As a talent manager, I’m often asked the same questions about what I do. How did you get into management? Who do you represent that I know? What’s it like working with actors? I’ve answered these queries hundreds of times so my response is almost memorized, but there is a question that requires a more in-depth explanation: How do you decide who to represent? Instead of quickly listing the top qualities I judge in an actor with a typical 280-character tweet, I decided a more educational response would serve better.
First, you must know that the actors I choose to meet with regarding possible representation typically come from a referral (an agent, acting teacher, actor I already represent) or a showcase that I attended. In either case, I’ve already seen their acting abilities in person or through materials that were sent my way.
During my usual 30-60 minute meeting with an actor, I learn about the actor’s background, their journey through the industry, their goals, their setbacks. I watch closely as they tell these stories, picking up on clues to who they are outside of my office and what it would be like to work with them.
Sometimes I know right away that I want to sign an actor, and other times I take a few days to let the decision come to me. I can’t say that every representative has the same thought-process as I do in regards to judging whether they would like to work with an actor, but I’m fairly confident their list of considerations is similar to mine. So here goes…
1. Your Look
Before you utter a word in a meeting or audition, people will notice how you look. Obvious, right? I have to consider whether your look is marketable and how buyers will react to it. The good news about the marketplace is that it’s always changing. If your look is considered to be less marketable now, in a couple of seasons, the narrative could change. Your look consists of things that are malleable (hair color & style, clothing choice, weight) and things that are not (skin color, facial structure, height). For me, skin and teeth are important to notice as a camera close on an actor’s face won’t hide anything.
The next great consideration is your talent and how strongly I feel about it. Though the look is the first thing noticed, an actor’s talent is the true commodity I am selling. I need to feel inspired and confident about your ability to act.
Since a critical role of mine is to promote my actors, I need things to discuss or pitch. Unfortunately, saying, “She’s a wonderful actor! Trust me!” doesn’t cut it, so I need to consider what credits you have to your name. Whether or not a certain representative is willing to take a chance on an actor with less credits, is up to them.
The industry is competitive and every actor, like any business, needs marketing materials which include solid headshots and strong footage. When considering an actor for possible representation, I have to ask myself how good of a job I feel I can do with their current marketing materials.
5. Special Skills
Languages, singing, dancing, fight or stunt training can help an actor play a greater variety of roles and is something I always take note of.
This has 2 parts. First, I have to judge whether you are a likable person. Do you come off as genuine? Are you easy to talk to? Do I feel I can trust you? This industry is all about collaboration, and not only do you have to get along well with others on set, but to grow a national or international audience, people have to feel a sense of connection to you. Will they tune in to watch you on the talk show? Or will they pick up the magazine to read your interview? Your look and talent will only get you so far before your personality can make or break you. Secondly, I need to consider whether I, personally, feel good energy with you. As in any relationship, the problem may not be you and it may not be me, but a combination of us, together. I’ve met with plenty of actors who were lovely people with great resumes but I didn’t feel connected to them for whatever reason, and since management is such a close relationship, I couldn’t possibly sign them.
This industry is all about making relationships and growing your circle as time goes on. Who is a fan of your work? Which casting directors always call you in? Which directors have you impressed? This list of people can help me understand your potential.
8. Current Representation
If you’re meeting with me and already have an agent on board, I have to consider whether I want to work with that agent. Usually, it’s not a problem and I’m happy that a part of the representation puzzle has already been solved, but it can happen that I will pass on an actor because I don’t want to be on a team with a certain representative, for whatever reason.
9. Business Acumen
How well do you understand this industry? Are you building your career like a business or like a hobby? Are you learning about industry trends, how to market your business, and what it takes to grow your brand? If I don’t get a sense that you are a good business person, in addition to being a passionate artist, I may worry that you have unrealistic expectations or no sense of direction.
10. Work Ethic
I need to judge how hard you are willing to work to make your dreams a reality. Are you willing to sacrifice in order to be successful? When I sign an actor, I put my hard work and reputation into their hands, so I have to trust that my efforts won’t be wasted.
I can’t say which qualities weigh heavier than others, but I will say that after doing this work for nearly a decade, it all jumbles together and ultimately comes down to a gut feeling. I have to think about the actor I met with and feel excitement and inspiration, an eagerness to start spreading their name all over town, and a confidence that our partnership will be collaborative and enjoyable. Only then is that Hollywood magic possible.