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The most misunderstood aspect of being a casting or modeling agent in Kenya is that agents are sometimes perceived to be the ones who decide which actor or model gets on which show. In simple terms, an agent is a “broker” or the “go-between” person who supplies talent for gigs in the entertainment industry for a commission. However it is much more complex than that and very few agents understand what is required of them, or what their job description entails.

Casting is basically Human Resources Management tailored for film, TV and the runway, and it becomes much easier when you understand or have a background in the profession. As an agent, your core business is two-fold; one being to identify the area in the arts that you would like to service, whether it be in acting, modeling, hospitality, voice-overs, etc. Secondly you must build and nurture a database of eligible talent for gigs and shows across that sector of the industry. This means having an eye for and identifying talented individuals who can serve your primary client base.

That said and done, you then choose whether you would rather represent them as a manager as opposed to simply scouting for suitable opportunities for a commission for them.

I get tones of requests daily from both established and novice actors and models who either want to join an agency or get representation, and sadly turn away the bulk due to the very constraining nature of the industry in Kenya. These constraints come up as a result of the unequal ratio of actors to the number of jobs available in the market.

Everyday a young person wakes up and suddenly decides that they want to be famous. That is a very risky approach and if you are an agent who doesn’t exercise discretion and restraint, you run the risk of biting more than you can chew and end up having a roster that is bloated and difficult to manage.

To ensure that I am on top of things, I have deliberately made joining my agency harder. Applicants are first required to send in their resumes online, from which there is a vetting process. Vetting entails going through the submitted headshots and resumes and doing a background check on each applicant to verify the level of commitment in their drive to become an actor or model. It is only after vetting that we set up a meeting with the applicants and discuss the opportunities available vis-à-vis their area of interest. We must reach a consensus and I have to be convinced that the opportunities available from my niche of operation will translate into financial gain and career growth for the actor or model. Then and only then do we sign a contract.

Although the agency stands to benefit financially through commissions paid in by clients from jobs done by the actors or models, it is not always about the money. As an agent you must be the neutral party that not only seeks to serve both the BEST interests of your clients for profitability but also ensure that your pool of talent is top-notch and that they are not subject to exploitation by some unscrupulous clients.

This is from the standpoint of my agency and admission criteria may vary from agency to agency because at the end of the day different firms have different management styles.

It is important to note, however, that there are agencies that work with the numbers. That is to say that the more people they have signed up in their roster, the more variety their clients have to work with. And some clients prefer larger agencies due to the versatile nature of their database. However if you are a beginner, it may be wiser to start out with the smaller agencies and work your way up the ladder. The level of competition in a larger agency is much higher because you must foremost compete for the limited opportunities within before you go out and meet actors or models from other agencies at the public auditions. That’s because agencies will most of the time have in their roster more than one actor in the same category or models who have similar traits and attributes.

Although meeting an agent should be a straightforward affair, I always encourage individuals to do a background check to help them see what the performance record of each agency is; talk to people who are already represented therein and find out how many people they represent and what work the agency does most. It would be dangerous for you to join a modeling agency when what you were looking for in the first place was a casting agency. Do not be afraid to ask the hard questions… this way you will avoid killing your acting or modeling career before it even begins.

Advised by Lowry Denzel Odhiambo.

The writer runs his own agency called Lowry Online Models and Talent with years of experience as a casting agent and director. Has casted for numerous adverts and shows.His agency is an Executive member of Kenya Casting Agents and Models Association (KECAMTWA) where he is also the Vice-Chairman of the same association.

Lowry Denzel Odhiambo

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