How to get auditions without having an agent
First, it’s important to know what an agent does. An agent operates on the actor’s behalf and finds auditions for their clients and makes sure they are properly compensated for their work. But depending on certain circumstances such as location and various other factors, some actors choose not to or simply do not have an agent. Whether your child is just breaking into the industry, or if you or they have had an agent or manager before and made the decision to be a freelance actor here are some tips for accessing and booking jobs on your own.
Make sure your child has an up to date headshot and resume
These are the basic tools that should be in your actor’s toolkit. Most castings require online submissions, which means you submit your child electronically for a role. So all information should be accurate and current to make sure your child is a fit for the specifics of a role. The same way you need an accurate resume to apply for a job is the same importance of an accurate resume for an actor. If you don’t know what to include on an acting resume (or your child doesn’t have acting experience yet) feel free to google information. The resume and headshot tips requires an entirely separate blog post. A reel is also an important tool if you have one available.
Join your respective union
The union works on your behalf to ensure your safety and maintain your rights as a professional actor. Much like a workers union, your respective actor’s union stipulates break times, compensation for overtime, tutors for young performers, etc. If you are eligible for a union or belong to an actor’s union you should be up to date with membership and dues and make sure your union information is accurately reflected on your resume and all casting databases. Most child actors or new actors will be non-union
so this wouldn’t apply. Union membership can be tricky and somewhat strict when you graduate from non-union to union so make sure you’re aware of the restrictions. For instance, once you become union you are no longer able to work non-union union jobs in most states. So it’s best that you do what works best for you and your child actor.
Sign up for casting databases such as backstage and actors access.
Most casting directors use casting websites to fill roles. These “breakdowns” are available to agents but they’re also available to others. The first rule is to completely fill out the profile as accurately as possible. Then set your filters and permissions so that you get roles specific to your child. You can filter the casting notices by age, gender, nationality, etc. and by the region, you live in. You can also go to the sites manually and just sort through the notices, however; its easier to get daily emails that are specific to your needs and decide whether to submit or not. Some of the websites have free subscription options as well as paid membership (monthly or annually). Usually, the paid subscriptions allow you to have unlimited submissions to castings and change the
pictures more often or add videos or reels to your profiles. The free subscriptions may give you access to the casting information and you may have to pay a small fee to submit your child ($5 or less).
There are other databases based on your region as well. For instance, in DC, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania dragonnukconnects.com is a casting resource as well. Please note, this is not the same as paying for your child to be on a company’s website with the promise that casting agents can find them that way. When in doubt, do your research.
Figure out your child’s type.
Acting is one of the few industries where it’s the norm to be hired based on your age, sex, nationality, height, and all the other protected personal identification classes. Use it your advantage! My son’s acting coach Mark McKinnon had a chat with him about “embracing your brand” prior to his last audition. When my son was younger he didn’t book a lot of roles, partly because I was a single working mom and couldn’t take off work at the drop of a hat for an audition, but also because the casting notices usually asked for “ages 4-6 ethnically ambiguous with blue eyes” and that is definitely not him. Even the roles that were for his age and ethnicity sometimes weren’t his “type.”
Now that he’s older I’m starting to see a trend that he’s getting callbacks or getting booked for older roles or athletic type or boy next door roles. Think of the shows you watch and the stars you see in movies and I bet you can typecast the “action hero”, the “boy/girl next door” or the “trusty sidekick”. There will be a time when you want to evolve and do something different, but for those getting started, let your “type” work to your advantage.
If you don’t know your child’s type ask your family, friends, (or their teachers) and see if there’s a recurring theme. Submit for those roles and see what happens.
Always submit ASAP!
The sooner you submit, the better. There’s usually a short window of time for submission and a short turn around time to report to work if selected. Make sure to read the details and make sure you are available for the dates indicated in the casting notice. Nothing is
worse than someone choosing your child for a job only to have them back out because they aren’t totally available for the shooting dates or fittings, rehearsals, etc. So as soon as you see an audition that’s a good fit, submit immediately.
Do your homework!
Freelance work or acting as a momager without an agent can be tricky. Essentially you’re cutting out the middle man (the agent), but the agent knows industry regulations and trends and oftentimes has relationships with producers, directors and casting agencies that you don’t have. Just because you don’t have an agent doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have the same insight and knowledge. Ask other momagers and actors about upcoming auditions or workshops. Network with other industry professionals. Send friendly and courteous emails or mail kits to local theatres or production companies with your information and ask about upcoming auditions or any uncast roles. Learn how to negotiate your own work terms and conditions (after all, that’s what your agent would do).