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As long as there have been actors, I’m sure there have been agents and managers. But as the industry has gotten more and more specialized over the years, the role of agents and managers has changed. If you’re a new actor just starting out in the business, this can be really confusing.
What exactly does an agent do? And what about a manager?
While the roles are similar, there are some big differences as well as some crossover. But before we jump into specifics, please know that while there are overall similarities, the way agents and managers operate changes somewhat in different markets – meaning states, provinces and countries. This holds true in any area of the industry, (even the style of headshots! For more on that read What is An Actor’s Headshot and What To Wear for Headshots ) and it’s important to research and understand the market you plan to work in.
So let’s jump into differences between talent agents and managers for actors and models.
What does a talent agent do?
A talent agent is someone who represents professional actors, models, writers, musicians, artists, athletes and other performers. Talent agents work on behalf of their clients (you!) to promote and represent their best interests. They typically handle the majority, if not all of the interactions between you and the employer.
Simply put, an agent is someone who handles pitching actors for jobs and handles the financials once a job has been booked. This means negotiating the contracts, making sure payment is made in the correct amount and on time, that all appropriate bonuses or “bumps” have been added and deductions for union and taxes have been made. And then after deducting their commission for all of this hard work, cuts a check to the actor for the amount the actor is owed.
While agents use to spend most of their day making phone calls or contacting potential employers and maybe even potential clients, today the majority of this is done online through professional casting sites. As the business has gotten more crowded, more competitive and with shrinking margins for both actors and agents, you’ll find only the top, top tier of agents will actually get on the phone – most simply just don’t have the time.
Enter… The Talent Manager
Managers are much more hands on. They generally rep a much
smaller group of actors and have far more leeway to oversee and coordinate all aspects of a performer’s career.
A good manager not only focuses on getting work for their clients, but also trying to up-level your career overall. Managers may help you with things like branding, fine tuning your promotional materials, advising you on what type of classes you need to take or headshots you need to get. And they tend to have a fairly keen eye for the overall picture. For example, if you’re trying to get on a particular TV series, your manager is probably going to be on the lookout not just for roles on that series, but similar and maybe even smaller roles that could lead up to that series win.
With smaller rosters and a more hands on approach, managers actually do have the time to get on the phone or send direct pitches to casting – and they will. They also tend to know their clients on a much more personal level, knowing your quirks, hidden-super-powers, special skills, relationship status, where you grew up, birthday etc. With agents you’re kind of hoping they remember that you’re on the roster.
So why have both?
The big LEGAL difference between agents and managers, at least in most states, is that agents have to be licensed and bonded, whereas anyone can set-up shop tomorrow as a manager. Because of the licensing, managers are not legally allowed to negotiate contracts for you – but they will absolutely push your agent to get you the best deal!
Managers also tend to have a good eye for diamonds in the rough, and they are much more likely to take on new and less experienced talent. It’s not uncommon in the U.S. for actors to sign with a manager first, and then for the manager to set up agent meetings.
The most important thing here is for you to do your due diligence. Know how the system works legally in whatever location your in, and then to look for agents and managers that would be a good fit for YOU.
Are you looking for an agent or manager?
What are your biggest challenges? Or do you have any tips or advice for other actors? Head to the comments and tell me about it, then tweet it, post it, pin it and share this post if it helped you!