Booking It! Agent Bill Veloric Talks Representation, Showcases, Social Media Pitfalls, Out Actors and More

Playbill.com's new feature series Booking It asks leading industry members to share professional insights, need-to-know tips and essential tricks of the trade for up-and-coming and established theatre artists. This week we speak with A-list agent Bill Veloric from Innovative Artists.

Bill Veloric
Bill Veloric

The veteran agent, who has worked in the artist representation business in Los Angeles and New York for the last 25 years, has been an agent in the New York office of Innovative Artists for the past eight years. Veloric's clients include a who's who of Tony and Academy Award-winning stage and screen stars.

Below, Veloric talks about finding the agent that's right for you, what he looks for in clients, how to create your own work, the pitfalls of social media and more.

Question: What is the best way for new talent to go about finding an agent, especially if they don't have something like a senior showcase?
Veloric: If you're not doing a showcase or if you're not in one of the schools that does a showcase, then I've always thought the best way is to be in a play. Do an Off-Broadway play and get noticed that way. There are lots of theatre companies in the city whose involvement doesn't require being cast through a casting director. There are creative groups of people who get together and care about the same type of theatre and create theatre companies together. Lots of our clients have their theatre companies as a baseline in their career, and between movie jobs and television series and their other responsibilities they always go back to their theatre companies.

We go to see everything that we have clients in. So regardless of Broadway or Off-Broadway or wherever, we go to see our clients in the plays, and there are always other people in the plays. Very often, some of these people are unrepresented and we get to know them that way.

Question: Can you speak a bit more about the value of entrenching yourself in a community of artists where you're able to create work together rather than waiting for the work to come to you?
Veloric: People should be generating their own material. I go see a lot of stuff at the Rattlestick Theatre. The plays they do at the Labyrinth are very self-generated within the community of that theatre, and I think that sometimes if you haven't really found a play with a great part for you, produce it yourself, rather than waiting for it. Try to create it yourself. Question: Are senior showcases something agents still attend and find useful for scouting new talent, or is the window on that kind of event closing?
Veloric: Agents do attend showcases more than ever. I know that we cover the school showcases as thoroughly as we can. Personally, for me, I like to see the productions throughout the year. I find that if I'm going to sort of enter into a developmental relationship with a young actor, I like to see as much of their work as I can. Sometimes the showcases just give you a glimpse of someone and sometimes that glimpse is revealing enough, but for me, usually I like to see the production that the schools in New York do throughout the year. It's more informative.

Question: As senior showcases grow longer, with more and more students studying musical theatre, how big is too big? Do you look at some of these and say, "I don't have time to sit there for two hours."
Veloric: Two hours is way too long. I think 90 minutes is good. When you're watching a two-hour production, that's one thing. But two hours of scenes from different plays is just overwhelming.

Question: Do you have any advice for students on how to make their two to three minutes of a showcase stand out? What are you drawn to? What do you respond to?
Veloric: Rather than trying to show off your skillfulness in the classics, reveal a moment of yourself. Something that is really compelling about you through a character is the thing that ends up being memorable.

Question: Are reels necessary for musical theatre performers with only stage experience? Is that something that they should be prepped for?
Veloric: That's kind of tough. I'd prefer to look at a short film. Again, this goes back to what is your creative community? Do you have a friend who's a filmmaker that has written a short that has a great part for you? I'd much rather look at that than watch someone doing a monologue or singing a song.

Question: What is your personal opinion on mailings from actors? Do agents ever open those materials?
Veloric: I don't read that stuff. There's just too much of it. I'm sure that there are people who do, but my day needs to be more focused on what I can do today for the people that I already have a responsibility to.

Question: For young actors just starting out, do you have personal thoughts on big agencies versus small agencies?
Veloric: It's your relationship with your agent that I personally feel is more important than the size of the agency. You have to really feel connected to the person who's responsible for you. You have to feel that you are heard. If someone sends you a script and you don't respond to the role, but there's another role in the script that you respond to, maybe it's only one scene but you think you can make an impression with that one scene, that one scene speaks to you – then you have to feel comfortable calling your agent and saying, "I'm not this guy. I'm this other guy and here's why." In that moment, you have to feel that your agent is hearing you and is getting to know you better through that conversation.

Question: Can you speak a bit about the actor/agent relationship? Young actors and young artists in the industry don't always know what to expect. How much should you be in touch? How much is too much? Should you be dropping in in person?
Veloric: You need to trust that your agent is working for you. And it is important that you have a dialogue. With many of my clients, there's a level of friendship that develops and there are other things that we talk about. My father was an agent for artists and illustrators, and I grew up watching his relationships with his clients; they were like a part of our family. So, you know, sometimes a client calls to tell me what is going on with his kids or wants to show me a picture of his kid's first day at school. That kind of stuff is really interesting to me – someone's life experience, what's going on with them. I also don't mind a question about a specific project, but just calling and saying, "Is anything going on?" doesn't really lead to much.

Question: What is realistic for an actor to expect from an agent when you're just starting out?
Veloric: If you're building a career, smaller but effective parts at the beginning should feel right to you only for a time. You should do a co-starring role or two, then it's time to grow into doing guest stars, into doing arcs on shows, into being a series regular. And by the same token, if you just sign with an agent and you're right out of school and you're getting auditions to be the lead in a film, it might be a little daunting. I have seen people come right out of school and get a lead. But it's usually the lead in a play. And that's how the rest of your profile grows. You know, learning how to carry a play usually leads to learning how to carry a film.

Question: Is it okay to tell your agent "no" if you really believe that part is not right for you?
Veloric: It's just as important as what you say yes to.

Question: What's the difference between agents and managers? Do actors need both?
Veloric: Actors need to follow their intuition about what they need. Many of our clients have managers. The manager is like an extra set of eyes. It's a clearinghouse for a busy, young actor. The managers we work with are typically incredibly wise and very helpful and very often irreplaceable. If you're only talking to your manager and not talking to your agent, I don't think that's as helpful as talking to both. If I send an actor a script, a movie script, and the manager says the actor is passing, we would like to know why. And very often, if the actor tells me why, it's a little more informative in terms of representing that person. If you're going to have a manager, make sure you have dialogue with both your manager and your agent, and most managers that we work with encourage that.

Question: In addition to finding an agent that wants to work with you, what should actors be looking for in an ideal agent? What questions should actors be asking when they set up agent meetings?
Veloric: How do you see me? Who do you think I am? When you look at me, do you see a certain type of career? Or maybe not? Maybe you're intrigued by the fact that there's no one else like me. When your agent talks to you about you, you should be able to start to see what your career can look like.

Question: What do you look for in a client?
Veloric: It usually hits me the day after I see a performance. Sometimes it hits me while I'm watching the performance. It's an indescribable thing. It's something that I respond to. It's an actor that makes me feel something – who makes me understand something about my life, who makes me yearn for something. So if I see a play and I wake up the next day and I still can't get that performance out of my mind, then I think I can really help that person.

Question: Are there certain mistakes you see actors make when they are seeking representation?
Veloric: Well, this is just specific to me, but I like to talk about things other than what are the obvious things to talk about. I like to hear a story about how you met your wife, or how something happened to you in your childhood that makes you want to act, or the story about how you got into drama school. That type of thing. It helps inform me as to who you are as a person. Hopefully I've seen enough of your work that maybe we can talk about how I was moved by your work, or how it affected me. I'd like to know things about you – what your dreams are, where you want your career to go, and very often those types of conversations come through stories [about your life].

Question: What are tell-tale signs that your actor/agent relationship is not working?
Veloric: Hopefully it's like every other relationship you have in your life if it's not working. If there's a problem and you can both sense it, hopefully you can discuss it and try to fix it. If there's something that is unspoken in a relationship then the relationship suffers for it. Hopefully when there are issues that come up, they can be discussed openly.

Question: What kind of headshot gets your attention? What are you looking for?
Veloric: For headshots, usually something that is slightly objective, so it's not too specific one thing or another, but also reveals a moment of you. The shot should be a compelling shot and it should not necessarily show me that you can play a doctor. A great headshot photographer has the ability to pull a moment out of you that tells us who you are, but not too much.

Question: What kind of information do you want to see quickly and clearly on a resumé?
Veloric: The directors you've worked with, the roles you've played, hopefully the theatres that I know. And, you know, obviously great directors or emerging young film directors, and emerging young playwrights who have contemporary voices.

Question: Many casting directors are saying the days of "type" are over. How do you feel about "type"? Is it useful anymore?
Veloric:
 We are living in a world where type is becoming less important, and that is a glorious thing. There are multicultural families and new types of families, and they're being written about. Why can't that doctor be a woman in that script? There's nothing in that story that would prevent it from being a woman. Or why can't that actor be a deaf actor? Or why can't that character be deaf? You know, people are more open because of the writers that we have now. A lot of playwrights are writing for television now, and they're interested in unconventional and new types of families. Characters are becoming less identified by their type as opposed to who they are as a person.

Question: What are some of the new challenges that actors face today that represent how the business is changing?
Veloric: I think that there's more information out there, and that it could be a little overwhelming. Constantly comparing yourself to other people, and looking at other people's careers is a bad idea if negativity comes out of it. We spend too much time reading gossip on the internet than we do reading new plays. You know, I try to be less distracted on the weekend by what's going on on my Facebook feed. I'd rather be reading a new play or I'd rather be reading a new movie script.

Question: What are you thoughts on social media and how actors use it?
Veloric: I think that less is more. People should talk to their advisors before they talk about what they're doing. There should be a little bit of mystery about an actor who can play a whole bunch of different things. Social media is a brilliant and an incredibly helpful tool, but sometimes we just end up knowing too much about people, and it ends up clouding our view of what they can play. Question: In this day and age where LGBT characters are becoming mainstream, does being an out actor or an out artist, negatively impact your career?
Veloric:
I need to live in a world where it does not. And that world is slowly coming up around us.