Award-winning screenwriter and former talent agent Lisa Edwards knows a thing or two about what it takes to get into the world of acting. Her success as owner and Company Director of Melbourne entertainment agency, VisionsMCP, led to other outstanding opportunities such as co-writing an award-winning screenplay, LIMBO. Now she's diving into the world through the eyes of a talent agent and talks what it takes to land that next big role.
Q: What is the hiring process like for actors seeking jobs?
Lisa Edwards: As my agency was predominantly known as a starter agency, we only had a small group of actors. By small group, I mean about 50 or so, although we had over 1,500 registered talent for various different positions and jobs that needed filling. We had a policy where the books never closed, that way we didn't miss out on anyone who was truly amazing applying. Interviews were held weekly and mainly conducted by my assistant.
For actors to gain an interview, in their application they needed industry standard professional headshots - that look like they do in person, resume/CV/Bio including measurements and age - not age range and it was favorable to have a demo reel (Showreel) of work completed. I also loved it when actors came prepared with IMDB, and casting websites such as Casting Networks or Showcast (Australia Only) up to date and subscription paid. I also liked to see a body of training courses. I wanted to know you were serious and passionate about what you were doing. The mentality that ANYONE can be an actor is insane! You can't just walk into a hospital and become a doctor, nor can you walk onto a film set and be an actor. Training and experience is the key. Short courses, ongoing and full time courses, student films and short films were all favorable assets.
For Extras/Background Artists the process was a lot simpler, a recent photo - NOT a selfie or an image from a nightclub with your new best buddy cropped out. As professional looking as you could possibly provide. We asked for relevant experience and why you wanted to join an agency. Measurements and Age - again NOT age range. Once accepted you were given the option of photographers or you could find your own professional photographer. We had an affiliate company that provided industry standard headshots. Three looks for $150.00 I understood how expensive starting in the industry could be. You also need to be able to follow and understand simple direction.
IN GENERAL, we looked for reliability. If you were running late to an interview and didn't call, you would be turned away; I could not take the risk you would think this is okay and do it to one of the clients on a film or casting. If you were running reasonably late (say five minutes) due to traffic or parking issues and called, this was okay and you would not be turned away. We liked well-presented and well-spoken, polite people. If you were rude or arrogant, you would not be offered representation. We never looked for specific looks, as film and TV is a representation of the general population - you do not need to be beautiful or size zero, it takes ALL shapes, sizes and looks, and personality and attitude will often get you further.
I don't understand the whole 'I want to be famous' thing. A favorite memory was I once had an applicant say, 'I am here to be a star, I want to be a star.' They would not listen to advice offered during the interview process and were set in what I call the reality mindset of the Kardashians and being famous for the sake of being famous. I am not proud of what I did, but in my frustration stood that person up, asked them to stand feet apart and arms at 45 degrees - I then told them, "You are now a Star!" They were so shocked that they sat down and listened, and actually became one of my favorite people. Hard working and dedicated to achieving their goals and dreams.
Lisa's 5 Secrets to Get Hired
1) Be Prepared!
Preparation is where opportunity meets success.Have quality professional headshots. These are photos that look like the person sitting in front of the agent during the interview. No agent wants to see glamour shots. A good photo will show personality. It will capture the essence of who you are. Your photos are you calling cards; casting directors see these before you ever have the opportunity to walk in the door.
Make the agent's job easy - come prepared. Have everything the agency has asked for with you, or email ready when requested. And training, training, training! I can't emphasis this enough. Remember a doctor doesn't get to where they are without training, and neither does an actor.
2) Be Available.
If you are umming and erring when booking in an interview or unavailable and not flexible, I have found this was often a reflection of how it will be if an agent chooses to represent you. Always say YES and work out the how later. If you are passionate about what you do, it will show.
3) Be Polite, Personable, and Professional
ALWAYS - this is self explanatory.
4) Be Punctual!
This comes under the category of YOU HAVE ONE JOB! If you can't do this you may as well give up before you start.
5) Be Well Presented.
Do not turn up to an interview looking like you just crawled out of bed. Show the agent you are motivated to succeed by looking the part. This doesn't mean turning up in a 3 piece suit. You are not interviewing to be a lawyer, although the entertainment industry can be very shallow - dress to impress, this means show the agent who you are, by the clothes you wear. Impress the AGENT and you are more than likely going to be submitted. Show you are confident, without being arrogant, this is a fine line.