UNDERSTAND HOW KENYAN CASTING AGENTS WORK
The work of the casting agent is to ensure that the actor gets auditions notifications that fit his profile, market the actor, manage the finances of the actor, negotiate an actor’s contract, make sure that the actor is well treated and his/her needs are catered etc. Well that’s according to my understanding of the duties of an agent and I am quite sure even managers of A list actors globally adhere to the following duties. It is said that managers and the actors have a strong relationship between each other and this bond that ties them is sought of a best friend scenario where the manger understands well the actor more than anyone. On to my focus question now is;
DO KENYAN ACTORS NEED CASTING AGENTS?
The procedure to join an agency is as follows, one has to register to any agency by paying an annual fee that is roughly Ksh.1000 in most agencies, and one gets a photo shoot portfolio and a demo-reel of your acting skills that will be used to market the actor. So whenever auditions come up, the Casting Agent, who has received a casting brief, will notify you with immediate effect to go for the audition that has hundreds of other auditioners. Most auditioners are not in agencies and usually have gotten wind of the audition notifications through a friend. Now if you happen to get the role, you are deducted approximately 20% of your total earnings which goes to the agents automatically. This is the procedure that recurs between the agent and the actor. It is 10% in Hollywood though so why do agents in kenya take 20%? That is a topic for another day.
Do Kenyan Casting Agents do enough for actors to earn their cuts?
At this point I’ll have to say NO. I feel the Agents are not doing enough for actors and they are not worthy of earning the 20% .Here is why: It does not make sense at all for me as an actor to get work on my own and then being asked to get deducted 20% which is what happens the minute you get signed up to a casting agency. I can understand if it is work that I got from my agent but being an agent is more than sending me a text to attend auditions which at times, end up being auditions that I did not fit the profile to begin with or I end up at the audition location to be met with new information that I had not anticipated or planned for. It is not enough for agents to just market the actor, do a portfolio for the actor and at the end of it all, demand a cut from the actor. Ask any Agent near you how well he/she knows their actors and chances are; only a few will admit they have a connection relationship with their actors.
It’s a different case when it comes to models or if you are mainly concerned with advertising than acting. For example, if Safaricom would like to do an advertisement that requires people in it, they will not approach you directly. They will go through a casting agency who will then send a dozen of profiles over to safaricom for them to choose who they want to work with or call you in for an audition. For your information, most of the times, they will choose talent/people who are known (familiar faces) unless they are looking for new talent.
Actors in Kenya on the other hand, get audition notifications from websites like actors.co.ke and notification boards like the ones at the Kenya National Theatre and Alliance. We go for the audition and it is upon the casting director to choose their cast directly and not through a casting agent.
Does it then make any logical sense for an actor to have a casting agent in Kenya who will demand a pay cut and yet has not taken any role in getting you the job?
No. However, most actors lack the negotiation skills that comes with this business and that is where agents will play the big role. Negotiation and professional representation of you as a business is very important to the general outlook of the talent that you are.
Furthermore, I may have painted a picture to think that agents are to be avoided but this is merely to open your eyes to what really happens. An agent will never guarantee you work at any particular point. They will hold auditions or send over portfolios to the client who then choose who they want. It is never upto the agent to decide. That is the work of a casting director.
Time and over again, it has been said that you as an actor need to market yourself and your business. If you go to a casting agent looking for work, you will get disappointed as they too would love to have talent that is already exposed and easy to sell so that they too can easily make their cut. Upcoming actors still need to do a few gigs and projects to become a person of interest to a casting agent/manager.
Finding the right agent/manager is paramount to your acting career. Do not rush to choosing one and make sure when you do choose one, it is the one that meets and caters for your requirements. As I came to know, once you join one casting agent, it is a breach of contract to join another unless you have terminated your contract with the previous one. So thinking that you can maximize your chances of getting roles by signing up with different agencies is illegal in the agencies world.
Which Casting Agency would you advice someone to join?
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