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So you want to be in the movies? You might want to call a local talent agency first

Though having an agent isn't an absolute necessity
So you want to be in the movies? You might want to call a local talent agency first
Posted at 7:33 AM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-20 07:33:36-05

The vast majority of Tri-Staters paid to work on out-of-town movie productions are "extras," also known as background performers, cast as shop customers, party guests or pedestrians.

For a lucky few actors, though, the recent influx of films shooting in Greater Cincinnati means roles that can bring higher pay and more exposure. Many of those jobs are available only through professional talent agencies.

Rodger Pille

Rodger Pille has worked through an agent since 2006. An actor since his days with Cincinnati Young People's Theatre, Pille also appears in many Landmark stage productions and TV commercials.

Without an agent, "I don't know how you would get on the distribution list to find out about all the hundreds of auditions you might be right for over the course of a year," he said.

Pille has appeared in small roles in "The Ides of March" and "The Christmas Spirit," thanks to his agency, PCG Talent.

"The agency has relationships with casting directors and production companies," he said. "They get alerted that someone is looking" for actors who could fit a particular spot.

Agents receive 10 percent to 20 percent of a performer's pay for jobs they book.

"To me, there is no reason not to have an agent. They only get paid if you get paid," Pille said.

Peter Condopoulos

Peter Condopoulos, co-founder of PCG Talent, said the Tri-State has a strong population of actors, many of whom develop their skills with local theaters. A "strong theatrical background" helps actors hold their own working with renowned directors and Hollywood stars, he said.

"We have a chance to put out people right next to these people," Condopoulos said. "The New York actors spread the good word."

Condopoulos said he heard from a woman working at a restaurant in Los Angeles while building her acting career. She told him, "I had an Ohio table, and they said there's a lot of film going on -- they mentioned your name. I have relatives in Ohio, and I want to be part of the talent pool."

Agents are responsible for submitting head shots and scheduling auditions, said Laura VonHolle, director of operations at Heyman Talent Agency, the agency where actor Josh Hutcherson started out doing ads.

Although VonHolle said she has not seen a major difference in its business because of film productions -- most of its performers work in commercials, training films, print ads and runways -- the surge in film productions "does add a bit of glamour and definite excitement for our actors." 

Mike Dennis (Photo provided by Kate Messer Photography)

Mike Dennis, a familiar face on Cincinnati stages and commercials, was booked through his agency, PCG Talent, for a short speaking role in "Carol" as a department store employee handing out Santa Claus hats to his colleagues.

After "Carol," Dennis qualified to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which made it possible for him to be cast in Don Cheadle's "Miles Ahead" as a policeman who picks a fight with Miles Davis.

There is a downside to moving up the ladder: He now makes fewer commercials, because most local advertising jobs do not use union actors.

"I'm happy to be (in) SAG," Dennis said. "But the tradeoff is that if I don't get cast in a movie, then I'm not working." 

Gina Ferraro, who is also a singer and radio host, has booked several jobs with and without an agent as go-between. She advises aspiring actors to get some training.

"It's a little bit of a red flag for an agency to know that you really have no idea what you're doing if they would send you out on an audition," she said.

Now represented by CAM Talent, Ferraro said she had a "great relationship" with Heyman when she was on its roster. However, having an agent isn’t an absolute necessity, she said.

"It's not the end of the world if you aren't represented by an agency in this area. If you can get a good relationship with casting directors, that's ... ultimately who is casting a film," Ferraro said. "It's just a numbers game. Get out and audition as much as you can."

Nan Bongiani, local actor and board member of the recently launched Cinematic Plays Theatre Company, has been working on her stage skills for some years. She said she finds it frustrating to rely on open calls -- publicly announced auditions available to anyone -- to land film work.

"Whenever I see an open call, I submit my own stuff and never get called back ... that's why I've been thinking about going with an agency."

Where to apply

To learn how to apply for representation, check out these Tri-State agency websites: