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Backstage Experts

Agent or Manager? 12 Factors You Should Consider

Agent or Manager? 12 Factors You Should Consider

Actors crave a change of pace or change of representation when things are a bit slow.  Perhaps they haven’t had an audition in a while or maybe they are going out for roles they don’t think they’re right for: “Why do I keep going out for young mom? I’m only 21 and should be going out for college student.” Whatever the case may be, it might be time for something new! Learning the differences between an agent and manager may help you decide which kinds of representation you should pursue at this time.

Working with an agent:

  • Talent agents normally earn 10 percent commission for the union roles they procure for an actor and 20 percent for the nonunion bookings. 
  • Agents have access to the casting breakdown services and submit actors for auditions.
  • Agents receive payment from production companies. They take their 10-20 percent commission, and then cut their actor a check for the remaining amount the actor has earned.
  • According to California AB 884 and 2860, and New York Art and Cultural Affairs Law § 37.07, talent agents must be licensed and bonded with the state in which are they are operating business. Licensed agents are subject to state regulation.
  • Agents (and attorneys) can handle talent contracts for actors. 
  • Talents agents are normally franchised by SAG-AFTRA, thus utilizing SAG-AFTRA union contracts. Agents may also associate with ATA (Association of Talent Agents) and use a general service agreement contract. 
  • Agencies represent actors in different talent categories: commercial, theatrical (TV/Film), voiceover, print, etc.

Working with a manager:

  • Managers earn a 15 percent commission of all bookings. That means in addition to paying 10 percent of your acting income to your commercial or theatrical agent, you are also required to pay 15 percent to your manager. So, if you are represented by both an agent and manager, 25 percent of your payment goes to representation.
  • Rather than coordinating auditions, a manager’s focus is to figure out the best trajectory for an actor’s career and help lay out those steps. Working along with agents, managers take a more personalized approach and guide an actor’s creative and personal choices to shape them into a more marketable actor.
  • Managers are not agents, publicists, attorneys, or accountants, but they can act as a liaison to all of these people. A manager’s connections may be extremely beneficial for actors who are having a hard time securing talent agency representation and booking jobs.
  • Managers may not legally book work or handle contracts for the actors they represent, because they are not licensed by the state to do so.
  • Managers may become members of organizations such as the National Conference of Personal Managers or Talent Managers Association. It is not required that managers join such organizations and some of Hollywood’s top talent managers have chosen not to do so. However, managers who choose to be a part of these private organizations have agreed to abide by their code of ethics.

The line between talent agents and managers grows increasingly fuzzy with the advancement in technology. There are quite a few managers who have access to the casting breakdown service used by talent agents and, once given agency permission, can then submit actors for auditions. Knowing the differences between an agent and manager will help you decide what kind of representation is best for you at this stage in your acting career. Best wishes!

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Mae Ross is an acting teacher and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Ross’ full bio!

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