Think you’d book even more jobs if you had an agent? Here, Dance Informa speaks with Focus Talent Management’s Natalie Duarte on what agents are looking for and advice on how to get one.
Are there different types of agents?
“There are different types of agents out there: those who are very hands-on and personal, and others who are not. At Focus, for example, our approach is very hands-on and specific to the needs of each individual performer. We are, what I like to describe as, a no non-sense talent agency, which we feel works well, and helps create a strong agent-talent partnership. I back all the Focus performers 100 percent and believe each have something unique to offer. If I didn’t, I just wouldn’t represent them.
Along the way, a performer will come in contact with a variety of agents, and I think this is not necessarily a bad thing. My advice is to shop around. You need to feel comfortable talking and working with your agent — and vice versa, so, think about how you present yourself.
Different agents will also present different contracts. For example, Focus works from a managerial contract, which offers services that other agencies don’t, including audition preparation workshops, one-on-one coaching sessions, PR, and because our headquarters are uniquely placed inside Brent Street Studios, we offer two free dance classes to all Focus members.
We, at Focus, understand the financial struggles that a performer can face, and so try to alleviate this as much as we can. Our workshops and classes encourage motivation and keep our talent working on their craft for little or no cost.”
Do all performers need an agent?
“It is true that a performer can secure work without an agent; however, casting directors are more likely to see you if you have one. In the eyes of a casting director, a performer with an agent is seen to be more credible.
Agents receive specific audition briefs that the public are not privy to, so, the opportunity to secure work is higher. A good agent works on building relationships with casting directors, not only for the performers benefit, but for the agency’s reputation, which, in turn, helps a performer get a look-in. As an agent, I can encourage casting directors to consider making time to see talent that initially were not even considered for the role. I can vouch and confirm that the performer which may have been overlooked would not be wasting their time.
Again, you can get work without an agent; however, the type of work will differ, and on most occasions securing jobs without an agent, when it comes to discussing contracts and performance artist fees, can prove to be difficult. Some jobs have been known to be underpaying, not union covered and take an excessive amount of time to pay. Having an agent ensures your rights as a performer are protected.”
What are the key things a performer should look for in an agent?
“A performer should be able to talk to their agent with ease. Communication is key and an essential part of the agent-performer relationship. Essentially, it is a partnership, whereby you work together to achieve career goals. Be wary of agencies that charge a joining fee. If they do, ask exactly what it’s for.”
What is an agent not responsible for?
“Doing homework for the talent for a specific role. An agent can guide and advise you in the right direction, but you need to do the work. Do your research on the style, what era the show is set in, the music and choreography. Investigate the types of roles that you may be considered for, and think ahead. An agent can get you in the room, but it’s up to you to prove you deserve the job.
An agent is not your personal assistant. If you’ve forgotten to note the date, time or requirements of an audition, it’s your loss. Be organised. If you’re not an organised person, you need to learn very quickly on how to be.”
What do you need when approaching an agent?
“A headshot, not necessarily professionally done. A good headshot, straight down the barrel, works well in the beginning. If successful in securing an agent, they’ll guide you to getting your headshots done professionally. You also need a CV listing achievements, training and specifics about your look, including height, eye colour, hair, vocal range (if you sing), film and TV work, stage work and other performance experience.
If you are just finishing full-time training and have little experience, a good paragraph about what you excel in and your objectives is a good place to start, along with some footage of you performing. Agents prefer to be contacted via email initially. Make sure you write a good email. Check spelling and grammar! This demonstrates you know how to communicate in a professional manner.”
What sort of commission is standard, and are there any other costs to be aware of?
“Industry standard commission rates start at 15 percent for film and TV, and 10 percent for stage work. Rates vary from agency to agency, so ask what commission covers. What kind of service do you receive for the commission you are paying?”
How can you get an agent if you don’t have experience behind you already?
“If you don’t have an agent or experience behind you to strengthen your chances in getting an agent, it is worth doing a screen test, which doesn’t have to be very fancy. A monologue, a song to camera or some footage of you performing can at least secure you a meeting or an opportunity for a live audition.”
What is an agent looking for in a performer?
“I look for talent that are self-motivated and versatile. Being versatile will make a performer more hireable. I also look for those who are open to giving all castings and auditions a go. There is no room for self-doubt in this industry; one needs to rise above it. Confidence is sometimes the best ingredient. And you must be willing to work with me on a plan of attack to reach your career goals, and trust my judgement.”
Once you have an agent, what do you need to remember?
“Working and developing your craft never stops. Invest in training. Remember, your agent is working with you, not for you. An agent needs you to be available to attend auditions and castings at short notice, so ideally pick a job with flexible hours or hours in the evening, as most castings and auditions are during the day.
If you are spending more time looking at social media accounts than you are checking your emails to see if you should be responding to an invitation to an audition or casting that your agent has successfully gotten for you, then you need to reassess your priorities. Make sure you read emails carefully, and reply as promptly as you can.
Also note that your performer’s tool kit (headshot, body shot, CV, screen test and/or show reel) should be a priority. Get it together quickly, along with signing up to portals such as Showcast and Casting Networks, which are sites that connect casting directors and agents. These portals are where agents and casting directors discuss talent and jobs across film, television and stage. You need to be on them to be seen.”
What should you expect when meeting an agent for the first time?
“Expect them to ask you about what you would like to achieve, and if you are currently training with any coaches or attending drop-in classes. At Focus, I like to invite potential candidates for a private audition, which can involve singing, acting or dancing – at times all three, but this is dependent on the talent.
An agent may ask you about your ethnicity and if you have any special skills — for example, aerial, silks, combat and if you play an instrument. The more an agent knows about you, the better. Be sure to present yourself well, be punctual. And remember, if you got a meeting, then the agent is already interested.
Think about your look and wear an outfit that you feel great in. Choose colours that really compliment your completion. Remember, first impressions count. While in the meeting try to highlight anything that will set you apart from other performers, and just be yourself.”
What’s your advice to performers?
“Appreciate every opportunity your agent throws your way. Being successful in securing a time for an audition, or an opportunity in a casting room should be considered a mini-achievement. Not everyone gets a time or that audition. Be grateful, work hard and step outside of your comfort zone, as you just might like what you find there, and who knows, maybe the casting directors will, too.”
By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.