"Care to elaborate?"
"You say your agent submits you."
"Ok. So. Like. How does that work? Because right now I just imagine this strange woman in a rubber suit telling you what to do."
Let us start with the process of submissions.
The relationship between actors and their agents varies from pair to pair and range from "good friends" to "amicable" to "harrowing." Therefore, please believe me when I say that I truly understand how strange it looks to use the words "submit" and "me" when talking about them.
Therefore I made this picture using Connie, my favorite conservative dominatrix, to help illustrate what I mean.
Agents submit actors to the people who make film, television, and commercial content.
Let's say that a company that won't yell at me for using their brand as an example on my blog, like Pirate Brands, wants to make a commercial. Now, Pirate Brands makes one of the most delicious, gluten free snacks on the market called Pirate's Booty. Maybe you know about it; many of you don't.
The thing is, Pirate Brands wants everyone to know about Pirate's Booty. Therefore they decide to allot part of their budget to make a 30 second television spot. Pirate Brands will most likely go to a marketing firm who, in turn, will make the necessary arrangements for this commercial to be made. Part of these arrangements include casting actors.
People who work at marketing firms are usually very, very busy people.
They have have no time to cast the commercial. That decision ultimately goes to the client and the director. But wait! The director is also very busy and the people at Pirate Brands have chips to make! Do they really need to sift through a couple of hundred actors? Do they want to? No. No, they do not.
To save time, they hire a casting director. A casting director is someone who posts the project on the internet. Then they sift through hundreds of tiny thumbnails of actor headshots that all link back to that actor's online profile.
(Side note: the casting director is usually referred to as casting. Should you ever need to call a casting director on the phone, be prepared for an intern to pick up and say, "Casting," and nothing else. This helps deter the riff-raff that call and harass them about projects that they probably aren't right for in the first place.)
With a little luck, the client and the director tell casting what to look out for.
"I want a red head with a great smile," they might say.
"I need a guy who can juggle but could pass as a professional body builder," they might say.
"I just need them to be able to walk and talk at the same time," they might say.
It is then the duty of the casting director to screen actors like me so that the director and the client only review the lucky ones that pass. But how do you get to the casting director? How do you get into that room? That is where the agent comes in.
There are four major websites that post auditions:
2. LA Casting (or Casting Networks)
Smart actors use all of these websites, but we will focus on Actors Access for now.
As an actor, I can use Actors Access to look for work. But there is another side to Actors Access; it's a fancier side that only agents can see. It looks exactly like mine (below), but it includes more exclusive and higher paying projects.
If your agent can read, skim through pictures, and pick out pictures that fit the description that they read, then they should be able to accurately submit you for projects. Let's say that the commercial for Pirates Booty features a character named Melissa. They decide to describe her this way:
Then they click the red button at the bottom and submit me. That is how a submission works in the acting world. Both you and your agent are essentially professional button clickers.
The casting director or their interns review all of the submissions and contact the ones they like best to see if they will audition.
In short: as hilarious as it would be, submissions have nothing to do with people who wear squeaky clothes and yell at you - unless, or course, you or your agent submits you for a role that requires you to wear squeaky clothes and yell at people.
Should that be the case, then hope that you aren't allergic to latex.
Edit: a manager friend of mine was kind enough to send me a screencap of what he sees on his end!