Getting an audition without an agent is not impossible but it’s definitely a challenge. Pursuing a career as an actor can be disheartening and frustrating at the best of times, but the pressure is eased a little by knowing that you’re not on your own; getting a reputable acting agent can open doors you simply won’t have access to as a performer.
However, all is not lost if you have not yet secured representation. All you need is that first job. That one plum role that will showcase your talent perfectly. After that all the top agents in London will be fighting to work on your behalf, right? Of course, the catch 22 is how you even get that first acting job without a casting, and how you get a casting without an agent. In this article, we’ll look at how to give yourself the best chance of getting an audition without an agent.
There is no point in pretending it will be easy; you’ll need tenacity, drive and ambition. You’ll have to be brave and put your neck on the line if you even want to stand a chance of a casting director or director sitting up and taking notice. Even after you’ve pursued every avenue, there is no guarantee that you’ll get an audition for your dream job. You may have to make sacrifices along the way. Are you prepared to appear in an unpaid fringe production for a couple of months in the hope of being spotted? If the answer is no, you may need to reconsider the career path you’ve chosen. In short, you’ve got to really want it.
Let’s explore the conventional ways of finding out about acting auditions.
What is Spotlight?
Spotlight is the main and most valued casting directory actors use to advertise themselves to casting directors; it is the first choice for anyone casting a professional TV, Film, Stage, Radio or Commercial Production.
Spotlight now mainly operates online but the traditional book version is still available. Each actor has their own page, which can feature a gallery of headshots, a CV, clips of any screen work (also called a show-reel), voice clips (also called a voice reel), details of special skills, casting type and contact details (usually an agent’s address, telephone number and email address).
How Casting Directors use Spotlight
In the case of actors without an agent, the contact details are listed as ‘care of Spotlight’, which means any interested party should contact Spotlight directly, who in turn will contact the actor in question with details of an audition. However, this is very rare; it normally only happens if a casting director is struggling to find a very specific type.
For example, a casting director may search for ‘male actor with a playing age of 30s to 40s, blonde hair and a strong native Dublin accent’. They would then be shown all the listed actors who fit this casting bracket.
In general, Spotlight is used by casting directors to send out breakdowns of acting jobs to agents, who in turn submit suitable clients at the click of a button. It used to be the case that these breakdowns were private and only agents could see them; this is still the case in many instances.
How you can use Spotlight
In recent years, Spotlight have made a positive move to be more inclusive of actors who aren’t yet represented and post selected jobs for members to see.
This means that, as a member of Spotlight, you will have access to details of certain jobs; the name of the piece (whether it be theatre, TV or film), character breakdowns, who to contact (the casting director’s name) and when submissions should be received by (the deadline).
My advice for actors using the Spotlight to access casting information and hopefully get an audition without an agent, is only ever suggest yourself for jobs that you are ideal for. If you start sending photos and resumes for jobs that you are clearly not right for, casting directors are likely to take you less seriously (and you may even be blacklisted).
What else do you need to know?
It is essential for anyone who is serious about the acting profession to be a member of Spotlight; you won’t be considered by reputable casting directors if you’re not.
Spotlight are also on hand for career advice and provide occasional networking events for their members.
There is a yearly fee to be a member of Spotlight, which currently stands at £204. You are only eligible for membership if you have trained at one of the respected drama schools or you have had some professional experience.
What is the Actor's Centre?
London and Manchester both have very active and thriving Actor’s Centres. The main purpose of these studios is to provide on-going training for professional actors (you have to be a member of Equity to join The Actor’s Centre). The classes cover a whole host of areas including musical theatre, Meisner technique, voice work, dialects, acting for screen and stage combat.
How you can use the Actor's Centre
I have personal experience of the London centre and can vouch for the quality of the training. But on top of that, it is one of the best places in London to network, meet new people in the acting industry and build useful contacts.
Occasionally, they even host networking classes and Q and A sessions with high profile casting directors.
What else do you need to know?
There is a joining fee of £72 for 12 months, but this is exclusive of class fees, which are charged separately.
What is Contacts?
Another ‘must-have’ for every actor serious about getting an audition without an agent is Contacts. It is an almost exhaustive directory of contact details for professionals working in the entertainment industry. It includes the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the country’s top theatres, casting directors, TV, film and theatre companies, as well as suggestions for photographers (to have high quality headshots taken with), accountants specialising in working with actors and recording studios to have voice reels and show reels made.
How you can use Contacts
Don’t just send out endless resumes and 10x8's to random people. Do your research. Only approach specific people if you have something to say. Have you admired their work? Are they casting something you are perfect for? You will get little response if your letter isn’t personal and targeted. Even then it’s a bit of a lottery. Casting professionals are inundated with emails and letters everyday.
PCR is a weekly publication with news of auditions, castings and future productions, all of which are verified by casting directors themselves. The paper version of PCR is well established and was in existence well before the birth of the internet.
PCR offers many opportunities for getting auditions without an agent, although many of the jobs advertised are unpaid. If you are just leaving drama school or trying to establish yourself as a performer, this type of work can be great to build up experience and exposure.
PCR costs £22.56 per month if you pay by direct debit. The price includes the weekly newsletter, email alerts of last-minute castings, a personal online profile (much like Spotlight), access to back issues of PCR, career advice and special offers on industry products.
Casting Call Pro
Casting Call Pro is very similar to PCR, but originated online. The main difference is that you can set up a profile on Casting Call Pro for free and you have the ability to submit yourself for acting jobs at the click of a button.
However, with the unpaid version, you’ll only have access to some of the casting breakdowns. You’ll have to subscribe to the premium version to get details and submit yourself for the better paid, more high profile gigs; it currently costs £17 per month.
Gone are the days of pages and pages of open auditions in the back of the Stage newspaper. They are few and far between. It is full of ads looking for go-go boys and table-dancing girls.
However, I still believe this publication aimed at members of the entertainment industry is worth a look. It is jam-packed with news and features about the profession you are trying to get in to. By reading the Stage, you’re keeping yourself up to date with announcements of new projects, venue information, and names and faces of working directors and casting directors.
You should be seeing as much theatre as possible; the review section can help you select the best (and often obscure) productions. You don’t need to spend a fortune as the Stage reviews almost every professional production out there, including those playing at low-priced fringe venues.
And after all of that, there is a slim possibility of finding a suitable audition advertised in the back. People casting highly paid movies or well-respected theatre will never advertise for actors in the Stage (unless perhaps they are seeking extras), so don’t get your hopes high. But there may be opportunities to appear in corporate videos, unpaid short films or showcases, so it’s always worth a shot.
The problem of how to get an audition without an agent isn’t easily solved; I have outlined some of the more conventional routes, but if these don’t work, you may well need to think outside the box and use your initiative to come up with a more original and alternative approach.