Agents vs Managers
I like to research $hit, it’s what I do. Lately, moms have been asking me loads of questions about O and how she got involved and what to look for, where to look, and what to ask, etc, so I’ve decided to start documenting my findings for others. Disclaimer, I am not a lawyer, a doctor, an agent, a manager or anything else professional. I am a mom and an actor mucking through this business and learning as I go so read what I write with a grain of salt it’s based on research, our personal experiences and opinions. Now that I covered that, on with the show.
First let me mention exclusivity. Exclusivity is a general term for the type of contract you’ll be signing with your child’s agent. In an exclusive contract you’ll pay your child’s agent/manager whether you find your child their work or they find your child work.
Can you lie and not pay them? Sure, you devil, you. But, then your kid just did work for nothing since you can’t update their resume or use the footage in their reel. For work O does that I find her, I usually cut her agent a check for their portion and mail it to them with a picture of the original check – but I think I may be shooting myself in the foot regarding taxes with this method so it’s best to discuss protocol with your child’s agent. (and maybe their accountant??)
Secondary markets like DC have a lot of non-exclusive contract options with both managers and agencies. Also referred to as freelancing, you can find your own work and only pay the agent/manager for work they find your child.
Talent agents are state licensed, and by law are only allowed to take a 10 percent cut of whatever your child makes. (20% for print work) You only pay them when your child works. Typically offering one-year (or 18-month) contracts. Number of clients may vary depending on size.
SAG/AFTRA says an Agent:
- Should be franchised under either SAG or AFTRA’s franchised agency agreement
- Generally licensed by the state as employment agencies
- Primarily focused on obtaining employment and negotiating contracts.
- May have a small or large number of clients
- Generally limited to charging a 10% commission
To keep you guessing (and drinking) there are also various size agencies:
Boutique: Smaller agencies with smaller client lists of roughly 130–150. Typically, about 1 – 4 agents in house. Often successful and driven agents at larger firms spin off to make their own Boutique Agency so you get an experienced and connected individual. Boutique agencies offer more hands-on attention, similar to a manager and your child won’t get lost in the mountain of clients the bigger agencies have. Another advantage is inter-agency competition. With a smaller client list the direct competition of kids with a specific look is proportionately smaller than at a larger agency.
This is the type of agency I targeted (focusing on TV/Film & Commercials) and where we ended up based on all the reasons I listed above. So we are basically biased in our experiences and opinions, I will share that right up front. This route worked for us, it may not be a good fit for your child or your situation, depending.
Bicoastal: Medium agencies with an office in two cities (L.A. and NYC), and have roughly 150–250 clients, and different agents covering different departments. Departments like; legit (TV/film), commercial, voiceover, and print, however not all actors are represented in all the departments.
Mid-size Corporate: Larger, bicoastal agencies with typical roster of 500–2500 clients. These have even wider spread of entertainment department coverage. Can potentially have some developmental clients, but most clients are established.
Corporate: Largest agencies in the world based out of Hollywood with international offices (CAA, UTA, William Morris Endeavor, ICM).
Manager contracts are typically three-year contracts, and can take anywhere from 10–15 percent. (20% for print) The supposed reason for a lengthier contract term is because of their investment and the time they spend in initial career development with their talent. They don’t want you getting all awesome then drop them like a hot potato after all their hard work.
Managers tend to have fewer clients so they can give them more individualized attention. (In our local market managers have tons of clients, secondary markets operate in a different fashion than the primary markets)
Managers are more likely to help with related activities such as picking your child’s headshot, suggesting clothing choices for auditions, requesting feedback after auditions, and finding specific roles to develop a career. (BTW our Boutique agency does all this with us)
In the DC market there are mostly reputable managers not agencies.
In the NY market I have heard managers are usually easier to obtain than an agent.
SAG/AFTRA says Managers:
- Not licensed by the State, or franchised by the Unions.
- May counsel, advise and provide general career direction
- May assist an agent in securing employment for their clients (In NY and CA, they are not permitted to obtain employment without working with a licensed agent).
- Generally has fewer clients than an agent.
- Generally charges 10-15%.
You should always have an attorney review a management contract before signing. Since they are not franchised, and often unregulated, it’s important to fully understand the terms and conditions of the relationship.
Many agents also represent children for “print work.” It is important to note that this type of work does not fall under the jurisdiction of any union.
Which one is right for your child?
In my opinion, the key to representation isn’t the agency; it’s the agent/manager. You have to have someone or some team that believes in your child and will be an advocate on their behalf. It’s also about finding the right fit for where your child is in their career, where you are located geographically and upfront about the expectations on both sides of the table.
Agents and managers all get the same breakdowns, and they all help actors get auditions.
Finding the right representation for your child involves a lot of research. Look on IMDbPro, see which other actors they represent, what kind of work their clients are getting, and if they have actors similar to your child in type. Just know that only actors that have appeared in TV/Film are listed on IMDbpro so they agent may have tons of other clients not listed.
So what did you think? Helpful? Not so much? Leave a comment or email me!