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Agent or Manager — Which is Right for You?

Agent or Manager — Which is Right for You?



Although some people in the industry believe that the lines between agents and managers are blurring, it's important to remember that they are not synonymous with each other. While managers and agents both work to supplement or further an acting career, they have a number of crucial differences that anyone considering getting involved with the entertainment business should be aware of.

Talent managers are individuals responsible for overseeing the day-to-day affairs of talent, advising them regarding professional matters, and helping them to create long-term plans to further their career. On the other hand, talent agents are the licensed experts that track down casting calls, negotiate contracts, and make bookings for your career. Deciding upon the level of assistance that you require is a complicated and often tough decision, but understanding the unique nuances of agents and managers could help you determine which appeals most to you.

What is a Talent Agent?

Perhaps the most significant difference between managers and agents, is that agents must be licensed by the state, whereas managers are not. For someone to become a manager, they simply need to hone their expertise within the field, and find an artist that wants to hire them. On the other hand, experts looking to join an agency or create one of their own must go through an application process with the state. The law allows agents to take no more than a 10% cut of whatever the talent makes, and you can choose whether to "sign" with an agent, or work with them on a freelance basis. If you do sign, the most common contracts last between 12 and 18 months.

While agents often have a lot of clients, they also have good relationships with casting directors, meaning that they can push to get you into the room on crucial auditions. What's more, agents are there to do the leg work for your career, making bookings, hunting down casting calls, and establishing you as a professional. Agents are:

  • State licensed, and members of the SAG AFTRA franchise agreement, or ATA.

  • Able to earn 10% commission on work you book as a direct result of their contribution

  • Capable of putting a 91-day performance based clause in the contract

  • Experienced at pitching and networking to get you in the door with casting directors

  • Skilled at negotiating deals when you book the part - such as getting you better billing, bigger trailers, higher pay and so on

While an agency may advise you on what you should work on in order to get booked, or the things that you need to do to comply with their methods, they don't handle your career. Rather, an agent's job is to work for both you, and other clients.

What is a Talent Manager?

Managers are the experts you hire to help you with all aspects of your career. They hone in on your strengths and weaknesses to help direct you towards acting classes you could benefit from, and rehearsal techniques you may need to learn. Most managers request that actors sign a three-year contract, and may take up to 15% commission from any job you book. They are involved with overseeing your career on a long term basis. Managers can also produce their clients’ where, where agent’s cannot. Most managers have fewer clients, which often means that they can give actors more attention - yet they still have the skills required to push you into a casting room for a part that's important to your career. A talent manager:

  • Is largely unregulated, but can elect to be a member of the SAG AFTRA, NCOPM, or TMA

  • Can take up to a 15 - 20% commission on commission on the work that you book (many choose to take 10% to stay competitive) - regardless of their involvement in getting you that audition

  • Has a more flexible contact, as their role is often more long-term and personal than an agent. Some can work without a contract at all.

  • Advises you on your image, including headshots, resume, acting classes, demo reels, personal appearances, websites, and career direction

  • Makes sure that you are appropriately listed on any crucial directories

  • Learns where you are most marketable and helps you angle your career toward your strengths

  • Invests their time into your potential as an actor before you've established a history of consistent booking

A talent manager is someone who supports you in all aspects of your entertainment career. While they can develop good relationships with casting directors, their job is to work for you.

Which is Right for You?

Some people choose to have a talent agent, and a manager, and some stick to only one. It all depends on exactly what you need for your career at one particular moment. While agents and managers can get the same breakdowns, and help actors get the same auditions, some are more effective than others when it comes to getting you into the room. No matter which professional you choose to work with, it's important to search for someone who wants you, needs your type of talent, and is willing to work with you to expand your career.