So you want to be on the television and the big question is:
How do I get an agent?
Probably with as much difficulty as you will have getting on the telly. Agents want clients who have the potential to make them money. No point being in the business otherwise! They will be looking for presenters and experts with television potential so if you catch an agent you are doing well.
There are big agencies who have many clients to represent and small ones who may concentrate on a few, select people. Some may focus on a particular type of talent – ie comedy or actors – others that may take on all types. Find out who they represent and whether you might fit into their stable of talent.
There are ‘Rottweiler’ agents and warm and cuddly agents. Personally I prefer dealing with the latter but the tough ones will no doubt be good at protecting your interests!
Obviously you are going to need to sell yourself to them, so check out the advice in previous articles about getting yourself noticed (http://wanttoworkintelevision/category/presenting-on-television/) . Then send out your details, try and get a face-to-face meeting and if one person says no, move on to the next!
Do you need an agent?
Well if you are good at selling yourself, have a reasonably thick skin and contacts in the business then you could maybe do it yourself. However a good agent has a bulging contact book, has spent years building up strong relationships with producers and TV executives, and has a much better chance of securing you a meeting with those that matter. He or she should also have a good idea on how to develop your skills and be able to suggest a strategy for raising your profile. A good agent will also steer you away from jobs that won’t help your long-term career. Not all TV jobs are good for you!
But enough from me; let’s hear from the experts.
Seamus Lyte is an Agent & Manager I have dealt with over many years. He started work in Television and began work as an agent in 1998. He set up his own agency in 2004. Seamus has represented many award winning Hosts, Presenters and Experts including, Los Angeles based PR Guru Michael Levine, Actress and Writer, Carrie Fisher, Royal Couturier and Broadcaster, David Emanuel, TV Host Tim Vincent as well as Sian Lloyd and Nina Myskow, and emerging talent such as Tyler West. In 2011 his company merged for 1year with ROAR, a large agency that represents TV, sport, music and acting talent, specifically to help shape their broadcast departments.
Seamus kindly agreed to answer some questions:
How would you describe the role of an agent in television?
Its still to further the careers of my clients. To focus and enhance their brand. I see Television as a shop window to highlight a clients work with the aim of attracting other opportunities available. This means I work with them to achieve a 360 approach to their career. Today, to be an agent you need to be a top diplomat, a chief negotiator, have a lawyers head and the organisational skills of the best PA.
How do you find your clients, or do they find you?
More often than not it’s via an enquiry, or by word of mouth and referral.
How important is it for a potential TV presenter or expert to create a ‘brand’ for themselves and to market themselves?
Very. When I have taken on new clients I often need to look at re-branding them. In most cases they have not been thinking in a 360, or global way. If you get this job right you will be looking to market a client to media companies worldwide, not to mention engaging licensing opportunities when they are an established ‘name’ or brand, as I have done with one client where I am both the agent and manager of all aspects of their brand.
They still have to have something unique about them as well as, I hope, an expertise. When it comes to a known talent, they now really need to understand where they fit, and how we can achieve target goals together. Understanding how their social media presence works directly along side their brand and/or TV work is extremely important. The competition today grows at such a pace, and is created from mediums that were not significantly around five years ago, but these are now overtaking conventional platforms, and then exceeding traditional platforms for financial reward.
Yes, very much so. For example, I have been working with Tyler West since he was 18. Our primary focus was to grow his social media. We also started working with StyleHaul which gave Tyler a chance to create and grow his own You Tube channel with professional support both in the UK and USA. This work led to him being in a better position to land his first series aged only 19, hosting Kickabout+ for CBBC, alongside his vlogging, which then got him noticed and being named one of Broadcast HotShots in 2015. This brought him to the attention of key influencers as that edition goes out during the Edinburgh TV Festival. Working in tandem with this has been our networking, and taking development as well as channel exec meetings in London and Salford to make sure we miss no opportunities.
What is the most challenging thing about being an agent?
Getting your client the work they want now when we have seen the available platforms multiply, but also the amount of competition, in terms of talent available, morph unprecedentedly.
As an agent you have to believe in your client more than anyone else. You have to be representing the best talent available to you. Knowing the key executives is vital, and not just in the UK. Sometimes it makes better sense to go to the US with a client to land a development deal which will ultimately grow their opportunities in the UK also.
What is the best/most rewarding thing that has happened to you as part of your job?
Exceeding goals and surprising everyone.
How does anyone who fancies being a Talent Agent get into the business?
The traditional way certainly still happens in the larger agencies, especially in the US -the most common route is to work your way up from the post room or via internships. The biggest agents I have met worked that way.
By recommendation is also good. I researched and wrote to around 10 agents who met with me and I was lucky. Your letter of introduction is key. Do NOT be generic. Know WHO you are writing to, and ALL about the company. This is true also for talent approaching agents – if you have not researched, and know who you are writing too, why would you think they would be interested in you?
Seamus Lyte is the MD of SLM Ltd: http://www.seamuslyte.com/