Note: In addition to basic acting training, you should also have some training in your particular area of interest. If you are submitting your material to a commercial agent, include any cold reading and commercial auditioning classes you’ve taken on your résumé. If you’re going for television work, an on-camera class is good to have. And list any other acting-related classes you are taking.
The more you look like a serious professional, even if you are non-union, the easier it will be to get an agent interested in you. And speaking of looking like a professional, never send your headshots and résumé to an agent using “creative submissions.” This means no glitter (inside or outside the envelope), money, funny poems, silly threats, food, etc. Do you know how many agents have received envelopes with some kind of “miniature foot” in them, along with a note that reads “At least I now have a foot in your door”? And guess how many of these submissions get thrown away? If you guessed all of them, you’re right. Some actors believe that these types of submissions will make them stand out from all the other submissions, but the truth is that they only make you stand out as an amateur.
Note: Every now and then you will hear of an agent who likes to get “creative” submissions. If you’ve actually heard the agent say this, or have read an interview in which he does, then go ahead and do something creative – but no glitter or other confetti-like surprises that will spill out all over the agent’s desk. Otherwise, stick to the professional-looking submission.
Once you have the above elements together, you can obtain a copy of the SAG and AFTRA franchised agent lists from the SAG-AFTRA web site. This lista are available to you even if you are not a member of the union. At a theatrical bookstore, such as Samuel French, you can find copies of a monthly periodical called “The Agents,” which lists franchised agents, as well as those who are not franchised but are still acceptable for union work.
Note: At the time of this writing, agents don’t need to be franchised by SAG in order to represent union actors, but they must be affiliated with either the Association of Talent Agents (ATA) or the National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR), or both.
Asking fellow actors can also be a good way to get names of agents. However, because these actors may see you as their possible competition, or because if you don’t work out at the agency it would reflect poorly on them, you shouldn’t automatically expect other actors to recommend you to their agents.
Once you determine the number of agents to whom you want to send your materials, purchase that many (plus a few more) heavy-weight, 9x12 manila envelopes. Put a headshot(s), résumé, and a cover letter in each envelope, attach a completed “To:” and “From:” label to each envelope, and take them to the post office. Find out the correct postage, then buy enough stamps (plus a few more) to cover this mailing.
For future submissions, keep all of your materials (agent lists, headshots, résumés, stamps, and envelopes) together so that it is quick and easy to set-up an “assembly line” for mailings. Each time you get a recommendation or a lead on a new agent, you’ll be ready to send out your envelopes without having to scramble to find your résumés or the correct postage, etc. And because it’s now quick and easy to submit your materials, you will have less reason to procrastinate about finding an agent.
Note: Nowadays more agents are allowing you to submit electronically. Although this is not the norm yet, you should have your materials - headshots, résumés, and cover letters set up on a computer and ready to send.