How I Got My Commercial Agent in LA (2023)

I’ve been an actor ever since my older sisters asked me to perform for our parents when I was 5 years old. Our troupe didn’t last long, only a few performances (it was for the best as my sister Nikki’s timing was terrible) but I’ve stuck with this job for over 30 years. Though learning it as a profession was (and is) extremely tricky because unlike 9-5’s there is no one clear path when you work in the arts. You’re often drawn to projects based on your passion and passion rarely equates to money, so most actors rely on commercial work to supplement their income. Enter: the Commercial Agent.How I Got My Commercial Agent in LA (1)

Over the course of my career I’ve had five commercial agents with wildly varying results. You see, commercial work is high volume and can be extremely lucrative, with some national spots paying out six-figures. No joke, I had a friend put himself through UC Berkley on one commercial. A good actor can go out on multiple commercial auditions in a day, so an agent who makes 10% can make a lot of money. As a result some agents are great people who care about you and the health of their industry, and other agents would sell your eyes if they could.

My first agent was Nate Tico from The Stars Agency in San Francisco. Nate was a good agent and has worked his way up to VP, so he cares about his industry. I wanted to impress him with wild characters, spot-on impressions and a variety of accents from around the world, but San Francisco in the early 2000s really just wanted someone dressed in office casual informing you on how to get a better monthly plan for your pager. When I packed my bags and headed for LA, Nate kept me on his list and continued to get me auditions for the next year which was delightful, because LA is about as excited to get new actors as most people are getting a fun venereal disease.

How I Got My Commercial Agent in LA (2)

I crashed an audition with a good friend and fellow stand-up comic, Andrew Norelli, and ended up booking the job. It was an industrial where I performed along side Josh Brener who would go on to play Big Head on HBO’s Silicon Valley. On the way out to the parking lot I asked Josh if he’d put in a good word for me at his agency.

“Naw man! You want my guy, Big Mike!” Said the other-actor-guy we’d just worked with who did not go on to work for HBO.

Turned out that Big Mike (real name: Mike) worked for Rod Baron at Baron Entertainment. Other-actor-guy put in a good word and I was brought in for a meeting. It was a rigorous and inspiring interview:

(Video) Tips to get your Commercial Agent

“You have a car?”

“Yeah. It’s a —“

“You get my call, you get to the audition. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, I’m excited —“

“Thanks, bye.”

HooRay! My first LA agent! I would get bi-monthly calls by a “junior agent” who was a scared kid that never lasted more than a month. I’m assuming they weren’t being paid, but I was sure they had a script to follow. If you ever received a phone call regarding an audition and you were unable to attend, the poor kid on the other end of the line would have to say: “Are you sure you want to miss this audition? That may jeopardize your future at Baron Entertainment.” I quickly discovered that my future at Baron Entertainment was never in jeopardy, because Rod was taking me places! Well, not taking me, but rather inviting me along with all of the other actors on his roster to a cruise. If Rod got enough of his actors to sign up he would get a free cruise. In all fairness, Baron Entertainment is still in business and he has over 50 clients, so good luck to Rod and his associates and if you’re repped by him, have fun on the trip.

Soon after signing with Rod a very wonderful and very lucky thing happened to me. The then brand new TV show, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, had a contest at the end of its first season. Film makers could shoot a short and pitch it to FX. I jumped at the chance and shot my short. I poured all of my money into it which, at the time, was about $80. I sent off the tape… and was swiftly rejected. I posted the short to MySpace Comedy (yes, I’m older) and forgot all about it. Six months later an audition for a TV pilot came in. Turns out the casting directors weren’t happy with the talent they were seeing and went to the internet. I auditioned, booked the job, it went to series, I was signed to a fancy new agency and that turned out to be one of the best years for my career!

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How I Got My Commercial Agent in LA (3)Unfortunately that year was 2008 and for those of you whom follow economics, it was a bad one. The production company that produced the show went under, channel that we were shown on went under, the entertainment industry, the very same that had weathered the Great Depression, got hit – hard. I lost my job, and since I was low man on the industry totem pole, my fancy new agency dropped me. The one ray of sunshine was that my wife was pregnant, and when you’re unemployed that ray of sunshine can be blinding. I didn’t go out for another audition for nearly three years.

A few years (and another child) later, I decided that it was time to clean the baby food off of my shirt and get back in the game.

Cue the montage music.

I posted on social media, “hey, can anyone recommend me to their commercial agent?” Then I took a shower and checked my account. My friend wrote back, “sure.” End montage.

My friend is a comedian and kind of a flaky guy, but he held to his word and recommended me to a woman by the name of Sabrina Sparlin with the Network Talent Agency. I met with her and she was very pleasant. After our talk she agreed to sign me and that was that! I was back in the game. Six months passed and no call, no audition, nothing. A quick phone call to Sabrina later and I discovered that Network Talent Agency has closed its doors and Sabrina had left the company two months ago. They didn’t even bother to call their clients.

I was upset, but getting upset don’t pay the bills! Instead I doubled down and enrolled in the most popular audition class in Los Angeles. Killian McHugh owns and operates Killian’s Workshop. I recommend the workshop, but people should know a few things going in:

-One, it’s a really good deal for the training that you receive. Killian covers a lot of ground over the course of four classes and the price is very reasonable. The classes cover everything you’ll most likely encounter when it comes to commercials.

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-Two, Killian runs the class like Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross. He paces across the room, refuses handshakes or eye contact and oozes disappointment. Just know going in that your payment will be, in part, humiliation.

How I Got My Commercial Agent in LA (4)

Once I had my training in place I decided it was time to get some decent headsets. In the past I had done everything from taking on-the-street pics, to having my wife take pictures, but this time I wanted to do it right. Not just a professional photographer, but someone with a industry name and a legit studio. I hired Joseph Llanes, who has shot countless celebrities and bands. The price tag: $1,500. Yup. $1,500. That’s a lot of clams for a family man. Never the less, the studio was booked, the clothes were bought, and the make-up woman was hired.

This time I tried to target my search a bit more. I had learned that most actors who look like you are less willing to give recommendations to their agents out of fear that you’ll take bookings from them. Commercials are heavily booked based on look, so if you and your friend are both tall men with short hair and a thin build then you’ll be competing for the same roll. My solution? Ask my female friends. Enter, Heather Woodward. Heather is a very talented actress and teaches improv at UCB, a prominent improv theater in LA and New York. She gave my info to her agent and the next week I had a meeting set-up.

The agency was Allegory and the agent was Tyler Kahl. Tyler was a very fit man with lots of energy. We talked for about an hour and he agreed to bring me on as a client. Naturally, the first words out of his mouth were: “You’re going to need new headshots.”How I Got My Commercial Agent in LA (5)

“I just spent $1,500 on these.”

“Yeah, but your hand is in your mouth.”

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“No, it’s touching my jaw.”

“Let’s just get some new ones.”

To show that I was a team-play and dedicated to my job I hired another photographer… who cost $200 dollars. I took the new pictures, that were noticeably lower quality, and turned them in. Tyler was delighted and we were in business. Over the course of a full year I managed to get one audition. Yup, in twelve months I went in for one commercial audition. Something was not working.

I went back to the drawing board and like most things in this town I was helped out largely due to luck. I run a short film showcase the first Monday of every month at The Parlor in Hollywood called The Night of Shorts Night. It’s a cool spot with a side bar that houses eight flat-panel TVs, a full bar and kitchen. It’s free for film makers to exhibit their work and free for audience members to come watch. Due to my schedule at the GSN gameshow, America Says, I was going to miss the showcase so I asked an extremely talented actress, improvisor, and friend, Harriet Fisher, to fill in for me. As expected, she did a great job hosting the show and screening the shorts. When the show was over I asked both her and her husband, another a talented actor named Mark Elius, if they would mind passing my material along to their agents and they agreed.

Harriet was and is represented at a very reputable agency named BBA Talent. I was grated an interview with their head of commercial talent, Christine Tarallo. Christine is charming and funny, and after a couple of quick copy reads we shook hands and that was that. A week later I got the call that Christine was going to sign me. I couldn’t be more delighted and am cautiously optimistic.

My take-away in revisiting my commercial journey has been this: 1. Have your package together. That means a decent headshot, a reel (this can be shot on your phone, just something of you looking to camera and reciting copy), and some proof that acting means something to you. Google ‘best commercial workshops’ and enroll in one. Agents have to work very hard to build relationships. When they send you in it means that they’re putting their reputation on the line, so don’t let them down. A career in the arts is very romantic and many people arrive in LA expecting the world to come to them. Agents want someone hungry and reliable. Finding the right agent really comes down to asking reputable friends for reputable agencies. One of the tools that helps me on a weekly basis is my subscription to IMDB Pro. I can go over all agencies around the world, see their client base as well as standings in the entertainment community. Not every agent will work best for you. A big part of your job is to find the right one that works for you.

Good luck, and as my friend Jordy says, stay creative!

(Video) Top Ten Commercial Agent Success Strategies


How do I get an agent for acting in LA? ›

Where can I find an agent? Performance unions like SAG-AFTRA will have a list of licensed talent agents, and sites such as Backstage offer resources such as the “Call Sheet,” featuring thousands of top casting directors, talent agents, managers, companies, schools and more.

What is the easiest way to get an agent? ›

How to Get an Acting Agent
  1. Get headshots. A headshot is a professional photo of you, taken from the shoulders up. ...
  2. Create an acting resume. ...
  3. Consider making a demo reel. ...
  4. Make a list of acting agencies. ...
  5. Start submitting your materials. ...
  6. Interview and audition for prospective agents. ...
  7. Foster a good relationship.
May 24, 2022

How do you get noticed by an agent? ›

Reaching Out To An Agent Or Casting Director: Get Noticed in a...
  1. For the Love of God, Check the Writing First. ...
  2. Don't Ask Them For Something, Offer Them Something. ...
  3. Keep It Positive. ...
  4. Do Include a Headshot. ...
  5. Let Them Know Where You Are. ...
  6. Let Them Know Who You Are.
Dec 12, 2018

What agency is Zendaya with? ›

At Monster Talent, she brings fresh energy while Bob Noll (“my mentor and boss”) represents experience. By keeping her client list small, Greene is able to give her clients personal attention — one reason “Shake It Up” star Zendaya works exclusively with Greene, and has no agent.

How hard is it to get an agent? ›

Signing with a top agent is a process, and one that can take even longer than three years. You may first have to work as a freelance actor for some time, or work with a few smaller agents before you finally settle with one of the big players in the industry.

Why can't I get an agent? ›

To get a legit agent, an actor needs a headshot and resume, training, and experience. These are givens and make good business sense. Keep in mind, however, that agents work in a volunteer capacity. They are not forced to represent actors.

How do I get an agent with no acting experience? ›

Most agents are willing to take a chance on somebody who has little or few credits, provided that they have something else going for them. That something else can either be great training, a great ability, or a great look. It is important for actors to capitalize on their strengths.

How do you ask an agent to represent you? ›

How To Get An Acting Agent Meeting Through A Cold Email
  1. HOOK 'EM BY DOING YOUR RESEARCH. Know who you are writing the email to. ...

How can I impress my talent agent? ›

How to Impress a Talent Manager
  1. Outstanding Headshots. ...
  2. Strong Acting Clips. ...
  3. Format Your Résumé Correctly. ...
  4. Fill Out Your Online Casting Profiles Completely. ...
  5. Have a Positive and Thankful Attitude.
Jul 18, 2016

How do you stand out in a commercial audition? ›

15 Ways to Stand Out in an Audition
  1. Know exactly what you're auditioning for. ...
  2. Know WHO you're auditioning for. ...
  3. Make a good first impression. ...
  4. Maintain your health. ...
  5. Wear the right attire. ...
  6. Keep a positive attitude. ...
  7. Strike up a conversation. ...
  8. Develop your brand.
May 19, 2020

What do you say in an agent meeting? ›

Be prepared to elaborate on any credit on your résumé and discuss your strengths and accomplishments. You'll want to be able to articulate how the agent will benefit from working with you. Reflect on your six-month, one-year, and three-year goals in advance of the meeting.

How do agents get discovered? ›

5 Easy Ways to Get Discovered
  1. Have charisma, emotional depth, and five years training (minimum). Said another way, be talented. ...
  2. Look exactly how they want, when they want it. ...
  3. Be respected by agents, managers and casting directors. ...
  4. Go where discovery happens. ...
  5. Don't focus on discovery. ...
  6. Want to know how to get an agent?
May 13, 2016

How long does it take for agents to respond? ›

Now, a lot of people will say, you know, it's between six to eight weeks is, I would say an industry-standard expectation for response time. Some agents run a lot faster, some run slower. Some agencies run faster, some run slower. If they have it posted, again, you can check in if you haven't heard back.

How do I get more auditions from my agent? ›

  1. Make sure your online casting profiles are up to date. You must, must, must keep your profiles up to date at all times!
  2. Set up a meeting with your agent. ...
  3. Submit yourself on casting platforms. ...
  4. Meet casting directors in person.
Jun 5, 2021

Who is Angelina Jolie agency? ›

Angelina Jolie dedicated over 20 years of service to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. She served as a Goodwill Ambassador from 2001 – 2012 and then as Special Envoy from 2012 – 2022. In her critical role as Special Envoy, Ms.

What agency is JLO with? ›

Creative Artists Agency signs Jennifer Lopez.

What modeling agency is Kendall Jenner with? ›

So who is Kendall Jenner's Modeling agency? Kendall is signed with The Society Management, a model management company under Elite Models Worldwide.

Should I get an agent or manager first? ›

If you're just starting your career and don't have many credits yet, focus on getting a manager. Your manager can help grow your career, submit you consistently, and eventually help you get an agent when you're ready.

Is it worth getting an agent? ›

Are buying agents worth the money? Buying agents can be worth their weight in gold. They could find you properties you would never know about otherwise, may negotiate a much better price than you would have been able to have got yourself, and save you time and stress. However, it won't be the right option for everyone.

Can you audition with no experience? ›

Acting experience isn't crucial to starting an acting career. In fact, there are numerous paths you can take to become an actor.

Can you audition with no agent? ›

There are many listed auditions for theatrical productions, student films, larger films, etc. An actor need not have representation in order to submit himself.

Can you get famous without an agent? ›

While it'll take a lot of hard work, it's entirely possible to build your acting career without the help of an agent – and you've come to the perfect place to get started. Casting Frontier unites rising talent with professional casting directors, and we've helped countless actors get their careers started.

What do you do when you have no agency? ›

Here is what we recommend.
  1. Control stimuli. Agency begins with what you let into your mind—meaning what comes in from your environment. ...
  2. Associate selectively. ...
  3. Move. ...
  4. Position yourself as a learner. ...
  5. Manage your emotions and beliefs. ...
  6. Check your intuition. ...
  7. Deliberate, then act.
Apr 15, 2019

What do acting agents look for? ›

Talent agencies look for evidence of your commitment, talent, knowledge and training. Acting classes are a great way to get all four! Plus, if it's a good school, you'll meet a lot of other young working actors to work with and hear about their on set experiences. Remember, all of them started out just like you.

Do you have to pay to join an acting agency? ›

An agent will charge commission and take a percentage of the work that they find for you. This is usually between 10% - 20% depending on the line of work. You should not have to pay up-front fees.

Which acting agency is the best? ›

What Are the Top Talent Agencies? Here's Our Overall Best Top Talent List:
  1. William Morris Endeavor (WME) (Best Talent Agency Overall) ...
  2. Creative Artists Agency (CAA) ...
  3. United Talent Agency (UTA) ...
  4. The Gersh Agency. ...
  5. Paradigm Talent Agency. ...
  6. A3 Artists Agency. ...
  7. ICM Partners. ...
  8. Innovative Artists.
Feb 8, 2022

What are good questions to ask an agent? ›

12 Questions to Ask When Seeking Agent Representation
  • How many actors do you represent?
  • How many actors of my type do you currently represent?
  • What kind of projects do you typically work on?
  • What type of auditions can I expect to receive?
  • How do you like actors to check in?

How do you know if an agent is right for you? ›

Firing your agent is a big step.
Here are some questions that will help you decide:
  • How long does it take for your agent to return your call or email? ...
  • Do you have a closer relationship with your agent's assistant than you do with your agent? ...
  • Does your agent listen to you? ...
  • When was the last time you spoke to your agent?
Mar 9, 2020

How do you accept an offer for an agent? ›

How to handle an offer of representation
  1. Thank the agent and set up a different time to talk. ...
  2. Follow up with the other agents who have your work. ...
  3. Triple-check once more that the agent is reputable. ...
  4. Prep your list of questions. ...
  5. Go with your gut.
Apr 9, 2018

Where can I audition for LA without an agent? ›

How to Find Casting Calls Without an Agent
  1. Follow casting directors on social media.
  2. Search hashtags like #castingcall and #opencall.
  3. Browse legit casting call websites regularly.
  4. Connect with other actors, directors, writers, and creatives to build up your online and IRL network.
Jan 20, 2023

How to get auditions in LA without an agent? ›

How to Get Acting Jobs Without an Agent
  1. Create your own work. ...
  2. Read industry publications. ...
  3. Work on student films. ...
  4. Attend Equity Principal Auditions. ...
  5. Reach out to casting directors, directors, and producers. ...
  6. Beware of having a chip on your shoulder. ...
  7. Be generous about recommending talented friends and colleagues.
Oct 20, 2022

Do acting agents cost money? ›

Yes. No one will work for free, but agents charge a percentage of the revenue they generate for their clients. This means that if you find a job on your own, you won't need to pay your agent – but if they find a job for you, you have to pay them a certain percentage of whatever you earned from it.

How do I audition for commercials? ›

The fastest way to get started is to sign up for a free or paid profile on one of the casting websites outlined at the beginning of this article. You can then start submitting to auditions, build up a reel and resume over the course of six months, and then look for a commercial agent.

How much do La agents make? ›

Real Estate Agent Salary in Los Angeles, CA
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$153,977$74
75th Percentile$105,103$51
25th Percentile$63,062$30

Where are most auditions in LA? ›

Where in L.A. should I live as an actor? As an actor in L.A., you may want to live near where you'll be working. Your auditions will likely be concentrated around Hollywood, the Valley (mostly Burbank and Studio City), and Westside locations like Santa Monica and Culver City.

How do agents find auditions? ›

Submit You for an Audition

An agent sends a casting director an e-mail, an electronic submission, a hard-copy headshot and résumé, your website link, IMDb page, or other website with your work. You need to provide excellent marketing tools so they can submit you.

Should I get a manager or agent first? ›

If you're just starting your career and don't have many credits yet, focus on getting a manager. Your manager can help grow your career, submit you consistently, and eventually help you get an agent when you're ready.


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