycho,” “Heathers: The Musical,” “The Legend of Georgia McBride”

Your first agent probably won’t be your last agent, and that’s a good thing. I fretted so much during our senior showcase presentation over whether I’d get the agent I desperately wanted to get. Showcase is just that; a showcase, not a billion-year contract. I’ve changed agents three times now, and have finally found my perfect team. 

You want to find an agent that can have the insight to see where you can go in 10 years, not just in 10 months. If you want to do this for the rest of your life (make sure you do), then you need an agent who sees down the road for you and isn’t worried about booking every single job that comes along, or puts pressure on you to constantly take classes or get new headshots. Avoid agents that get braggy in the interview. You should have already done your research on whom they represent; they shouldn’t have to list their clientele for you. 

You want to find an agent that can have the insight to see where you can go in 10 years, not just in 10 months. If you want to do this for the rest of your life (make sure you do), then you need an agent who sees down the road for you and isn’t worried about booking every single job that comes along.

Dave Thomas Brown 

There was a period of time where I was without an agent, which taught me some really important lessons on how to hustle and work on my own, connect with smaller theater companies, do good work and strengthen my reputation as someone people would like to work with. 

Show up early, be prepared, and be friendly. It’ll get you much further than you think.

Follow your intuition

Anna WoodAnna Wood ’08
“Reckless,” “Mad Men,” “The Following”

It is ALL about intuition for me. Yes, do your research, know who the agents represent, what projects they’ve put together, etc., etc. But it is all about how you feel during your meeting with them. How you jive together. Ask how they see you, where they imagine your career going. Make sure you’re on the same page, and that they are receptive to your hopes and aspirations for yourself. Remember—they are joining your team, not the other way around. You will go through highs and lows with them, so make sure they’re someone you want around for that crazy ride!

Feel the love

Wes TaylorWesley Taylor 08
Broadway’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Addams Family,” “It Could Be Worse”

When I first graduated, I signed with a boutique agency that’s very strong in the theater scene. They were very good at developing young people in theater and they were incredibly personal. One of the agents had come down to UNCSA to give a workshop and noticed my work. I had other agency offers, but I felt a very specific hunger from them about me. 

You need to feel the love before you sign. Big brands and popular offices are nice, yes, but your individual energy might be better suited somewhere smaller and more personal. We had a very prosperous relationship and I don’t regret signing with these folks one bit. I was with them for six years until the representation I have now. My point person is a few years older than me with a shark-like business sense. We’re a match.

Trust your gut

Elizabeth LailElizabeth Lail HS ’10, ’14
“Once Upon A Time,” “Dead of Summer”  

Trust your gut! When it comes to choosing your first agent, trust your instincts. Trust what’s going on inside of you. All other facts aside, your experience, first impression and the feeling you get when meeting with the agents will lead you down the right path. 

Your agents are just the very start of a team of people who support you in your career. Find someone who really believes in you! Belief makes things real. Whatever your dream is, you need agents who believe it can be your reality. You also want these people to be a part of your artist’s tribe, so make sure you align on an artistic, personal level. That way you can both continue to inspire one another throughout the long game of your career.  

Avoid choosing an agent for shallow reasons. Weigh your options thoughtfully. Check in with your body, mind and spirit.

Don’t rush it

Andrew ManningAndrew Manning 13
World premiere of “College Colors,” world premiere of “Lost/Not Found,” “Elementary,” “Madame Secretary” 

Graduating and embarking on your journey into the professional world is exciting. You’re young, hungry and fueled with the vigorous and amazing training that school has bestowed upon you. Don’t RUSH it. Do your research. Look up the agencies you’re interested in. Find friends who are signed with those agencies and get some info. You’re looking for your dream team. A team that will work to help you achieve your wildest dreams. 

Look up the agencies you’re interested in. Find friends who are signed with those agencies and get some info. You’re looking for your dream team. A team that will work to help you achieve your wildest dreams.  

Andrew Manning

When looking for a talent agent, I was looking for authenticity. I wanted someone who was honest and eager. Honest enough to tell me when my self-tape could use some more light and eager enough to challenge me artistically and professionally. I would avoid the open promises. The, ‘Sign with me and you’ll be on Broadway,’ type of representation. Trust me, if you end up on Broadway it’s because YOU got yourself there. Yes, if you’re signed your agent got you the meeting, but it was you who worked hard and booked that part. Trust yourself. Always. 

Be specific

Matt LauriaMatt Lauria ’07
Upcoming remake of “Miss Bala,” “Kingdom,” “Parenthood,” “Friday Night Lights”

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have entered the business with an agent. I got my first agent from a UNCSA showcase. But as many people as there are looking for agents, there are stories about how they connect. Finding the right agent is like any relationship—it’s a two-way thing. When I took my first meetings I was very specific about what I wanted in my career and over the long haul, and looked for someone who met me eye-to-eye in that regard. I said I didn’t want to just work for the sake of working but was looking for high quality projects that would push my career into longevity, and that I wanted to work with discerning, creative artists who would help me develop.

I recommend that recent graduates be specific about their goals and to be polite, humble and forthcoming about expectations. You’ll learn very quickly who you see eye to eye with. The first agent I met with did me a favor and said, ‘What are you looking for in an agent?’ It’s important to remember that they are just people, and not to go in with desperation or fear. People pick up on that. Just be a good human being, and the fact that you are funny and smart and talented will come across.

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December 04, 2017