Before diving into the talent pool head first, do your research on agencies! In the end, it may be possible to qualify some agents as “good” and some as “bad,” but your search should go much deeper in order to find the best option for a partnership.
Agents have personalities, too - just like each talent, each casting director, each director, each producer, and so on. We are each unique individuals with unique desires, goals, insecurities, fears, communication styles, and personalities. The best partnerships are made from complementary personality styles and goals.
You should we doing extra work or non paying projects at this point if you are keeping up with previous suggestions. And you will likely want to continue to do that type of work until you can glean enough information to make an educated decision. Ask the other talent who they work with and what they love/dislike about their relationship. The naturally dramatic talent will be more than happy to spill the beans. You will know you have done thorough research once you have collected at least some positive and at least some negative on all the agency options.
Word of mouth can be positive, but keep in mind that it is based on a personal opinion, which may or may not be applicable to your situation, so do your homework, too. Check out each agency’s website. Rather than being caught up in the glitz and glamour that marketing can create, look for valuable content. You may not get much more than background on the company, but some red flags to watch for would be pricing information (agents make money by booking, so there should at most be a commission percentage) or details on schools. [We’ll talk more about modeling schools later.]
If you can access the talent pool, look for other talent who are in your same demographic. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be a valuable addition to the roster, but it is worth noting for when you secure the interview. See if there are letters of recommendation or accreditations. Is the agency union affiliated? [This is a must for union members.] Google the agency’s name and collect any more solid information you can. You never know what will come in handy and when it comes to a partnership, you want to have as much knowledge as possible!
On a side note, what the agent or bookers at any given agency do on their own time is not relevant to you as a talent. Only collect information involved in their business practices. Trying to friend an agent on Facebook or MySpace who doesn’t know you makes you look desperate – and that agent will be watching what you do down the road when you do meet. It’s one of the tell tale signs of how a talent will treat others on set, which can make or break relationships for the agency!