Can you give the top 3-5 benefits an actor will gain going from freelance to having an agent?
This is a great question. At the beginning of your career, it's often better to go freelance, for multiple reasons, but as you start to move farther along, there are some really good reasons to start looking for representation.
The first benefit is that you have someone vouching for you, which – theoretically, at least – means you should get more opportunities. You get into agent appointments, rather than open calls, which means that you won't have to spend as much of your time sitting around waiting to get seen, you'll be in front of the actual casting director (many of whom don't even attend open calls,) and even the actual creative team more often, and you'll just generally get treated better by having an appointment, and by having a logo on the back of your resume with someone the team and the casting director know and trust. On top of that, you'll get in for shows that you will simply never have opportunities for otherwise. We have relationships throughout the industry, and we often hear about projects that are not necessarily public knowledge, or out-of-town theatres that are casting, but who aren't necessarily holding auditions in your city.
A second benefit is having someone who can look over your contracts and negotiate for better terms. Many contracts these days are what we call “boilerplate” — that means that contracts often use the same language, without changes. But having someone who can negotiate on your behalf, and who can step in if there are any problems, can be worth its weight in gold. Performers often have a tendency to say “yes,” and to put themselves in a compromising position; or, even when they're being assertive, they run the risk of creating friction with producers. Having an agent who has a relationship with the producers and the casting directors, who can go in and have a conversation and withstand the heat that negotiations can frequently become, allows you to start rehearsals being the “good cop,” with no personal bad blood. And, more importantly, it lets you focus on the work. The agent and the producers will have similar conversations about other clients throughout their careers, so they're sort of “forced” to work together no matter how ugly it gets (and it can get ugly sometimes!)
Third, you have someone to help advise you. We see hundreds – or even thousands – of careers begin, flourish, and end, and we can help you make sense out of what can often be a confusing jumble.
Those three things – creating opportunities, protecting you, and helping to guide your career – are the three big ones. There are other reasons, such as promoting you, but those big three are what generally help us earn our ten percent.
There are times when it won't make sense to work with an agent – and it's not always just at the beginning of your career. For instance, let's say you book a chorus contract in a national tour, and you end up loving it so much that you stay for years. Since you don't need anyone creating opportunities for you (and because after the first year, if you're not making more than Equity minimum, you're no longer obligated to pay commission on a chorus contract), this might be a time when it makes sense to go without representation.
Hope that helps!
And – my response –
BOOOOM! Thank you ANTHONY! Another awesome answer! There were definitely points brought up today, that I've not ever thought about. I'm so grateful for this series! : )