Wondering how to get an agent for acting in the UK? This guide takes you through the essential steps of approaching these key industry professionals who get you in front of casting directors.
What is an Acting Agent?
An acting agent, also known as a talent agent, represents a roster of actors and musical theatre performers. They find suitable work for their clients, liaise with casting directors, and make sure each actor gets paid for work done.
What does an Acting Agency do?
An acting agency, which may have just one agent or dozens, gets their clients as many acting auditions as possible, usually via casting websites such as Spotlight, having given CV, headshot and showreel advice.
They are the point of contact for casting directors and producers, making sure actors get to acting auditions at the right time and location, processing contracts for work, and transfering call sheet information for an acting role, all the while checking commitments won’t clash.
In the US, there is a distinction between acting agent and manager, which each fulfilling a specific role. But in the UK these two roles are usually combined into the talent agency remit.
Do Acting Agencies cost money?
Acting agencies do not cost money to sign up.
If you are asked for a sign up fee, they are either a scam agency or an extras agency. Neither of those will launch your acting career.
Some will charge you for headshots or showreel. Make sure the costs are within the normal range for these services, and provide good quality resources for you to sell yourself to casting directors.
Most acting agencies expect you to go out and obtain your own headshots and showreel, always at your own cost.
So how does your talent agent make money? When you get paid for acting work, the production company pays your fee to the acting agent, who takes their percentage of the fee before the rest of the fee ia paid over to you.
You should sign a contract with your agent at the start of representation. It sets out the percentage charged as commission.
In the UK, the percentage was traditionally 10% of earnings. As acting roles attract lower rates over time, and there is more competition for acting work, many acting agencies are having to increase percentages to remain solvent.
Once you are paying more than 15% though, you should be wary.
In your tax returns as a self-employment actor, you deduct the agent’s percentage as a business expense. You only pay tax on what is left after all genuine business expenses.
What is a Casting Agency?
Casting agents was, until recently, not a term used in the UK acting industry.
Some people – and even journalists – now use the term Casting Agent in the UK to describe the role of a Casting Director.
Do not do this, ever. Casting Directors do not like it.
Recently, a number of UK extras agencies have started using the term to describe themselves, as they represent extras rather than build an acting career for the professional actor.
How do I find an Agent for Acting?
We’ve compiled snapshots of hundreds of acting agencies around the UK.
Agencies for Acting in the UK
But before sending out hundreds of applications to everyone on the lists, you MUST identify those ones which match your experience and training, otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time.
If you’ve been to drama school or have enough professional credits, you can join Spotlight. A reputable agent usually only considers an application for representation from a working actor or drama school graduate who is already on Spotlight or who can join immediatley.
This is especially true of actor co-operative agencies, which represent and are run by drama school trained actors. Each performer lives in London, attends regular co-operative agency meetings, and works in the agency office at least once or twice a week.
Some acting agencies represent a working actor for roles in film, tv, radio, musical theatre, commercials, radio and other voice work. However, many specialise in just a few of these areas.
Because of this, it’s possible for a performer to have a different talent agents for voice work and screen acting work.
If you are a child actor or teenage actor, look for talent agencies representing children and young actors.
Acting Agencies for Beginners
If you’re at the start of your acting career and don’t have the performing arts training and acting experience to join Spotlight, don’t start emailing all the top acting agencies in London who represent each leading actor from your favourite shows.
Instead, you need to find an acting agency for beginners, and attend every audition you are invited to, which will often be for a short film or commercial.
Also take part in unpaid experience on a short film or in student films, to build a decent showreel, and find an acting class in your area to increase your skills ready for an audition for a paid acting job.
It is very hard to get a good agent for access to well paid acting jobs when you’re an aspiring actor without acting training or experience of the entertainment industry. Not impossible, but you’ll need to be proactive and try different ways to get into acting without drama school.
If you’re approached by an agent, be careful and watch out for signs they are a fake agency.
How to Email an Agent for Representation
Start by looking through the lists of acting agencies above, and identify those who might be a good fit given the current stage of your acting career, skills and which area of the entertainment industry you’d like to perform in.
Note that some acting agencies only open their books for short periods, and others don’t accept submissions for representation at all.
Then get together a decent CV, headshot, full body shot, and showreel. Make sure they reflect the kind of roles you’re aiming for.
Nearly all acting agencies only want applications via email, and most have a dedicated email address for this purpose.
Why? Because they get so many submissions – every single day.
Make sure you use the correct email address and include everything they ask for, which normally starts with your CV, headshot and showreel, or your Spotlight pin with these items.
If you’re about to perform in a show or film that individual agents can see you in, it’s a good idea to send an invitation along with your submission.
Once you have sent the correct items via the correct email address, just wait.
If they want to see you, they’ll be in touch. Some acknowledge receipt, and a few give you a No. Most will never reply.
But do not follow up your application.
Acting agencies don’t want unsolicited phone calls, office visits, or be bombarded by needy emails. Their income depends on getting work for their clients, not responding to unsuccessful applicants.
Meeting a Potential Talent Agent
When individual agents get in touch for a meeting, make sure you arrive at the correct location and time. Being reliable is one of the vital qualities talent agents look for, because running your own business as a performer requires more than being gifted in dramatic art.
Choose your clothes and hairstyle carefully, with a hint of the type of characters you could realistically play for film or theatre.
But at the same time, make sure you look like the same person as seen in your showreel and headshots.
Neither acting agents, nor the casting directors eventually considering you for an acting role, want a surprise as you walk through the room. They want to meet the same professional actor they thought they had invited from the headshots and showreel, and to be able to see you playing a particular acting type very convincingly.
How To Get An Agent For Acting UK
Finding the best talent agency for someone with your skills, training and experience, and then sending them evidence you are a professional actor suitable for particular roles is the key to getting an agent for acting in the UK.