So you want to be a performer, right?
You've been taking dance classes and going to singing lessons and practicing monologues your bedroom til all hours of the night and you're ready to unleash your talent on the world, but you've heard on the grapevine that you need to have an agent if you want to be a performer.
What is an agent?
How do I get one?
What do they do?
Do I really need one?
So many questions! Thankfully, we have some answers!
The truth is, when you're starting out, the most important thing for you to do is build your skills up. There's no point having an agent if you haven't got your performing skills up to scratch, otherwise you'll be going for auditions and showing the industry that you're not ready to be employed. So your first step is to take those dance classes and singing lessons and acting workshops and get your skills up!
You don't have to have an agent in order to get work in the industry, but having an agent certainly makes the process easier. An agent's job is to keep their ear to the ground and let you know when auditions are happening and to put you forward to casting directors for roles that you might be suited to. Trying to do that on your own is time consuming so it can be really helpful to have an agent.
The other good reason to have an agent is because they will negotiate any contracts for work you might be offered and make sure that you're getting paid the right amount and are working under appropriate conditions.
How do you find a good agent? Well, there's great list of Australian agents on the MEAA website that you can find by clicking here. The best idea is to go through the list and do a bit of research (fire up the old Google search!) on each agent until you find the one that you feel sits well with you. Send them an email or give them a call and say that you're looking for representation, and see if they will have a meeting with you to discuss putting you on their books.
It's important to meet with any prospective agent to make sure they're someone you feel comfortable representing you. Remember, the agent works for you, so you have to be sure you're happy to have them speak on your behalf to producers and casting directors.
Do I need to pay my agent? An agent will take 10% of any income you earn from work they source for you. There should be no upfront fees to go on their books, other than the cost of having headshot photographs taken and perhaps an annual fee to be included on Showcast (an online directory of actors in Australia). If any agent asks you to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to be on their books, walk away immediately!
Having an agent does not guarantee you work - it just means you may be put forward to go to auditions. Getting you the audition is your agents' job, but actually getting the gig is your job! That's why the most important thing for you to be going when starting out is building your skills so you are as employable a you can be!
Always remember, you got into this because performing is your passion. It makes you happy. If you are able to get an agent and start getting work, you may be able to make your passion your profession, but the key to happiness is doing what you love as often as you can (whether you get paid for it or not). Enjoy yourself on the journey and always remember to have fun.