Acting can be a confusing profession to those just starting out. There are so many unwritten rules, not to mention the scams that ruin the dreams of many talented actors. However, going into an acting career armed with knowledge will help minimize confusion and maximize success.
Many beginning actors mistakenly think that “talent agent” and “talent manager” are two names for the same job. The truth is they are very different but in a similar way. The best way to explain the differences is to tackle the job responsibilities, giving actors a good idea of those differences.
A talent agent works for a talent agency where they use their contacts to arrange auditions for the actors represented by the agency. (These auditions are typically ones an actor could not get without an agent.) An actor should never pay a talent agent up front for auditions or representation. A legitimate talent agent should receive a 10-15 percent commission only from the work they find the actor.
When securing an agent, actors should seek agencies franchised with SAG-AFTRA to ensure the agency and its agents have signed a contract agreeing to follow the rules regulated by the union.
A talent manager, on the other hand, focuses more on managing an actor’s career than with arranging auditions. They keep in close touch with agents to ensure a shared vision for the actor, but a manager stays mostly on the management end of the actor’s career. Sometimes a manager may set up an audition for an actor, but it’s not their focus. A talent manager will not guarantee auditions for an actor—securing auditions is an agent’s job.
Managers also handle business matters and help keep actors on a path toward success. In terms of timing, actors don’t usually have or need a manager unless they have already seen some success and want to make a big jump in their career. Most actors can’t juggle the acting demands, interviews, and appearances that come with a prominent career, which is where a manager comes in.
Just as with agents, an actor should never pay a talent manager up front or for representation. Instead, they take a percentage of an actor’s earnings, typically a 15-20 percent commission.
The differences between an agent and manager vary, but their responsibilities are geared toward the same goal: advancing an actor’s career and getting him or her more acting jobs. The bottom line is that when an actor succeeds and gets paid, everybody gets paid. Both agents and managers work hard to make that happen.
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