I'm guessing most actors would like to sign with one of the big agencies, like CAA, WME, ICM, etc. The problem is that those are the kind of agencies that usually only take on performers (or writers and directors) who have something going for them. Let's take a look at some of the things that can get you in to a major agency (or at least get you a meeting at the agency), if you're not already a big star.
You've just gotten your first starring role in a major feature film, or gotten a regular role on a TV show, and you're looking to leave your small or mid-sized agency. I say that because you're probably already with some agency if you've gotten that kind of a role.
You know somebody who is already represented by the agency and they recommend you to their agent.
You're the lead in a very popular web series or your own video blog (and by very popular we mean that you have over a hundred thousand subscribers, have won a streamy, been written up in magazine articles, etc. People are talking about you!
You've been nominated or won a major theatre award. (This generally means either a Tony or an Obie.)
You're a famous personality like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian (although people like that usually go with a personal manager and a publicity agent).
You've starred in a low-budget indie feature film that has really taken off and gotten attention (and made some money).
Even if a big agency doesn't sign you, these things will get you a very good agent at a good smaller agency.
Obviously, if you're just starting out, the truth is you're not going to sign with one of the biggies. And even if you know somebody who can get you in, those agencies have a very low threshold for you getting work – if you don't book a good role within 6 months, they're going to let you go. A smaller agency will usually stick with you for a year without booking (especially if you're getting callbacks).
Next week we'll discuss getting into a smaller agency and why that can be a great thing.