Updated: Sep 28
11 Tips To Take To Get An NYC or LA Acting Agent
The strategy on how to get an acting agent can be a complex one, particularly a GOOD talent agent. In New York City and Los Angeles, particularly, there are a ton of actors all vying for a few available spots at the best NYC talent agencies (and talent agencies all over the world) and there are necessary steps that you can take to be one of them.
And this list works for beginners and experienced actors alike. You can be a union actor with years of experience, or this also applies to non-union actors as well. You don't need to have professional credits or a social media presence to get started on this process. You just need to dedicate your time and money to executing these particular things and you can take your acting career to the next level.
The reality is that you don't have much of a chance of accessing projects for major film and television companies, major commercial projects, and high end Broadway level theater without a reputable talent manager or agent in your corner. There are a few casting opportunities that do slip through the cracks, but 90% of the time it is signed talent that gets notified and seen for nearly all of the major projects. So getting with one of the best NYC talent agencies is crucial.
Here are a few of the necessary steps to get an acting agent that can push your career forward:
1. Shoot your headshots with a professional headshot photographer
The first thing that you need to do is get a professional headshot photographer to shoot professional headshots for you. You will need these for every step of the way on your acting journey. You don't want to take this step for granted by using a selfie of yourself or having a friend who is not a professional headshot photographer shoot your headshots for you.
I, myself, am an nyc based actor and headshot photographer (who travels to Los Angeles a lot) and you can see my headshots for acting rates are here.
Professional headshots for acting are your calling card into the industry and are the first thing that directors, casting directors, talent agents, and acting managers will see. So you need to make sure that you choose someone who will capture your essence well and get shots of you that will be marketable and appealing. Photographers in NYC and in LA are all over but be sure to pick one that is right for you!
You can see acting headshot examples of my work here.
2 - Create an acting resume
Type up a resume of any acting experience that you have. This includes any lead or background work, any classes you took in high school or college, any performance groups that you were a part of, and anything else that you can think of.
As you do are casted for bigger roles, you can start to cut off the smaller extra work because you want to paint the picture that you are capable of playing lead roles. But in the beggining if you have no lead experience you can put extra work on your resume. But I'd say to cut it as quickly as you can, especially if you are barely seen in the film production.
A resume that includes a decent body of your acting work will tell a casting director and personnel at acting agencies your acting history and experience so you want to be sure to limit your resume to just your best work.
3. Make a really good demo reel showcasing your best work
Aside from a great headshot and your resume, your demo reel is key to garnering the attention and respect of agents and managers. Ultimately casting directors are going to want to see your talent in action. So you need to build yourself a demo reel which is a 90 to 120 second video compilation of your best work on camera.
The best way to do this is to submit yourself to independent film projects, student films, and small theater productions so that you can begin to compile content. In the beginning you can start with just one scene of you on film.
And if you haven't shot anything at all, you can add a short clip of you reading a piece of a monologue or you reciting lines from a character in a movie you think fits you (and the movie can be known or unknown).
This will allow people in the entertainment industry the ability to see you on camera.
4. Take acting classes or get an acting coach
When I ask actors how they got their agent a great deal of them say that they were referred to one from their acting school or acting coach. So working with acting schools and acting coaches is a great way to get connected with mangers and agents through the connections of the people you'll train with.
Many of them are actors themselves and also have great connections to agents and managers who may consider repping you, and having their blessing after them working with you will make that introduction really smooth.
Stella Adler, Terry Knickerbocker Studio, Anthony Meindl, and HB Studio are just a few that have come highly recommended from my sources.
5. Sign up for acting workshops
In major cities like LA and New York there are a ton of acting workshops where film agents and managers come out and see new talent. You'll typically meet the agent and be asked to learn and perform a monologue in front of them.
Agents and managers will then consider signing the talent that they meet at these workshops if they see potential in anyone they meet. How many clients they have that have similar characteristics as you will often determine their interest. But if they see talent in you and don't have someone with your same characteristics, they may consider representing you.
Aside from acting classes and acting coaches, this is probably the other most common way that I have heard of people securing reputable talent management.
One On One NYC and Actors Connection are two of the most popular actor workshop companies that many people rave about. The workshops and classes aren't free, but they are a great resource and a good way to meet talent reps.
6. Reach out to acting agents and managers directly through IMDB
Another way to reach talent reps is to reach out to them directly. This isn't always recommended and you should definitely wait until you really have all of your ducks in a row, but it has worked for some.
The agents at the best NYC talent agencies can have busy lives, so you want to be delicate with how you approach them. But getting access to them isn't that hard.
When you pay for the premium version of IMDB you are able to see the rep of nearly every person on the site and it usually shares some contact information to them.
Since it is likely that they are getting a large volume of outreach, it's plausible that they respond to a very small amount of people that cold contact them. So be prepared to not hear back from most.
But there is a small chance that if they like your look and your reel, maybe they'll reach out. You should send a very brief cover letter telling a little about yourself, along with your resume, professional headshot, and your demo reel.
7. Network! Network! Network!
It cannot be overstated how important it is to do as much networking as possible in film and theater networks.
Go to plays.
Go to screenings.
Go to any and every networking event that you hear of.
Go to bars where actors and filmmakers hang out.
Filmmaking and theater producing are all about collaboration and people love to work with people that they know and like so make as many friends in the space that you can and that can lead to being introduced to talent reps faster that not.
8. Do theater
Whether you are a film actor or a theater actor (if you can make time for it) you should participate in local theater productions. One great reason for that is that you can invite people to come and see you. And also agents and managers tend to check out local theater productions to see others in the business so you could get noticed there.
You should find a piece that you can shine in and get all of your friends to come and see you in it and it can spread your gifts to a wider audience. More importantly, you can spend time researching talent reps and inviting as many of them as possible to come and see you live!
Furthermore, doing theater work lends to you becoming a better actor. There are many journeys on how to be an good actor, and participating in good theater productions is widely considered a main one.
9. Ask the actors in your network to refer you to managers and agents
Everyone won't do it (and you shouldn't get mad at them if they don't) but you can ask any and all actor friends that you know are represented by someone to recommend/intorduce you.
Again, you should have your ducks in order (ie have a work with a great headshot photographer to shoot your headshots, have a great reel, write a resume with some decent work on it, and always have a great attitude) before you ask because your friend would be putting their relationship on the line for you. So to respect that, you want to make sure that you aren't taking their relationships for granted and have all of your things ready to go!
10. Write and shoot your own content
It can sometimes be hard to get into projects through public casting calls. Maybe people don't see in you what you see in you. In this case you can take matters into your own hands and write, produce, and ultimately star in your own content.
Once you have built a network of creatives you can convince them to collaborate with you on film and theater projects. Figure out what pieces you need and find the best talent. Websites like Backstage and ActorsAccess are a good place to find collaborators as well.
Writing, producing, and/or starring in your own content garners you even more respect from talent reps if they see that you, not only have additional talents, but also that you have the drive to make productions happen on a larger scale.
11. Go to film festivals
I can't stress enough the value of going to film festivals. And not just festivals locally to you, but spend your time and money on traveling to other major festivals like Sundance, ABFF, Cannes Film Festival, Urbanworld, Berlin International Film Festival, LA Film Festival, South By Southwest, and other festivals all around the world.
The energy at most film festivals is magnetic and unmatched. People from all around the world, including many talent agents, travel to festivals with the specific goals of meeting new people to collaborate with. So in the name of constantly building your creative network, film festival is a sure way to do that.
If you dedicate the time and follow the practices and steps above you will be able to get a good agent in no time!
If you need headshots for acting please reach out. I am a headshot photographer in New York City (who also travels to Los Angeles a lot). I shoot headshots for actresses and actors of all talent levels. I also do photography for models and shoot model digitals for model comp cards. You can see acting headshot examples here.