There comes a time when most people who want to make it as a Production Designer wonder about the Agent thing. I asked around about Agents when I first pondered it for myself. It seemed like the Agent's had the inside scoop on the positions that came up. and it seemed like all the PD's I knew had such an Agent.
But it was not an easy topic to research. I found tight lips. Secret Agents. No one wanted to share their information. "You don't need an Agent" was almost always tossed back at me. True. I diddn't at the time.
Of course the mystery only made me believe that it was the elusive Agent that would make it possible for me to pursue my dreams. I applied at Agencies. Most of them did not respond. One did. She was honest with me. A breath of fresh air. She reminded me, that I did not have any paid credits on my resume. No one would look at me. Free gigs are great experience, but they don't count when push comes to shove.
So how did people break in unless they had someone above the line that was somehow personally related to them? I became hung up on the obstacle. Then I met someone who set me free.
"Don't get an Agent" he replied. "I hate Agents". He said. He was an independent Producer. A very successful one. He was outside the box I knew, the box being the Studio system. The union rosters. The weekly paychecks and mortgage paying shows. Having only worked in that area of film, I was blinded by the reality of the system I was ensconced in. As I followed my independent path, and asked more independent filmmakers, I found this to be true of most of the independent producers whom I worked with. An Agent was just an extra body to maneuver around in order to make the film.
Yes, you need an Agent if you want to pursue the box system. The system demands it. Agents are a part of the structure. No, you don't if you, like me, are wandering down the independent aisle. At least, not at first. You do, however, need to do the Agent's work. You need to find those gigs, before they go looking for Production Designers. That's how you beat the competition.