“Pretend that your self-tape is going to be the only thing that the casting director or director is going to see” – Talent Agent Josiah Akinyele on Self-Taped Auditions
Bite – Size 6 with Josiah Akinyele
Josiah Akinyele is a top talent agent at Innovative Artists with clients on one of the hottest TV shows of this season, How to Get Away with Murder. In this interview, he talks helping actors discover themselves, selecting new clients and his biggest bug bear – not being off book on self-taped auditions.
Josiah gives us ‘the bite’ on your 6 hot questions.
You have a wealth of experience as an agent with clients across some of TV’s hottest shows. What drove you to be more hands on in shaping an actors career?
Josiah Akinyele: Well it took me a while to figure out that I was going to be an agent. But I always knew that I wanted to be within the industry and to help people. I love people. It’s about helping people fulfill their dreams and push through. It’s also a process of helping them discover who they are. A lot of actors are at different stages of their careers. I represent talent in the early stages of their career. At this point they are finding themselves, their voice and what they respond to. I also represent actors who have been working for a while and trying to figure out that next step, to transition them from what they were known for. So I really enjoy collaborating with my actors to find that next thing and that really drives me. The passion for them and to see them feel that calling. I’m all about that calling. I really believe in that.
Can you talk us through your process of selecting a new client to represent?
Josiah Akinyele: Well… there are different levels of that and different ways to do that. First of all our agency is a referral only agency. We have a lot of relationships with casting directors, producers, managers and people in the business. I always get calls from XYZ or a casting director that I trust saying ‘Josiah, I just met this great kid at my workshop and I think he’s a winner. I think you will be perfect for him. You should meet him.’ I also work with the comedy department who scout or see talent.
Once I meet them, I see if I’m connected to them. I have to be passionate about who I sign. That is the main thing that makes me sign anybody. And the way it works at our agency, is we do a whole team representation. Everybody works for everybody so it’s a lot easier. We are all supportive of each other. I work with about 40 plus clients but every single one of these guys I’m personally invested in.
Do you feel it’s important to take on new unknown talent?
Josiah Akinyele: I do feel that it is important. I think it is at times challenging to break a new person but very rewarding. It has to be someone really special. And I mean I watch a lot of television and I watch a lot of movies. I have a personal taste for web series’ and I watch a lot of that. And I sometimes find someone who stands out. But I still think I found my greatest clients through people. Through casting directors who are meeting actors every day and see what they can do.
What is the rough percentage of new unknown talent in your current roster of clients?
Josiah Akinyele: I actually have a few people who are relatively unknown. I had a guy who last year was mostly unknown but now everybody knows who he is. You always live for that… It’s everybody’s dream to find that next breakout actor.
What are the three things you would consider bug bears that actors do on self-tapes?
Josiah Akinyele: I would firstly say pretend that your self-tape is going to be the only thing that the casting director or director is going to see. I hate it when people send self-tapes with bad lighting, or bad sound but I think my biggest bug bear is actors not being off book. Not having that paper allows you the freedom to invest in the character so you’re not thinking about your lines. You don’t need to get the tape professionally done but you can you can do that if you like. People also do self-tapes on iPhones and it’s awesome. Find a good spot in their rooms with good light, a good background or next to a window. Your self-tape is the opportunity for you to present a fully formed character. You have 2 mins or 2 seconds to catch the attention of the casting person who is watching.
If an actor found a clever way of contacting you to self-promote (so no emails, no calling or creepy stuff). Would you welcome it?
Josiah Akinyele: If it’s somebody that hasn’t done anything then it doesn’t do anything for me. If you want to work with me then get into an acting class and start booking some stuff. Like some real stuff, not self-produced. Go out and get a manager. Then I’ll find you. Or your manager can reach out to me, or a casting director who loves you can reach out to me. And that’s a call I’ll take. Actors also invite me out to their plays. And if I’m available I’ll go.