What Young Performer Agents Want You to Know

Becoming a Spotlight Young Performer is a really exciting moment, but what can you expect from your agent, your Spotlight membership and future castings? In this article Mel Brown, Spotlighter and former young performer agent, delves into some of the more commonly asked questions we receive about Spotlight and how best to interact with your agent. 

I have just  joined Spotlight as a Young Performer and I want to understand how the casting process works. 

Spotlight is the UK’s leading casting platform used by casting directors and agents across the globe to source actors for roles. Being a Spotlight member means that you are in a pool of actors that can be searched for by casting directors and submitted for roles by your agent on a daily basis. Young Performers and/or their parents do not have direct access to job breakdowns or submissions, the agent representing them takes care of this process on their behalf, receiving the breakdown information and suggesting their appropriate clients

Agents mainly use Spotlight to find their clients work via their jobs feed. Once the agent presses the submit button, the young performer's profile is sent straight to the casting director who then filters the suggestions and will audition the performers they deem most suitable for the role. 

Keeping your headshot, physical details and credits up to date is vital, as performers are searchable by all the things listed on their Spotlight profile. Some West End shows have specific height requirements so it is vital to keep this information current. 

Casting directors can receive hundreds, sometimes thousands of suggestions for just one role, so just landing an audition is a huge achievement in itself. The industry is now doing a lot of first round auditions via self-tape so that they can try and see as many people as possible for a role. Check out our handy advice on self-taping for more tips and tricks on how to nail these.

Should I expect to pay more than just the Spotlight fee when I join an agency?

You can find membership costs for Spotlight here and if you are asked to pay more fees by your agent, you need to know exactly what that money is for - some agents use their own in-house photographer for example and will invite you to use and pay for that service.  

Agent commission is standard; all agents will charge commission on the jobs their clients secure. The rates of commission however can vary from one agency to another but should be outlined clearly in the contract you're invited  to sign when you join the agency.  You can read more about what to look for when signing with an agent as well as tips for understanding contracts . This can also be referred to as the ‘Agency Terms’ or the ‘Artist/Agent Agreement’. 

Some agents will charge one commission rate across all types of work and others will set specific rates for each different project type. For example, Theatre will be at a lower rate than Feature Film & TV.  If you are ever concerned, you can always email our membership support team and they can let you know if the agency is registered on Spotlight - please note however that we can’t offer recommendations of agents, so doing your own research is key. Equity, the actor’s union, also offers support on numerous industry-related subjects - membership  is  available for children aged 10+.

How many auditions am I likely to get during my Spotlight membership?

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the industry, this is sort of like asking 'how long is a piece of string'? There have been some young performers who have landed their first role after one audition or you may struggle to get one audition in two years - there is no set formula or pattern to this industry. You may have two or three auditions in one week and then hear nothing for months. The important thing is just to enjoy performing.

If you don’t hear anything from your agent, it doesn’t mean that they’re not suggesting you for roles, it’s more likely that casting directors can’t realistically audition every performer suggested, even if they wanted to (and we know they do!) -  they have to work to budgets and deadlines and simply can’t fit everyone in. Casting directors have great memories and always keep lists of profiles they are drawn to for potential future projects, so the profile can be working well for you behind the scenes and might only come to fruition later down the line. It also might just mean that the right roles are not coming up that are suitable for your casting type, or simply that the industry is slightly quieter than usual. 

The key thing is not to compare your acting journey to others; each young perforformer is on their own unique journey and the rate of auditions you may get is subject to many different factors. For example, it’s often the case with younger performers that casting directors will be looking for a family resemblance, which means the casting is dependent on many other roles  being cast and creating the best  group dynamic.

Another important thing to remember is that all casting details posted by casting professionals on Spotlight are strictly confidential, so when your agent does send over audition and role information, this should be for your eyes only and not shared publicly.

Why are being available and flexible, key requirements for any young actor and parents?

Some auditions will give up to a week to prepare, while others can happen within 24 hours. Being flexible and adaptable is essential in this industry. Most casting directors will try and schedule in-person auditions after school or on weekends but sometimes this is not possible. As auditions are limited, it is essential that you let the agent know if you can make the audition straight away, because if you can’t, another young performer needs to be found to fill that slot. It is important that you are always contactable - if you see a missed call from your agent, give them a call back straight away!

When agents send you audition information, it is vital to make sure you read every last detail as they will have sent this information for a reason. Some projects have a large overall shooting period and need the performer to be available for all of this time. Though the role might only shoot for a couple of days, productions need a degree of flexibility, as they will be working around numerous schedules and also need dates to play with in case there are weather or production issues, etc.

The industry can be very challenging and you need to be prepared to change plans at the last minute. Auditions can affect your social life (as well as the rest of the family) – so you need to be aware that entering into this industry is a big commitment. 

As a Young Performer can I be represented by more than one agency?

At Spotlight we don’t recommend this, but it is possible. If you do take on more than one agent, always discuss this first and outline clearly exactly which agent is suggesting you for what type of work. Always read your agency contracts carefully as some agents ask for sole representation and do not wish for you to be signed up with more than one.

For more information on this subject, take a  listen to our Professional Young Performer consultant, Ellie Samuels talking about this topic

How do I prepare myself for rejection?

Agents never sit on information about an audition - as soon as they have something to tell you, they will give you a call straight away. Unfortunately, unless you make it to the final few performers for a project, it is very unlikely that you will receive any feedback. 

Casting directors are getting better at providing feedback but they don’t always have time to respond to each individual self-tape they receive. If you are finding that you are not getting second round auditions from your self-tapes, you can always contact your agent directly and ask them to review your self-tape for you. They may have some insight or feedback which might help you.

The best thing you can do is to immediately let auditions go once you’ve done them. It’s easy to start dreaming about where the opportunity could take you, or spend time feeling frustrated that it didn’t go the way you hoped, but ultimately this industry requires you to let go, move forward and go with the flow.  Rejection is part of acting. If you are finding this part of the industry challenging, it is wise to maybe take some time out to think about whether acting is really the right path for you. There are lots of amazing jobs throughout the whole of the industry that might be better suited to your skill set. 

It’s important to also remember that while acting, singing and dancing are wonderful skills to have, it’s always good to think outside the box. What other skills can you gain that make you stand out from the crowd? Can you speak another language? Can you ride a horse? Can you do karate to a high standard? Can you play a musical instrument? Having other things to focus on outside performing is important - don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Focus on other things that also make you happy.

I’ve decided to part ways with my agent, how do I go about finding a new agent?

If you part ways with your agent, as a young performer your Spotlight membership will be halted immediately and a partial refund issued. However we do retain all your profile details, so once you have a new agent you can just drop us an email and we can get you back up and running. If you are over 18 you might qualify for our adult performer membership. No agent is required for this membership but you do need to reach a certain criteria in order to move across.

If you are looking for a new agent, the best place to start is with our online directory Contacts, where you can filter  a list of young performer agents in order of proximity to your location. 

Looking at the list of agents on Contacts can be a daunting prospect; the key, however, is to do your research. Have a look at who the agency is currently representing, what work their clients are currently appearing in, read their FAQ pages, and ask a few questions: Who are the agents? What did they do previously before they became agents? Those with an industry background will most likely have some great connections to help you on your way.

When approaching an agent, make sure to keep the email you send them brief. Always write with a purpose in mind. Format your email so it is easy to read, introduce yourself briefly and explain why you are writing to them, link them to any work you have done (making sure all the links work and the access password is provided if required), but don’t provide too much personal information at this stage. Try and find a specific agent to address it to rather than using a generic opening, and if someone has recommended someone to you, make sure to reference this. It really helps to build the connection from the start.

Some agents will specify on their website how they would like you to get in touch with them, so make sure you follow these instructions. Keep a record of all the people you get in touch with and if you hear back from them, so that you can follow up in future with any who say that their books are not open at the moment, etc.

Finding an agent that suits you can be a difficult task. Each agent will work in their own unique way, there is no one size fits all. The key is having a strong, communicative relationship with your agent, working in the spirit of trust without fear of asking questions. On the flip side, don't worry if it takes time for your agent to get back to you. An agent is always multitasking, and their priority is getting auditions in and suggesting people for work, so they might not have a chance to look at your new headshots/showreel/voicereel right away, but they will do, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.

While we’ve covered a few of the harsher realities of the industry here, we hope that you still feel as inspired and driven as ever to make your career as a young performer a success! There are some incredible opportunities out there for anyone with a passion and talent for this kind of work, and joining an agency and then Spotlight is a great way to get started.

Any other questions? Email them to [email protected] and we’ll be sure to answer more in future!