Some months back I was asked to give my opinion about a young actor’s headshot. Over the weekend I received a followup email from the actor who wanted some additional advice about the headshot photo and about the process of changing agents. After I had finished responding to his questions it occurred to me that this information might be helpful to a wider audience. So, without identifying the actor in question I’m copying my response to him below in hopes that some others may find it helpful:
The photo you attached is fine…as long as it still looks like you. However the truth is you probably need more than one photo. This one is pretty ‘serious’…which is good for many roles but might not be good if you were going up for a lighter role or for a commercial. I also suggest you get any new photos taken in color. Many years ago, color photos were only for models but that day has passed. With the advent of digital photography, color headshots have become the norm for actors as well. There is a link on my web site to a local photographer named Kathy Whittaker. I don’t get any money for recommending Kathy, I was just very pleased with her work and her pricing. If you decide to get new shots I’d call around or check web sites to get prices and see whose style appeals most to you. There are a number of good photographers in town.
BUT if you’re looking at changing agents, I’d wait on new photos until you get the agent thing settled. Then go over the issue of photos with your agent and see what kind of photos they want you to have…they’ll give you some opinions on how the think they can best market you.
If you’re going to try to establish a working relationship with any agent, it’s best to [not only] enlist their input [but] then to do what they say and see how that works. Also get the agent’s recommendations about photographers. As long as you are with a reputable agency, then you shouldn’t have to worry about getting scammed by an agent who makes money off photographer’s referral fees…an OLD scam in the agency business. Continue to check with your peers about their representation and about who shot their pictures, etc. That kind of information can be gold to you and save you from making some mistakes.
As to changing agents…
I don’t know who you signed with or the terms of the contract. Typically there is an ‘out’ clause in every talent contract..for both the talent and the agent. If you haven’t been working and they aren’t calling and the contract is still in force, a simple letter terminating the agreement should do the trick. But check your contract for specifics such as the requirement that the letter be [sent by] certified mail, etc. Depending on how long ago you signed the contract, it may no longer be in force. Again, check your copy of the agreement.
BUT before you do seek a new agent there is something that you might want to consider: It sounds like you haven’t been a very good client to this agent. I don’t say that to be critical but just in response to your representation that you haven’t been available because of school. Nothing will turn off ANY agent faster than a talent who is not available for auditions.
Once in a while is not a problem, but after a few times…or worse, if the talent just doesn’t return the agent’s call…or EVEN WORSE if the talent accepts the audition and then gets busy with class or whatever and DOESN’T SHOW AT THE AUDITION, the agent gets the idea that the talent is not really serious and they move on to those who are.
Not showing up for an audition appointment is NOT ACCEPTABLE as it can give you AND your agent a black eye with the casting person. I’m not saying you stiffed the agent on auditions, because I don’t know that. I’m just saying…agency and talent relationships are a two way street. SO…before changing agents, you may want to get back in touch with your present agent and have a discussion about how you’re now ready to be available and serious about getting acting work. If you liked this agent well enough to sign with them in the first place, maybe you don’t need to change agents, just get back in their good graces.
Otherwise, truly, in this market I think all the agents are going to provide similar results. Just go with someone with whom you feel a connection and then do your part by getting them the photos they want and need and by being available when they call…by taking some classes if possible to show you’re continuing to study, etc.
Also you’re going to want to get up to speed with a few services like NOW CASTING and ACTORS ACCESS. Those are two online casting sites that many/most agents and casting people are now utilizing. At least familiarize yourself with those sites so you can ask potential agents if they use them and what they expect from you in terms of getting signed up…they’re both free to actors.
Find someone you ‘like’ and stay with them.
I’ve had a LOT of agents in my career and sometimes a change of agent is about all an actor thinks they can do to get things jump started. You have to understand the realities of the market in which you’re working. Right now, local production is way down due to the lack of an adequate tax incentive program in Texas. That lack has resulted in a LOT of work moving to other states like Louisiana and New Mexico and even Michigan.
At this time and in this market…given the statement in the paragraph above, I would discourage moving from agent to agent because I just don’t see the point. All the [reputable] agents will get all the calls from the casting people. If you establish that you are serious about acting and do your part, the agent, whichever agency you are with, will probably get you out. All the agent can do is give the actor an opportunity, it’s up to the actor to book the job. Easy money, right? Hah!
You might take a look at agency web sites and see which agents seem to have the most talent who ‘look’ like you and which don’t. You might consider approaching an agent who DOESN’T already have 10 guys in your age range and with your ‘look’…so you will fill a need for that agent.
Hope this helps some. It’s a long road and it takes a lot of persistence, patience and work to get anywhere. Best of luck and keep in touch.