Last week we talked about why it's difficult to get signed with a major agency, and some of the cons if you do get signed.
So, this week I'd like to discuss what's good about signing with a small agency. These are usually referred to as "boutique" agencies. They are most likely owned and operated by one or two people. Often the owner will run the theatrical department (covering films and television shows), and the other agent will cover commercials.
One of the benefits of being with a boutique agency is that they don't have as many clients (actors) as a large agency and will often have a more personal relationship with their actors. Although, they still don't want their actors calling every week and asking why they haven't been sent out.
As I mentioned last week, another advantage to a small agency is they will often give the actor a longer trial period. If you sign with a major agency, and they get you out to auditions, you will be expected to book work. And book fairly soon after getting signed.
The problem is that if the major agency sends you out a lot in the first couple of months and you don't book, they start losing interest in you, which means they don't send you out as much, which means you have less chance of booking. This becomes a vicious circle - the less you get sent out, the less chance you will book. Then after around six months, they will drop you. It costs a lot for a major agency to stay in business, and they need actors (and other performers) who can bring in the money.
With a small agency (unless it's one of a few in Los Angeles who handle a small number of high-profile actors), you will usually get a year to prove yourself. And let's be honest - if you're with an agency that gets you out on auditions, and you don't book anything decent in a year, you probably need to go back to class and do some theatre.
But there are always going to be times in an actor's life when he or she just can't seem to get booked. And it's nice to know that your agent probably isn't going to drop you during those periods (especially if you've been there awhile and have booked some decent jobs in the past).
Another thing I like about being at a boutique agency is that I can get ahold of my agent when I need to. He either talks to me when I call or - if he's busy at that moment - he calls me back.
In this age of so much business being done over the internet (including most submissions and some casting), it's nice to have a more personal relationship with your agency/agent.
One last thing - there are a few crappy small agencies out there. If you're with an agency for six months and you're not getting sent out, it's time to ask for a meeting to figure out what the problem is - like maybe your headshots aren't working for you. If your agent won't meet with you and work out the problem, then it's time to look for another agent.
And, hey folks - get out there and make some stuff happen! Shoot a sketch and post it on Funny or Die, do some standup comedy, write an song and sing it. Having an agent is great, but in the end, you're the best person to depend on.