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Los Angeles Agent Q & A

Equity Members and Equity Membership Candidates (EMCs) met with Los Angeles agents in a Q & A Panel Discussion at the Hollywood offices of Actors' Equity Association on December 14th, 2010.

By setting workplace standards, creating fair compensation and protection from discrimination, Actors' Equity, over the course of 100 years, has made a profound difference for actors and stage managers. As a benefit of membership, Equity presents free educational workshops and seminars for Members and Membership Candidates. The event was sponsored by the Western Region Membership Education Committee (Jennie Ford, Chair).

Panelists were Victoria Morris and Jacole Kitchen, both of Kazarian, Spencer, Ruskin & Associates; Gerry Koch, The Gage Group; Steven Dry, Schiowitz, Connor, Ankrum and Wolf; and Dave Secor of Daniel Hoff Agency. The moderator was John Fasulo, Equity's National Director of Membership

Here are some highlights:

Equity has established franchising regulations that permit talent agents to represent members for theatrical employment. To become a franchised agent, one must apply to the Equity Agency Department and fulfill a number of requirements. Those requirements include having a commercial office space, financial information, letters of recommendation, State incorporation documentation, State license, professional resumés, Agency office inspection, etc. Then the application is reviewed and a recommendation is made to the appropriate Regional Board. "Don't put your name on any piece of paper that involves an agency without checking with Equity, especially if you have any doubts as to whether or not they hold an Equity Franchise.," stressed John Fasulo. "Never pay anyone unless they have gotten you work. When in doubt, call Equity!" For more information on agents and a list of Equity Franchised agents visit the Agency link within the Members Only section of the Equity website.

Regarding personal managers, Equity staff cautioned that the Union does not have jurisdiction over personal managers. If you choose to sign with a manager and you are dissatisfied, please understand that, because Equity has no authority over managers, Franchise protections and rules do not apply.

What is the best way to get a meeting with you? "Through referrals from a manager, a casting director or someone who can vouch for your talent: someone who has worked with you or has seen your work."

Are you looking for new talent and is there a best time of year to get an agent? How would you prefer submissions? The answer to new talent was a resounding YES, agreeing there is not a time of year that is better. Most said they prefer hard copy submissions and reiterated that a referral is helpful.

Is Los Angeles casting only the land of the young and beautiful? What advice would you give to a youthful looking early 50 year old with significant stage presence? Experience, credits and seeing the actor in a show are all important. "The selling point is you are an actor in an age range where we don't get a new face very often. You have 30 years' experience over a 20 year old and that makes you special."

Do you feel that LA theatre credits take a backseat to a New York City credit? A question that is often raised, it was clear that the LA theatre scene is respectable, healthy and thriving. "If someone came with a credit from Reprise or Cabrillo, I can see they are working regularly and that has a lot more pull." "The bottom line is that there is talent in LA that is just as good as NY."

Should I seek agencies that rep me across the board or concentrate on theatre? Film and television work play a large role in the lives of actors based in LA. Not every agency represented works solely with stage actors. "If you also have a film and television career, you don't want to be away during pilot season. The ideal career is someone who can do film and TV and go back to the theatre as often as possible."

With LA theatre paying so little, how can an LA actor make money for you? Agents agreed that theatre is an important part of an actor's resumé and encouraged taking stage roles. "We think it's important for our clients to get back to the stage as often as they can." One agent believes "There are great theatres like South Coast with a lengthier contract. As long as you are branching out and climbing the theatre ladder in LA, there is money to be had."

How should a client respectfully inform his/her agent about roles for which they are hoping to be submitted? Everyone agreed that good communications is key. It doesn't hurt to let the agent know you are interested in a role, but be respectful in how you approach it - never sound like you are questioning their job.

What about working with a personal manager? Not all agents think there is a need for a personal manager, while others think a personal manager could be helpful or a hindrance. "We are very manager friendly if they are hardworking and team oriented." "It's not about the concept of managers as much as whether they are trying to be an agent without a franchise." One agent said: "We only take 5% for rehearsals, 10% for shows and it hurts me to think the PM is getting 15% without having played a role in the submission or negotiations."

There seem to be a lot of agent/casting director workshops in LA. How do you feel about actors paying to meet casting directors and agents? The panelists agreed it could be worth participating, but with a caveat. "It helps if you are going to see the casting director or the associate. If you are paying to see the assistant, that is not going to get you anything most of the time."

What are your thoughts on photos? Black and white vs. color? "It's important that it looks like you, but the body of work on your resumé is important." "A good photographer can get you five looks - five different ways that I can market you." Color is the way to go.

What is the best way to "break up" with an agent to go to another one? How do you feel about freelancing vs. signing? "If you feel that your agent is not working with you, then you need to figure that out because you may be 50% of that." "You need to break that connection in order to even start a relationship with me." All agreed they don't freelance.

Should a theatrical resumé be different from film/TV? Each agent has a different answer. For one, there is a resumé style that has been developed for that office while others prefer to have the theatre credits at the top. But it was agreed that its how one writes the resumé credits. For theatre it's the role, while for film/TV it's the "lead, co-star or supporting."

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