Good day, my Cinnaminions! I’ll start this post off with a narcissistic announcement that I booked a supporting lead for an indie film called HOT AIR, which stars Jere Burns, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Schulyer Fisk (you can read more about it in this THR article). I’ll be playing Agent Xu, a rookie FBI agent who chases Jere Burns throughout the film with my partner. From May 19th to June 10th, I’ll be in Austin to shoot this film as well as having a vacation away from LA.
Okay, with said narcissistic announcement out of the way, I got this awesome part (which has about 8-9 days of work under a SAG modified low budget contract) through my New Orleans agent at Del Corral & Associates.
“New Orleans? Huh? Edward, aren’t you based in LA?”
Why yes I am. So for today, ladies and gentlemen, let’s talking about the value of getting regional agents if you’re an LA actor 🙂
The growing reality is that more and more TV shows and feature films are being shot outside of LA, especially in areas like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Austin. The Walking Dead and the next installment of Hunger Games is shot in Atlanta. The entire 2nd season of American Horror Story was shot in New Orleans (same with Homeland). You guys get the picture.
With that being said, these respective cities are booming in their own rights. While it will never take over Los Angeles in terms of being the entertainment capital of the world, the biggest perk of these areas is the cost of shooting there. Los Angeles is certainly one of, if not the most expensive, place to shoot in if you’re not doing a sitcom that is shot entirely within a studio warehouse.
So the question then becomes: “Is it worth it to get a regional agent in such areas if I’m an LA actor?”
The answer is yes…and no. Let’s start with the Yesses.
THE YES / PRO’S
1. More auditions, especially for things that you may not have the clout to be considered for. Through my Atlanta agent (yes, I have a New Orleans and Atlanta), I was able to audition for two major blockbuster films in supporting roles. Once again, because of the size of the role, the production much rather go through local hire talent rather than going through LA talent. But if I were to book a role in the latest Hunger Games by such a route? Hell yeah that would be awesome.
2. You’re considered a local hire so before these shows and films consider getting LA talent (especially for some of the smaller roles), they look for local talent to fill that rank. It’s more cost efficient than getting someone straight from LA as the SAG-AFTRA union requires that the actor has their flight (usually first or business class if it’s not a SAG ULB film), hotel stay, per diem, and the standard negotiations in terms of pay, billing, and whatnot that the agent/manager takes care of. And thus it being more cost efficient, local talent will usually book the part if they’re exactly what the show or film is looking for.
3. Getting exposure to the casting world beyond Los Angeles. Unlike Los Angeles, the casting world of these regional areas are much smaller and they tend to know their actors a lot better as, after all, the market is smaller. You get to really establish a relationship with them and they will certainly remember you for future projects. Not to say that LA casting offices aren’t like that (and when done right, you will have a few as your greatest fans) but there’s less competition in these areas. And if you got in good with the Fincannons, a casting office that pretty much controls much of the Southeast region in terms of TV shows and films that need local casting? That, my friend, would be a great place to start.
4. When you get seen for TV projects through regional casting directors, your tapes also get seen by the LA casting office counterpart. Which means that the LA casting offices you had a hard time getting into will be exposed to you and that’s a valuable tool your LA agent can use.
THE NO / CON’S
1. More auditions are great but there’s a catch. First, you need to be EXCELLENT with self-taping auditions. That means either booking the SAG Foundations Center in advance to utilize their camera and audition room or have your own self-taping audition space with clear lighting, very minimal sound distraction, good recording capabilities, and a good camera. Presentation is key here especially in the self-tape audition world as more often than not, you will be booked from how professional your tape is. Second, if you get callbacks, there’s a chance you actually need to fly out to the area to audition in front of production. Sometimes you’ll be able to do a Skype callback or just re-use your first audition tape but be prepared that you will need to fly out for callbacks, especially if it’s a guest star or a significant role in a film.
2. You’re considered a local hire. Which means that, more often than not, you are required to pay your own fight and/or find a friend or family member you can stay with during that time. Sometimes your regional agent can negotiate your flight to be covered (usually to a certain degree, not all of it) and get you lodging for the days you work but more often than not, you got to have people you know in these areas.
3. Getting a regional agent may not be ideal if you have a job that requires 40 hours a week from your life. More often than not, you are asked if you can book a plane on the fly so if you have a structured daytime job that gives you some flexibility for auditions and maybe shoots but not random flights to Atlanta, a regional agent may not be the best thing for you to have at that given time.
4. There CAN be a confusion created if you have an LA agent and regional agent pitching you for the same project and TV show. While this doesn’t happen all the time as the regional agent will get access to the role first as production will always try to find local hire before resorting to LA talent, a conflict can happen that if it does, it’s really not that big of a deal.
With the film I’m shooting, while I’ll be there for 3.5 weeks, I’m working a total of 8-9 days which means that I’ll have a lot of downtime. Thankfully, I have a family friend in Austin who is gracious enough to let me stay at her place (she just happens to be out of town during my duration) and if that falls through for whatever reason, I have 3 other friends I can crash with. My flight is covered for the most part but there’s a possibility I may need to fork out $150. But for what my agent was able to negotiate? I’ll pay that gladly.
Yes, I’ll also be missing out on opportunities back in LA due to the large amount of downtime I have but the way I look at it, I get to star alongside actors I love dearly (huge fan of Jere Burns and Matthew Gray Gubler, who I had the fortune of auditioning in front of when he directed an episode of Criminal Minds), I get to play a role I would normally never play AND get paid $268 a day for it, and I get to be out of state and have a true vacation away from the hustle and bustle of LA. And for a script that I truly enjoyed reading created by people who are hustlers in their own right, I don’t see myself above any of this but rather a privilege and an honor to be working on such a project. In addition, my NOLA agent will be hitting up Texas casting offices (especially the one who brought me in for the HOT AIR project) for other work so there’s a possibility I’ll be working on other projects/commercials while I’m in Austin.
My yadayada time is up. Now let’s get to the part that matters to you: how does one get a regional agent?
1. The process is similar to like how you would get an agent if you were in Los Angeles. More often than not, regional agents prefer hardcopy submissions but I just emailed one of the agents straight up and pitched myself similar to how I did with my LA team (once again, the handy article on how to find an LA agent) but make sure you know people who will let you crash at their place before you go off and submit. I rather state the truth that I’m strictly an LA actor but is willing to work local hire with all the conditions that it comes with. I also state that I can self-tape auditions well and that I can fly out at a moment’s notice.
2. Regional agents will certainly take note if you have network credits in LA and/or if you’re ethnic. While I don’t have any guest stars, I have a fair amount of primetime co-stars that definitely was a selling point as well as my ethnicity. So if you’re an ethnic actor, getting a regional agent may be very attainable even if you DON’T have any network credits but you have LA acting training that is attractive in its own right. Could you get a regional agent if you have no credits and white? Certainly. While it’ll still be competitive as the regional agents need to decide whether it’s worth risking getting a white LA actor when they can get those in their own regions, it won’t be as fierce when you have to compete with a thousand other blonde girls who look very similar to you.
Some people have expressed concerns to me what would happen if they booked a series regular and if that affects them being able to hold onto their regional agents. First off, any regional agent would be an idiot to dump their client who booked a series regular on a hot new primetime show because after all, the likelihood that these shows even survive beyond one season is minimal. And even if it does go on for 5 years, nothing is eternal. Once the show gets cancelled or finished, you’re back on the market again and the regional agent now has a MASSIVE marketing advantage to get you in the door. I daresay it’s a win-win situation.
Another concern I was asked about was commissions. If one books a project through their Atlanta agent, let’s say, are they required to pay 10% to their LA agent as well? The answer is no. You are only required to give the percentage to the agent who got you the job but you are CERTAINLY more than welcome to give 10% to your LA agent as a gesture of good faith. When it comes to managers, it depends on what you negotiated with them on that regard as more often than not, managers get 15% of EVERY entertainment related job you do and get paid for. So in that particular regard, it’s a case by case scenario.
With all that being said, was getting a regional agent (or in my case, two) worth it? When I got them last October, I was hesitant at first but I knew that I wanted to do this to tap into the regional markets and use my ethnicity and network credits to get seen for more projects. Now, I will say it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. My decision has also benefited my LA theatrical rep team as I keep them informed on the TV shows and films I audition with my regional agents and let them know who the LA casting office is. And with the project I’m about to shoot in the coming weeks, it’s even more assured that I made the right choice.
So with that being said, let me know what you guys think. Do you agree with what I’ve said? Disagree? Love it? Hate it? Lend me your thoughts 🙂