How to Find a Talent Agent

A talent agent can open up doors for actors and get them auditions and bookings that the vast majority of people never even hear about.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask Ethan.

Ethan was a teen actor who had signed up for an on-camera acting workshop I was teaching. He had some theatrical experience but hadn’t done any on-camera acting previously. But he was very talented and enthusiastic, and after the workshop, I invited him to meet with me at the talent agency I worked at to discuss representation.

We ended up signing Ethan, and within just a couple of months, we got him booked on a major supporting role in Spike TV’s The Kill Point, starring Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo.

This teen actor with almost no experience in front of a camera got booked on a major cable network TV show because he found the right agent.

Can you imagine the auditions and bookings you’d have access to if you signed with the right agency?

How different would your career (and your life) be?

It all starts with finding a great agent to represent you.

Where do you even find a talent agent?

And how do you know that they’re legit?

And not going to rip you off?

One of the best pieces of advice I will give to any actor starting out is to work with what is called a union-franchised agency (or agent).

There are several unions that you may deal with as an actor-SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) are the most common when it comes to working on camera. SAG and AFTRA used to be their own separate unions, but in 2012 the two merged to become SAG-AFTRA, one combined union to represent all actors for on-camera work.

There are pros and cons for actors who are a part of SAG-AFTRA.

The union guarantees that they get paid a certain minimum wage for any on-camera work they get booked on. They also guarantee certain working conditions, and offer actors health insurance, retirement, and other benefits.

However, once you join you can ONLY do union work on camera. If you live in one of the many, many smaller markets around the country that doesn’t have a lot of consistent work for union actors, this could be a huge drawback.

But the question of whether or you not you should join the union is a debate for another day.

The important thing for ANY actor to know is how unions work with talent agencies.

Benefits of working with a union-franchised agency

SAG-AFTRA issues franchises to qualified talent agencies that meet specific requirements.

These are called union-franchised agencies.

These agencies must apply, pay a free, and be approved by SAG-AFTRA in order to be able to represent union actors.

It does NOT mean that you need to join the union in order to work with these agencies.

In fact, for most actors living outside of a major market like LA or NYC, I usually recommend that you don’t join the union (but that’s a longer conversation for another time).

What it does mean is that these agencies are highly regulated by SAG-AFTRA, and have all agreed to certain conditions for ALL of their actors, union members or not.

These conditions include:

  • the agency must make its income almost exclusively through commissions they receive when they get work for the actors they represent
  • they cannot charge a fee for getting actors auditions
  • the agency cannot be connected with an acting school or teach any classes or workshops as an agency
  • there cannot be an in-house photographer or specific third party photographer that actors are required to use
  • they can only charge actors 10% commission for SAG-AFTRA jobs (they can charge higher commission for non-union jobs, generally 15-20%)

Union-franchised agencies only get paid when they get work for their actors. They are generally a safe haven from the many scams out there designed to rip off unsuspecting actors.

Does this mean that non-franchised talent agencies can’t be trusted? Or that you shouldn’t sign with them?

Of course not.

There are a lot of very reputable non-franchised agencies out there that follow the same guidelines as the franchised agencies. They work hard to get work for the actors they represent, and they only have the best of intentions.

But finding out which of those non-franchised agencies are reputable and which ones are a scam is something that comes with a lot of experience working in that industry.

And there are many that appear to be legit UNTIL you start to work with them and end up wasting your time and your money.

So that is why I always recommend that actors try to work with a union-franchised agency when first starting out.

How to find a union-franchised talent agency

Finding a franchised agency near you is easy-go to SAG-AFTRA’s franchised agent page on their website at https://www.sagaftra.org/professionalrepresentatives and search for the agencies in the market closest to where you live.

Don’t be afraid to expand your search past just your local area-you could even check within a couple hour radius of where you live.

It may be harder to get to auditions in person, but there may be opportunities for you to self-tape your own auditions and submit them to the agency.

It’s much better to find the franchised agency that will be the best fit for you, and then figure out the logistics of how and when you’ll audition.

There may be many non-franchised agencies that are closer to where you live.

Many of them will be totally above board, and give you access to some of the same auditions and bookings that you’d get if you were signed to a franchised agency.

And there are some who will lie to you, treat you poorly, and cheat you out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Over time, you’ll be able to spot these fake agencies and scams from a mile away.

But until then, and especially when you’re just starting out in your career, I almost always recommend signing with a union-franchised agency.

The Elements Of Character

For an actor creating a character from scratch is a major undertaking. If you wish to achieve more than playing some variation of yourself there are many elements that go into creating a role.

After developing a solid technique you will have to learn how to break down a script. The writer provides the actor with a road map and it is the job of the actor to navigate the twists and turns of the writers vision. Actors approach their roles differently. Brando was an actor who relied heavily on his instincts and intuition to gain an understanding and feel for the character’s point of view. He was a keen observer of human nature who spent hours watching people in a variety of situations. In the latest Brando bio by Susan Mizruchi (“Brando’s Smile”) Ms. Mizruchi writes that Brando was an avid reader/researcher that would read voraciously to gain information on all aspects of the character’s nature. Annotating every script he worked on was part of an insatiable curiosity that was an integral part of his process. To gain an understanding of character he had to know why his characters were motivated to do the things they did.

Intuition is another tool that is an integral part of the process. Getting a “feeling” for what is happening “moment-to-moment” and “impulse-to-impulse” is a non-intellectual way of dealing with the written word. The actor cannot impose himself/herself on the script. In other words you don’t do the script, the script does you.

“Imagination”, said teacher/director Robert Lewis, “is the most powerful tool the actor has at their disposal.” For any artist imagination is not a luxury. It is a necessity; the fuel that ignites creativity. The actor’s choices are directly influenced by the imagination. Vivid visual images have a major impact on the actor’s choices.

Time and place cannot be ignored. Stella Adler said, “Where you are is who you are.” This not only refers to the immediate place but the economic, political, social climate of the time. Dress codes, morality, protocols, etiquette, must be addressed.

It is your job to inhabit the world of the character that you play. Their voice, walk, speech patterns, mannerisms are all part of creating the role. You must express yourself emotionally and physically as the character does. You cannot ignore the essential elements of character. It is your job to bring the character to life.

Develop your technique, respect the process, and bring all of who you are to each and every role that you play. Do not compromise any aspect of preparation. And learn how to play. It is the child in each and every one of us that gives birth to creativity.

Tips to Learn Mentalist Mind Tricks

Mentalism is really pretty impressive when you look at some of the pros’ performances on TV. Some of what they do seems so unreal.

The difference between a lot of magicians and mentalists is that magicians let their subjects know that they are indeed performers. In other words, they don’t have any superpowers or a sixth sense so to speak. However, a lot of mentalists choose to make their subjects believe they do have some sort of special powers. Which we all know just isn’t possible. An example of this would be Uri Geller from years ago.

Many mentalists might claim they are psychic, telepathic, can hypnotize, levitate and can even read minds among other things… Like magically bend spoons, but it’s all just a performance actually.

So what are some of the important aspects of being able to learn mentalist mind tricks? What do the pros use to pull off their tricks? I’ll discuss a few things below that every mentalist should know.

Reading Body Language

Reading body language is a huge part of mentalism. This is especially true for tricks like reading minds, which is one of the most popular of all mentalist mind tricks. When learning mentalist mind tricks you must master reading body language. A practitioner must learn to pay attention to and decipher the minutest details in body language.

There are other professions that focus on reading body language. Psychologists are trained to read body language as well as many people who work in law enforcement like the police and the FBI.

Presentation

How you go about your presentation in mentalism is also very important. Without proper presentation, some of your attempts at pulling off a mentalist trick could be ruined and end with embarrassment. Mentalists who are great at presentation are David Blaine and Criss Angel among many others. These guys have literally mastered presentation and because of it can fool scores of people all at once. So needless to say, as you learn mentalist mind tricks, make sure you master presentation.

Controlling Focus

When learning to perform mentalist mind tricks, it’s very important that a mentalist control their subject’s focus. Because if a mentalist loses control of this one important aspect of mentalism, their trick may be discovered.

Practice Daily

Finally, in order to learn mentalist mind tricks so that you can pull them off naturally, you must practice daily. Learning to read body language can be fun and you can develop this skill simply by watching people anywhere you are. – While at the mall, a restaurant, the gym, just make sure you don’t come off as creepy.