Producing : Questions About Approaching Talent Agents by Brad Rego

Brad Rego

Questions About Approaching Talent Agents

Hi all, I'm a director/producer of low budget horror films, of which I have made three, however for my newest one I plan on contacting specific agents of talent I'm interested in. I know the preferred method is to go through a casting director, however financially that's not possible right now, and so I'm on my own. Normally I just do a casting call or go through referrals, and so this is the first time I'm reaching out to a specific actors' agent. The ultimate objective is to get an LOI for two of the lead roles which will hopefully increase its value as a package to investors. Questions: When contacting agents is it customary to include just a synopsis of the film, or do I have to attach the entire script? How much production details does an agent require? Schedule, budget, locations,etc...? Especially when some of these details are still up in the air. Thanks for any help you could provide! Brad

Regina Lee

Hey Brad, I don't have time to get into the intricacies of making offers, but I do want to tell you not to worry about Casting Directors. For starring roles, the producer is often the one making the offer, so do not let that part worry you!!

Brad Rego

Thanks for the heads up!

Shaun O'Banion

Agents are tough. I'd suggest approaching managers... they tend to be easier to deal with. Another issue for you is that agents are wary of having talent sign LOI because they know your plan is to go out and try to raise money on the backs of their clients. If you cast a wide net with, say, an actor or actress from TV and don't get any bites, word can spread that someone tried a raise, came up empty and the clients name wasn't enough. Agents don't like that (and rightfully so). They also don't like it when you don't have answers to the three big questions... Those questions are: What's the budget, when does it shoot and what's the schedule? Having said that (written that?), make your approach. Always worth a shot.

Brad Rego

Shaun, Great info, thanks.! A couple people I have talked to also echoed your recommendation about going through the manager versus the agent, as the manager may be more receptive to low budget roles then agents. I don't expect to cast a giant net, because it is low budget after all ($350k), We have a good budget and financial plan laid out, but locations are still being worked out as we are looking at a few different places depending on some tax credits systems. The setting is a small secluded town in the woods, so we have lots of options. The schedule of principal photography is worked out, but the start date is murky, that's going to depend on how the financing goes. We have a team in place to start shooting a month after we secure the budget for the film, but of course that is up in the air. Thanks again.

Maura Anderson

I just went thru this whole process for my film ( and while we had a local casting director for smaller roles we cast the 4 leads on our own via agents and mgrs. First see if you can find any personal connections - play 6 degrees and ask people if they'd be willing to make an introduction. If the actor is excited about the project they can appeal to their agent. Second, agents will be tough to interest unless you have a project with it's budget already raised and a real offer - LOIs are a kind of a thing of the past (ESPECIALLY for little indies because there are just too many of them). They don't want to waste their time or their clients time with something that may never even shoot and they don't want someone thinking their client is attached to something and therefore not call them in for something that's actually going to go. There are of course exceptions. It's a risk, but if you can 1. raise enough money so you can make a pay or play offer to talent and try to raise the rest of your money after that (there are few names that warrant enough $ for a feature though, so be careful with this) or you can 2. try to raise money without names attached -- this will depend on your budget but you can do investor deals that are contingent on getting some sort of "name" talent -- make sure you are both on the same page as to what a "name" is, if you're trying to get a supporting tv actor and he wants tom cruise, you're going to be in trouble. You can try talking to managers, they are certainly more interested in the overall path of their clients career, but ultimately you're at the mercy of what the actor wants to do, unless you can pay a lot of money you should be prepared to go thru a LOT of names before you find someone that connects to the role, feels this is a good career move, needs money or doesn't need money depending on what you're offering, and has some space in their schedule. Agents will want all the info you can get them - exact dates, $ offer, where it shoots, director, other cast attached, script (to send to their client to read). Standard to send an offer letter with all of this info. You cannot send out another offer for same role until you have received an official pass. Hope this helps!

Brad Rego

Thanks so much for the information Maura, this definitely helps! Its funny I thought the LOI thing was a thing of the past as well, and everything now is pay or play contracts, but as I have been talking to people for this production and some other that they were involved in, I keep hearing stories of it still being used, which is why I started to go down that path as well. Especially since we just started to raise funds and don't have the guaranteed money for pay or play.I don't know if its cyclical or maybe you just have to find the right talent who would be willing , but this whole process is maddeningly frustrating because it seems that anything has a chance to work. In our business/financial plan we list all the names we are looking at for the two parts we want to bring a name in for. Figured that would be the clearest way to make sure we are on the same page. It also helps us gauge peoples reaction to the list, and helps us maybe lean towards one person or another more. Given what you described, it does sound like I should focus on managers though, as I don't have the ability at the moment to make a real offer letter, with exact dates and locations yet. This movie could be a big money maker as horror movies can be quite profitable against a smaller budget, but the front end salary would not be huge enough to attract people alone. The hope is to get someone who really likes the script, will be willing to take a modest salary upfront and then fill it out on the back end afterwards. I just wasn't sure if sending the script with my opening email was a good idea, or if I should just send the synopsis and say its available. Do you find that you usually just send the script to everyone you contact?

Maura Anderson

If you've not spoken to them and are sending cold emails send synopsis, but is best to call and speak with someone first and pitch project that way. Agents and managers don't put much stock in back end, it is VERY rare than an actor (or anyone for that matter) ever sees anything from that so I would figure out some other selling points.

Brad Rego

Interesting, so far I have just been providing a paragraph synopsis of the film. Perhaps I'll expand that a little more. Thanks!

Brad Rego

Maura- I know traditionally with larger studios back end doesn't mean anything because the finances are almost always arranged to be taken for a loss or break even. However since it will be going through my company and not a major studio, I can assure as long as we make our ROI projected by our sales agent(157%-317%), points will be worth something. My last film was released last June and every quarter I send out checks to investors, and within the next year or so we should hit the black and actors will start receiving them as well. Indie horror movies are strangely profitable.

Chad Catuara

Because they are cheap to make.

Brad Rego

Thanks so much for the info on your experiences Vitaly.

Steven Wiseman

Hello, have you found your voice talent yet?

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