"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

How to Fish for Theatrical Representation

Ah..... four day work weeks. Isn't that the best part about three day weekends? Anyways...

Last Monday I had a commercial audition. Two days later I had the callback. The next day, Thursday, I was put on avail. I spent the last FIVE DAYS in a state of limbo, wondering if I was going to be released like I had been for the last one just a few weeks ago.

Got the call from my agent. I'm booked. I shoot on Thursday.


Because, man oh man, is there something to be said about opening up your mailbox and finding a letter with your agency's logo on the return address and finding money inside. Magic Money! From an agency who looked at me and said, "You will make us money. We want you." And that's what I'm doing. Yeehaw!

And now, another type of letter in my inbox  - reader mail!

Betty asks:

Do you have any advice for people starting their search for a theatrical agent in LA?  I've been booking a lot of jobs myself, but it would be great to have a member on my "theatrical team".  Some people think that you get a good theatrical agent just by doing a lot of great work on your own... that they will eventually find you.  But I keep thinking that I should start my search while I'm booking my stuff.  What do you think?

I'm passionate about working on great independent films (that's my first love), but I've been branching out and doing a lot of different projects lately.

Hi Betty!

Yes, it's true that that you'll get a good theatrical agent by doing a lot of great work on your own, but when people say that, they mean you had a boutique level agent who got you in the door of a big project and you booked it, and then WME or CAA come in and lured you away.

But when you're without theatrical representation now, the above isn't very likely to happen.

So do what I did (or don't, cause I'm a Struggling Actress, ya'll) and clean up your resume (with the how to here), contact a casting director who has cast you and ask if they wouldn't mind you using them as a referral, write a short and sweet cover letter stating that Casting Director knows your work well and is happy to talk to the agent about your skills (put down their phone number!). Then mail it --- wait. Did I just jump ahead of myself here? Oh dear.

You can buy the Agency Book at Samuel French which has the addresses and little notes about each agency and whether they might be looking for your type. But you ALSO have to get imdbPro (can't afford it? try their FREE 14 day trial) and look up each and every single agency. Daunting? Have a friend help you. Have three friends help you! Go through every agency, see who their top stars are, and where the starmeters (which really don't mean anything) of their average clients are. Let's say you have a starmeter of 78,000. You want to be at an agency that has lower starmeters than you. You want to be with those around 30,000 and lower. So you double check the address, make notes on notecards, and you and your friends get together and put your packages together. (also, very important, write "referred by "so and so" on your envelope. It's way more likely to get opened.)

Last summer (and summer is the best time to do this!!) I had my top 20. I submitted, made notes on my card when I submitted, felt incredibly proud of myself and ....I got a phone call!!! From the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES!!! The voicemail said thank you for submitting but they weren't taking on new clients at this time. 

Want to know what is depressing? (incidentally, not the phone call from the House of Reps; I thought it was so lovely that they called me to let me know. Who does that?!) Submitting to 20 agencies and not getting a meeting out of it.

Well, eff that!

So I changed my headshot and did it again three weeks later.


It took me three tries to finally get some one to call to set up a meeting. But - I got TWO meetings on the third try. That's weird. But perseverance and a little chutzpah pay off.

It's stressful and daunting as hell, but I had my top 20 list and no more. I only had 20 agencies I wanted to be with. I knew that most of them were mostly dreams, but the ones that called me were the ones I wanted to be with and I wasn't going to settle for less than what I wanted.

Persevere. Perseveres. Persevere.

And good luck!!


  1. Hey, Lira! Awesome ideas -- but ....

    What kind of casting director? if you're in the low-budget end of the pool, will a referral make a difference? Do you need someone higher up?

  2. Well, check them out on imdb. If they cast a lot of things, great! If they don't.... maybe you can't quite use this tip yet.

    But either way, keep trying! :)


    Thank you for your awesome advice! I will try some of your pointers and report back to you...

    "Break a leg" on all your auditions!

  4. high five on bringin in that magic money!

  5. Hey Lira,

    I liked what you said about only submitting to the agencies that you actually want to be with. No mass mailings to people that aren't a good fit for you. Many forget that your agent works for YOU. Yeah, it's nice to think we can be picky. :)

    A few years back everyone thought I was crazy because I picked only the top five agents in town to submit with. I'm in a much smaller market than you but I knew that I wouldn't be happy with many of the others.

    Lo and behold, I got interviews with three of the five and offered representation by all three of those! I picked my favorite based on reputation, how many others they were representing in my category and personality fit. I've been 100% happy ever since. Don't settle!

    Also, congrats on the booking! May more mailbox magic arrive soon.

  6. What if...

    Instead of going through the mailing process three times, you included a cover letter that also informed the company that you would be calling to follow up. Then you called on the appointed date (and time) to ask if they received it? Inform them during the phone call that you will follow up with a meeting in person at a set date/time. Then arrive at the scheduled time and reference your mailed materials, the phone call, and present them with an additional headshot resume package just in case they misplaced the last one. Then ask them what you can do for them. Tell them how you are interested in their company. This might take more time, but you would be actively seeking out the company and possibly adding connections to your networking hub. Also, research the company to know who to address the package to and ask to speak with them personally on the phone and in person.

    1. That's a lot of scary behavior there. A theatrical agency, if they're interested in you, will make it known very quickly that they want to meet you, because they'll assume other agencies also think they can make money off you. They'll want to snatch you up first, and do it fast.

      The things you described are just not how things are done. If they are interested in meeting you, they'll call you. You cannot call them and tell them you're coming in to meet them. I can assure you they will not to be in the office at that time!

      Researching the agency and knowing who you're mailing to is a very good idea.

      Asking what you can do for them is redundant. They're meeting with you because they're interested in submitting you for projects and taking a commission off the projects you book. You're meeting with them because you're interested in having them submit you for projects.

      If they sign you at the meeting, you usually don't see or talk to your agent again for a bit. You'll email back and forth, but mostly you'll email confirmations and book outs. They are working with you because of your look and body of work. There isn't a lot of communication after that unless they're clarifying some of your skills you have for a submission, or if there's more info needed on a role you're going out for.


Play nice.