“Does having an agent give a better chance of getting the job?”
In short, no. Having an agent has no bearing on whether you BOOK the job or not.
Agents procure work for talent by submitting them on projects. Now, one of the benefits of having an agent is that they may have access to many different projects that aren’t publicaly posted. So they can submit you on more opportunities than you may be able to submit yourself on. Over the years I’ve also come to trust and value the judgement of the agents in town and when they nudge me to really consider someone who is new, or I haven’t thought of, or haven’t seen in a very long time, I often will add that person to my session. They often get direct calls from a producer or photographer or director, projects that aren’t using a casting director but still need talent. They may get breakdowns on the various services that are posted to agents only and not to public boards.
What i think the largest benefit of an agent is comes after all that - especially in the non union world. It’s when it comes time for something to renew, or they want to extend the usage, or someone has seen it playing and you haven’t gotten any notice - that’s when it’s really helpful to have someone to act as your advocate and go to bat for you and deal with that “business” part of acting. I’ve assisted many talent in coming up with fair reuse rates, and i’ve found that many talent feel uncomfortable when it comes to rates and knowing what’s fair and what’s low and what’s crazy high. Agents deal with rates and numbers and negotiating every day - it’s what they do :)
Or god forbid, if something creepy or unsafe is happening on set, it gives you another person to reach out to, again, especially if it’s not SAG-AFTRA (if it IS always reach out to them too!)
For a very long time, up until maybe 8 years ago or so, Boston ”wasn’t an agent town”. When i first started 95% of the talent we called in were direct calls. We went to the agents for very specific things. Pretty girls, hunky men and kids - “models”. A combination of things happened it think. I think through the grapevine on sets talent chatted and realized there was a lot of lifestyle type print work that happened in the city, and many of the “actors” began signing with print agents, who before generally only had “models”. I also think some of the print agencies in town went through some structural changes and became more focused on including the other opportunties in town with the on camera work, and with the continued film work, and i think they actively sought out talent who had on camera or theater experience to expand their talent pool depth. So we started calling those talent in through the agents, and those agents started suggesting other people, and we’d bring them in and they were good, so we kept calling them, and so on and so on. And slowly we have morphed into a town with a pretty solid agent market. Honestly, it makes my job much easier, and allows me to focus on other things than responding to 120 emails individually to schedule times. I still reach out to talent without agents all the time, and i wouldn’t NOT call someone in because they don’t have an agent. It just allows me more time to focus on who ELSE i can add in when my first round comes back confirmed or unavailable.
If you are looking for an agent, there are absolutely reputable, solid, legit, trustworthy agents to be had in the New England area. There are also some really shady people posing as agents. The first flag for you should be if they are from out of town and suddenly looking to “discover” talent in New England. That NEVER happens in any legit way. The second flag is paying for anything. Having pictures taken is normal, paying for subscription fee on a site like Casting Networks or Breakdown Services is normal, paying to submit for specific things is not. Paying to take part in meet and greets are not. You should never PAY for audition opportunities. Do your due diligence in checking out whether an agent has a good reputation or not. ESPECIALLY if you are the parent of a talent, there are SO many scams out there for youth talent, never ever pay to take part in a “casting event”. Agents do not charge money to meet with potential talent they might be interested in representing. That is literally NOT a thing. Never go to meeting or anything that does not take place in some sort of office setting. If it’s at a hotel, and is not being run by a legit casting director you have heard of in the New England area, BE WARY. Agents will always want you to come to their office to meet you. Not somewhere random. Agents generally will not be renting space to meet new talent. If you think of it from a business stand point, they’d lose money doing something like that, it’s not a cost effective way to do business. Disney is not coming to Boston to do a random talent search. No one casts for something that isn’t a specific project. They are literally never going to go out and DISCOVER some young talent and create a show entirely around them. They will find talent to be in a specific show idea.
This is a great resource for talent: https://www.facebook.com/groups/73781302742/
Kevin Fennessy does a GREAT job of keeping up on what scams are currently running through the area.
So to make a long story short, do you NEED one, no. Can having one open more doors for you, yes.