Not every talent agent has seen a Broadway Show!
There is no one path how people become talent agents.
In fact, it is a field that you do not even need a college education for. Needless to say, the larger and more prominent the talent agency, the chances are you will find agents with higher-level degrees. Talent Agents with law degrees, MBA’s and CPA’s make excellent talent reps for actors that need that level of service and knowledge. While the top talent agencies, such as WME (William Morris Endeavor), CAA (Creative Artists Agency), and ICM (International Creative Management) subscribe to a formal training process where all future talent agents start in the mailroom, unless they are making a transition from one talent agency to another. Such as Agent A moves from Agency A to Agency B, bringing along with them “talent”, which could be actors, directors, screenwriters, etc, so there path is different, but most likely, they were somewhere in a talent agencies mailroom at one point in their career. While agents come from different educational backgrounds, many were former actors and theatre majors. In addition, I have seen agents that had degrees in psychology, sociology, business management, law degrees and even MBA’s. I have a degree in marketing prior to being an agent at CESD, before founding TVI Actors Studioin 1986.
And not every great agent knows great talent!
The more successful agents seek out actors that already have a great body of recognized work. In essence, they look at how large 10% comes out to. Rarely, will a large agency in New York or Los Angeles represent someone that has never worked professionally. Indeed, the actors that have gained national or international recognition, makes it easy to “sell” the talent. So, in essence, the agents at larger agents have an easier time, as their role is to act as a liaison between producers who seek the well established actors they represent. A good talent agent is the person that has the relationships with the buyers of talent. That is casting directors, producers, directors, etc. The better the relationship, the better the opportunity that you as an actor will get in for many auditions.
Good Talent Agents are usually where the bulk of the work is
Los Angeles and New York. That is the two main hubs of production work in the World. ( excluding Mumbai, aka “Bollywood)” The proximity of the talent agent to casting director, the more often “they will have lunch”. Those relationships span years and decades.
Good Talent Agents around the Globe
Great Agents are all over the globe! Talent agents like Chicago talent agent Lynn Hamilton (Shirley Hamilton Agency), Miami talent agent, Tammy Green (The Green Agency) or Sydney, Australia talent agent Gary Jones (Smith and Jones Management) They are examples of great agents in regional markets. But if the majority of the actors they represent are in the regional market, no matter how wonderful they represent actors, they cannot get the actor in Miami a last minute audition for a guest-starring role on a primetime TV series that afternoon in Burbank, California. It just is not logistically possible. While auditions on tape, uploaded via the Internet are an every day occurance that all talent agents are doing around the world, the majority of bookings are actors that can audition, meet and speak with the casting directors, producers and directors in person. That is especially true for Los Angeles TV Auditions as the pace of the process is very fast and decisions in casting are made with days if not hours in many cases.
What is a Great Talent Agent?
Great talent agents are the ones that can find, market and nurture the actor’s careers. These agents spend many nights watching theatre, going to comedy clubs, and tapings of shows. Unfortunately, the great agent frequently lose the actor they established and built a career to a larger talent agency where the actor has more opportunities. (which is not always the case)
In closing, talent agents, good to great is different for each individual actor. Working actors succeed as they stay focused on their work and equally as an entrepreneur, or as I like to say, an “Actorpreneur“.