I am going to start this article by sharing an unsolicited email I recently received from a “manager.” (Note: All grammar, punctuation and spelling have been included as originally written.)
"I was looking on IMDB and noticed you do not have a Talent Manager. As you may know we are doing Talent Management. A manager is different from an agent but in a way better as I have more fields to get you work. I feel I could be a great assett to you to help you not only get your more acting roles but we are doing something no other Management firm does. We are also going to provide free to our clients our Publicity Services. We are a NON-EXCLUSIVE company so if at anytime you want to end services with us that is ok. I really hope you will give me a chance to further your career and make you more money. If you are interested please let me know and I'll send you my information packate." - Mike [full identity redacted]
File this one away into the “If it seems too good to be true, it is” mailbox. So, how does an actor gauge the validity of these types of emails, which become more numerous as the actor gets more and more well known? Of course, there are warning signs all over the above email that tell the actor that they should stay far away.
1. Does the manager know the difference between managers and agents? (Do you?) Agents and managers are very different from one another, primarily because managers are not legally able to procure work for their clients. Agents are required to be on file with their state as a “licensed employment agent” and managers are not given this clearance. Thus, a manager’s job takes on a different form. Directly from the Talent Manager’s Association website: “A manager, by nature, does not seek employment for a client, but rather council, market and network on their behalf making it easier for the agent to secure employment. A client, manager and agent should function as a team.”
You can see by the email above that the manager has some sense of the difference, but is not accurately conveying his role. This should be a very big red flag to you.
2. Why are they contacting you? Yes, we are all fabulous and we feel we deserve to be represented, but if you are ready to seek management, you want to choose a management company that has a good track record and a solid client base. Typically, companies that fall in that category do not need to troll the Internet to locate new clients, and they don’t typically seek to represent actors with small resumes. To get to know up-and-coming actors, managers spend time seeing plays, going to film festivals, and taking meetings via referrals. They may use IMDB or the actor’s website as a research tool, but rarely do solid companies “discover” talent on the web. So you have to ask yourself—if it is normally so difficult to be represented, why has this particular offer come so easily?
3. Does the email appear to be well written? If they give you a website to check out, does it inspire your confidence? There are misspellings and bad grammar all over this email. Even if the manager were legitimate, would you want someone representing you when they cannot put together a coherent email? What about their website? Does it look professional, and have complete information?
4. Does the contact information make sense and seem professional? Often, when you try to verify their contact information you’ll notice discrepancies. In the above example, Mike gave me a web address for his company but his email address came from a completely different company. Upon researching him, I discovered that his company was primarily a publicity company that pays actors to attend parties and events. Also, when receiving a request take note of where their office is located. I am based in NYC and Mike’s company was based in LA. It doesn’t really make sense for them to represent me from the opposite coast unless I planned to make a move out west.
Many actors ignore that voice of warning in their head because it feels good to believe that we’re being handed our big break. Believe me, I know. I’m an actor, just like you, and I hustle, just like you. I taste the wins and the losses as sweetly and bitterly as you do. But I believe that if you do your homework and listen to your gut, you can protect yourself from those unsavory characters who prey on the actors’ dreams and desires.
Erin Cronican is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays and musicals (NYC, LA, regionally.) She also produces and directs with The Seeing Place Theater a critically acclaimed non-profit, indie company in NYC. Passionate about sharing her knowledge with other actors, Erin is the lead coach and founder of The Actors' Enterprise, one-on-one coaching service that provides affordable career coaching to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. She helps actors set goals, design their materials, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level -- with an emphasis on feeling empowered and working smarter, not harder. First consultation is always free. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican and like her on Facebook.