An Agent's Perspective On Actors emailing Prospective Agents. Ryan Booker Give Us His Step By Step Guide.
Today I have the privilege to be interviewing Ryan Booker from ICON Actor Management to get his insight, direct from the source on how to navigate and dominate your actor/ agent relationship. This is an interview so from now on I'm going to be referred to as M and Ryan will be R :) here we go.
M: Ryan before we jump in, I'd like the audience to get to know a little bit more about you. So please tell us a bit about yourself and the exciting things ICON is doing in the entertainment space right now…
R: Thank you Michael, I am the Principal Agent at ICON Actor Management. We have a few things happening this year which centre around continuing to help build the sense of community within ICON and with industry friends, we already have some solid platforms for this but we want to grow them even further. We're also developing a program focused on high potential talent in which we provide extra coaching, guidance and regular 1 on 1 meetings to make sure they are on track to meet their goals.
One exciting thing on the table for the immediate future is that we're making sure we're connecting Casting Directors with actors and have planned out Casting Director workshops for this year. Our next one is in Brisbane on April 19 with Stevie Ray of McGregor Casting.
M: Awesome! Ryan it's great to have the chance to talk to you because it's good to have the perspective of an agent. Particularly when contacting an agent, actors need to understand that you guys get representation requests every single day, but some kind of struggle to comprehend just what that means…
R: Yes we get contacted by actors from every state on a daily basis.
M: And what are some of the most common mistakes actors make when getting in contact with you?
R: Not giving us enough information about themselves in their introduction. One sentence introduction emails with a CV and head shots attached don’t make the cut, as it looks like you've emailed that to every agent in the country.
M: Do you respond to everyone who makes contact with the agency? What do you try to convey in those emails?
R: I do, I respond personally to everyone who makes contact with us seeking representation. We are in a very emotionally challenging industry that is complicated at best to navigate and as agents it’s our job to help smooth out that roller coaster ride. So in our replies we make sure we are honest, caring and sincere. Regardless of the message intent.
M: Take us inside that decision making process for a second, I'm curious, what happens when somebody actually does catch your interest and where does that interest usually strike, can you tell us briefly the story of a memorable recent signing where this exciting process happened at ICON?
R: Usually it starts with a certain appeal about their look, something intriguing. This can happen in the street or from emails from actors… that’s the start. Recently I met a guy in a business meeting and after some chatting and swapping stories on what we did, he mentioned his daughter loved performing and was heavily involved in school drama and was wanting to casually explore training outside of school. I gave him some ideas and left it at that.
He casually emailed me a few weeks later on another topic and during our email conversation he sent through a photo of his 15 fifteen year old daughter. She had a very interesting quality/look about her, so I asked them both meet with me. We all met and her personality and attitude were exactly right. So we signed her fairly quickly and made sure she got in front of a couple of local and interstate Casting Directors. They both gave glowing reviews of her and her obvious natural talent and have indicated they would like to see more of her in time. What's great is that now she'll go into our new program and we'll help guide her in training and coaching to develop her skill and experience further. She has a very bright future and is really only very new to it. But as they say, she has “it!” in look, talent and attitude.
M: What’s been your biggest aha moment so far in running the agency?
R: Probably when I realised that being a graduate of a long term acting course does not always mean they have the talent or skill required to professionally act.
M: Amongst actors there is a commonly held belief that agencies who say their books are closed are simply brushing the actor off. What's your opinion on the subject? Is it just a more polite way of saying that you’re not interested’?
R: Yes and no. To provide background on what we do at its core, we represent actors/talent and we only get paid when our actors/talent do. So it’s important for an agency to represent talent that have the best chance at gaining employment, so that we can survive and continue to seek opportunities for other actors/talent. Each time we take on a new actor/talent we invest our time, unpaid, to help coach and manage them toward being better prepared for opportunities when they do arise. The more we take on, say in a particular demographic or look, the less time we have for the remainder. So we have to say no to some people because we are simply not able to spend
the time coaching and managing them.
On the flip side, and I’m going to be frank here, you may simply not have the talent or right look for landing paid acting work. So it would not make sense for agents to sign you. So, the books are full response can be a polite way of brushing you off.
M: It's a great point you make there Ryan and I think it's worthwhile to elaborate on a little bit by referencing a book I'm reading at the moment called The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman, where he defines a business into a clear five part equation, he says: "A business is a repeatable process that...
1. Creates and delivers something of value...
2. That other people want or need...
3. At a price they're willing to pay...
4. In a way that satisfies the customers needs and expectations...
5. So that the business brings in enough profit to make it worth while for the owners to continue
So if you were to take on additional actors when your resources were already at capacity, you’d
really be in danger of compromising both elements 4 and 5. Which leads to another thing we're often told, is there a best time of the year for actors to connect with prospective agents?
R: No, there are projects rolling all year, and we are always on the lookout for exceptional
M: I'm curious about what exceptional means to you, what's an example of a dream actor you'd love to represent? Is it a Hugh Jackman/ Cate Blanchett type or someone else entirely?
R: Honestly, I’d prefer to represent an actor from ground zero. Watching them develop and land bigger and more technical roles is absolutely thrilling. I get an absolute buzz out of it. We have quite a number of up and comers within ICON, I get goose bumps thinking about their potential and where they can go.
M: So taking that into account then, can you describe for us in some detail what you look for in a perfect prospect, in the raw unproven sense of the word... What are the key traits an unproven actor would have to have, to make them a dream recruit for your agency?
R: I'd say we're mainly looking for four things:
2. The right look/quality - this doesn't necessarily mean model or attractive, I refer to it as an “interesting” look, a face that tells me a story, a uniqueness perhaps.
3. A well balanced eagerness to learn (not too eager!)
4. And Confidence/ Being prepared to give it a go.
M: Is there a quick check list you could share with us for constructing a great first email between an actor and an agent?
1. Introduce yourself and a brief background (your story)
2. Touch on what you know about our agency and what appeals to you
3. Provide your recent experience and perhaps point out the areas you need to work on or recognise your strengths and mention them, with some “work ons”. This lets us know you have that social awareness and are interested in developing further. Even the top actors have things they have to work on.
4. Head shots and showreels. Showreels are similar to a painters painting. Its how you show your ability as an actor, don't underestimate their importance and definitely look for high end production companies if you need to get them professionally done.
M: Ryan we're nearly through! Just two questions to go and I'm going to get everything I can out of them. There must be times when you feel like you're speaking another language to your actors. Sometimes arts and business are miles apart. What's something you wish actors understood more about the biz, that'd make your life easier as an agent?
R: Yes, sometimes I do, because I have a very strong business and marketing background and I do often use the terminology and I see the eyes starting to glaze over. Michael there are a number of business side of things that I feel all actors should take time to understand but this one here has to be the most important for enduring in the acting industry…
The one thing I see often is actors becoming highly frustrated or annoyed in their acting career because they aren't working or auditioning and they feel like their opportunities are slipping away. Generally it’s the younger actors feeling this. The big advice I give to all of our actors is to view acting as a “hobby” until it looks like a career. Calling it “career” applies way too much pressure internally to find paid acting work, which is mostly never in their control (Michael, I think you have a great post about this) and they ultimately burn out.
M: I do thanks Ryan and you guys can read it here: How to manage your acting career understanding what you can control.
R: And in doing so they lose sight of why they are acting in the first place and will more than likely leave the industry altogether. Which is an absolute shame.You generally have a hobby because you “love” to do it, acting is the same, if you love to do it, you will explore it, explore the learning and networking opportunities, you’ll be open to work opportunities, you’ll be more relaxed in auditions and ultimately increase your chances of landing paid work.
M: Many thanks again Ryan, It's been great to chat and look forward to more chats in the future. One last thing, what's the best way for our readers to connect with you and keep track of what you're up to with the guys over at ICON Actor Management.
R: I can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow our FB page https://www.facebook.com/iconartistmanagement.au
Casting Director Workshop - https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/casting-director-audition-workshop-with-stevie-ray-mcgregor-casting-tickets-16030453518
Thanks so much for reading guys I hope you have a great week and can join me in thanking Ryan for chatting to us at The Entrepreneurial Actor today.
Film and Theatre Actor Based in Sydney. Creator of Script Gym. Lover of Stories.