An Acting Coach on the Questions You Need to Know About a Talent Manager

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “We don’t need a manager. We’re looking for an agent.” No question an agent is mandatory, but it can be hard to crack an agent’s roster. Not only is a talent manager more likely to take a chance on you, but they will also pave the way to good agent relationships. So how do you know which managers are good and which to stay away from? Here are some important facts to keep in mind.

Which managers are credible?
There are good and bad ones out there. Do your research.

It’s a case by case; there’s no union to regulate manager practice. The National Conference of Personal Managers (NCOPM) and Talent Managers Association (TMA) are great organizations that set guidelines of conduct for their respective members. Some managers are part of these organizations and some are not. In the end, it’s about the manager themselves, their experience, relationships, and ability to manage your career.

Is an agent better than a manager?
This shouldn’t even be a question as they each do entirely different things. Managers help manage your career. Agents send you out on auditions. The bigger you get, the more you’ll need a manager. Agents don’t have a lot of time to hold your hand—to an extent, it’s a manager’s job. They will help you set up the proper bank account, get your headshot/resume up on submission sites and, well, manage you! If you get agent interest first, it’s up to your agent as to whether they’d like you to have the additional guidance of a manager.

Should I sign or freelance?
You don’t get a choice, they’ll let you know. If your manager is in NCOPM, they have to sign you. They may send you out for a bit to see how you do before they sign doing so, but know that a contract is the end goal. In terms of contract lengths, they vary. I’ve seen everything from one to five years—it will depend on the agent. If you do have a contract and you get to a point where you’re unhappy with your manager, have a respectful conversation. Just because you’re not getting auditions doesn’t mean they’re not working for you.

READ: How to Get an Acting Agent

Can I still meet agents or self-submit?
If you have a manager, you’re a team. If you meet an agent in a workshop, pass along your manager’s name and phone number, not yours. Don’t be that person always in pursuit of the next best representative. Success takes time.

Regarding self-submits, that’s a great way to gain experience and take some personal control of your career, just make sure to pass it through your manager first.

Are manager workshops or classes worth taking?
As a general rule, not really. Managers are informative. You’ll get some feedback, critique, and hopefully gain interest.

Managers are not coaches and can’t have coaches within their management company—it’s an ethical breach. Your training should come from qualified coaches who have the education and experience. And never pay a manager directly for a workshop, it’s a massive conflict of interest and likely a case of illegal pay-for-play.

Which manager is best for me?
It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Go with the one who truly believes in you and your ability, and who feel you can work with. Ask important questions like, “How many of my type do you have?” and “Which agents do you work with?” Seek the counsel of someone who knows, like ATNY.

The line between what agents and managers do seems to have blurred over the years. But in the end, a manager is there to guide and manage your career. If a manager takes interest in you, it can be the start of a very productive career.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Todd Etelson
Todd Etelson is a top NYC kids and teen acting coach, specializing in on-camera television, film, and audition technique. In 2004, he founded Actors Technique NY (ATNY), a TV and film school for serious young actors.
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