By David Mimran
Some industry experts argue, quite persuasively, that not all aspiring performers need talent agents to land roles. Hardworking, disciplined, organized creatives may well find it easier (and more lucrative) to make their own way.
This debate is beyond the scope of this post, however. If we begin with the premise that you — the aspiring performer — are indeed in the market for a talent agent, we must ask the next questions: what should you look for in a potential agent, and what red flags should you avoid?
Note that we’re not making judgments about what constitutes a “good” or “bad” talent agent. We’re merely examining the suitability question: what do you need to get out of your agent?
What to Look for in a Talent Agent
Look for agents with all three of these key attributes
1. Someone Who Understands (and Appreciates) Your “Type”
For better or worse, most performers have a particular “type.”
“Some versatile performers play well across a range of types, it’s true, but it’s still crucial to know thyself, as the saying goes.” — David Mimran
Look for an agent who’s comfortable seeking the sorts of roles you’re looking to fill, and versatile enough to change as your wheelhouse evolves.
2. Capacity to Take on New Clients
You don’t want to work with an agent who doesn’t have the time of day for you. Sure, everyone’s busy, but talent agents have a particular tendency to overschedule. That’s bad news for aspiring performers whose calls can’t wait.
3. Known Quantity in the Business
Every agent starts somewhere. There’s nothing inherently wrong in working with someone whose reputation doesn’t precede them, but — at minimum — you want the “known quantity” of a reputable agency, even if your main rep is pretty junior.
What to Avoid in a Talent Agent
Think twice about working with agents that send up any of these red flags.
1. Irrelevant or Missing Credentials
Look for agents with association bona fides. The National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR) and the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) are both common and legit. Be wary of associations that aren’t widely known in the industry. And consider working with a union-affiliated agent, for your own sake.
2. Poor Performance With Past or Current Clients
Results speak louder than credentials. Do thorough due diligence on prospective agents and rule out anyone who seems to have a pattern of poor performance. Interview as many past and present clients as you can — they’ll talk if you promise not to share what they’ve said.
3. Poor Fit for Your Niche or Media
A great talent agent can nevertheless be a poor fit for your needs as a performer. While it’s easy to overstate the great TV-film divide in what’s indisputably a new golden age of television, it remains the case that some talent agencies are better suited for TV, and others for film.
Don’t be shy about writing off agencies (and individual agents) whose portfolios clearly omit your preferred media. You’re better off setting the bar high right out of the gate than struggling through unfulfilling relationships well past the sell-by date.
Are you happy with your talent agent?
David Mimran is co-founder and co-chairman of Mimran Schur Pictures