You’ve amassed enough test shoots to build a portfolio, and you’re now at the stage where you know you want artist representation. But with all of the agencies—boutique and big-name alike—out there, you’re not sure which door to knock on.
Before diving in, do your research. Investigate agency websites; look at their roster of talent. Does your work match up to their aesthetic? Would you be filling an unmet gap in their roster? “You really need to understand what the agency is looking for [before submitting your work],” notes Frank Moore, an agent at Celestine Agency.
If possible, “visit every agency in your proximity; see what their feedback is—get a feeling for what they’re seeking,” says Charnelle Smith, founder of AIM Artists. “You should view your relationship with an agency like a marriage; ideally, you’ll be with your rep for a long time, so that person should be someone you respect and believe will help your career. Likewise, an agent needs to believe in her artist.”
And don’t feel dejected if the agency passes on your work; instead, take the agent’s feedback—which he or she is more than willing to dole out—on how to improve your book, and apply it.
“I have met people who our agency hasn’t taken on initially, but a year later, I represent them because of the way they approached me, how they went off, followed my suggestions, and then came back with new work,” asserts Maxine Tall, an agent at Warren Tricomi Artist Management. “Over time they impressed me with their professionalism, skill and drive to be ready for representation.”
Agrees Timothy Priano, founder of Artists by Timothy Priano, “Don’t give up; even if we don’t take you on now, we’re happy to meet with you and give you our expert advice.”
(Photo: Makeup by Troy Surratt at Artists by Timothy Priano)
Inside the Agency
What exactly does an artist agent do for your career? From helping strategize your portfolio (both online and real-life books) to negotiating deals to getting you paid, the agent works on many levels to make your talent assessable to the right clients at the right time.
“As an agent, you try and make a career for your artists, matching them with the perfect client, putting them in front of the camera if they’re comfortable. You’re there to protect them before they go to a shoot, ensuring that they’ll be paid if the day goes into overtime,” says Smith, adding, “You’re the one who tracks down late payments.”
Ahh, yes: Money. “Some say the must important thing our agency does is billing,” laughs Moore. “But, really, beyond negotiating rates and terms, a great agent is a good listener to his or her artists, who can give direction to help them get to where they want to be."
“We’re the unsung heroes—and that’s the truth,” notes Tall. “We’re the behind-the-scenes people who make things happen for our artists. But to be a great agent, you have to have a lot of patience and understanding. But most importantly, you have to want to train and be skilled enough to become an expert in all these different areas of beauty in order to really take the responsibility of guiding artists.
“One’s career, if done right, boils down to teamwork between your agent and yourself,” continues Tall. “What the agent does for the talent is as important as the talent showing up on set. It can make or break a career if an agent doesn’t properly handle an artist. I essentially am an extension of who this person is, and if I’m not handling their business properly, they don’t get the job.”
It’s not entirely uncommon for artists to jump ship—nightmare stories abound. Yet, as the agents make clear again and again, if you find the right match in an agent, you’ll know it and see your star rise—and from there, the opportunities are endless.
—Karie L. Frost