What led me to my first talent agent? An adjacent office-placement of my psychic friend’s card-reading business.
While cruising down Central, wondering how to start my career in Albuquerque, I saw a familiar name on a billboard. I followed the arrow left and parked in an empty lot in front of a seemingly vacant suite of offices, south of a closed-down restaurant. A dimly lit hallway led me to a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She read my cards, listened to my aspiration to become a film actor and then sent me to the woman next door.
The woman next door, coincidentally, was a talent agent.
Within weeks, I joined the other actors of Applause Talent Agency. Quickly, I realized how much my career depended on me, not my agent.
During the 350 days a year my talent agent doesn’t call me for an audition, I manage my own career.
During the first few years, I found nearly every audition I went to (Craigslist! NMFilm! Fliers on corkboards!). I learned how to not look like crap onscreen, whom to speak to during an audition, whose hands (never) to shake. I took workshops with casting directors to understand what they liked to see from their actors.
Upon receiving my first IMDB credit, I paid for an account to maintain the page. Now that I’m a SAG-AFTRA actor, my agent submits me to most of my auditions, but self-promotion remains essential. I decided that promoting “myself” really means myself. Not “myself if I smile more,” or “myself with a lady bag for accessorizing.”
Presenting myself means my best friends take my headshots. I don’t airbrush them because I feel like if my head is airbrushed, I’ll look like an infant. It means I’m still a lesbian with a partner when I interact with anyone in the industry. With every character I explore, I find a way to relate to their physical and emotional state. This means I sometimes show up to auditions without having brushed my teeth or eaten that day. Sometimes I’ll take the bus or run all the way to my audition. Sometimes I’ll take off my shoes.
Knowing who you are and what works for you is your job.
Wherever you are in your career, your agent will send you to auditions and negotiate contracts and inform you if somebody wants your tatas or saggy booty in a scene before you audition. Deciding whether to accept a role or whether you want your floppy naked body in a project is your call.
Your agent doesn’t get you hired, no matter how magically they materialized in your life. Booking a role without compromising yourself will always be your job alone.
I try to remember this on nights when I writhe on the ground, looking for someone to blame for not having work lined up.