Breaking Down the Role of a Talent Manager
If you plan on working professionally in the entertainment industry then it is essential for you to have an agent or manager. The options available to you will differ according to your location but you should be able to find a reputable management company or agency that can help you excel in your career. This business arrangement can have a profound impact on your success. In most cases it is not necessary to hire a manager until you decide to move to New York or Los Angeles because smaller markets will usually provide the services of both a manager and an agent.
A Manager’s Duties
The job of a manager is like a chief executive officer. They are in a position of leadership to guide you along the best path for your career goals. They will often explain the pros and cons of opportunities that you receive to help you make high-quality decisions. This can include the agents you sign with, jobs that you accept and even smaller details such as the types of photos that you take. This is done so that you can benefit from the knowledge and experience of your manager and take strategic action.
For instance, if an actor was presented with a contract for a show that incorporated a clause that would prevent them from participating in any similar show in the future, they would need to understand the specific ways that they would be limited by signing this contract. It would also be beneficial for them to know what advantages they would receive by agreeing to this contract such as exposure, compensation, etc. The following points are the basic duties that should be carried out by your manager:
- Sending out your headshots to get you representation. This will usually be done by contacting one agency at a time.
- Assisting with Client packages. This can involve things such as finding high-quality photographers, professional coaching and additional training.
- Networking with Industry Professionals. One of the manager’s main jobs is to promote their clients among their contacts in the industry. This can include people such as producers, directors, agents, casting directors, etc.
In general, managers will have fewer clients than agents. This is largely due to the time that must be dedicated to every client. A manager will typically communicate more regularly with each individual that they are working with and will oftentimes speak with them on a daily basis. Whereas an agent, will usually only contact the talent once every week or so. For this reason, a manager would not be able to handle the same volume of clients as an agent and provide the same level of service that is required of them.
The number of clients that a specific manager will represent depends on the level of success that their talent has achieved. If most of their client base is finding regular work and is steady on their career path then they may be able to handle a larger number of individuals. If their talent requires more individualized attention to find work then the manager will either have to dedicate more time to a smaller group of clients or recommend changes for the talent. Each individual that the manager works with will have different backgrounds and goals, which can result in several unique relationships.
If a client is really new then a manager may contact casting directors and agents directly so that they can get them working more quickly. In the beginning, the talent will often accept any opportunities available to them, which could include student films or roles in community theatres to build up their resume. The manager can also serve as a publicist to get their talent in the spotlight with interviews, newspapers, etc. Managers can also gain access to feedback from casting directors that their client has auditioned with to help them improve for future auditions.
The manager will want to make sure that their talent is prepared for any auditions or jobs that they book since this will reflect on both their clients and their abilities as a manager. In the majority of instances you will only have one manager for your film and television projects. However, if you are involved in other areas of the industry such as music then you will probably have a separate manager for those performances since the two areas require specialized experience.
Signing with a Talent Manager
Before you select a manager to represent you, there are several things that you should look into to give you an accurate understanding of the potential relationship. These factors include:
- Commission – The standard rate of commission for a talent manager is anywhere between 10 to 25 percent. Most managers will work for 10 to 15 percent while other managers may choose to charge a package fee in addition to their commission. The contract that you set up should specify their rate and will usually last for one to three years.
- Licensing Requirements – Every state has certain laws regarding the duties of a talent manager. For example, California’s labor law prohibits talent managers from handling industry contracts, negotiating on behalf of the talent, or submitting actors for work. Some managers choose not to follow these rules but a good manager should have their clients signed with skilled agents so they do not have to break these rules. You can research the laws for your state to learn about the rules for talent managers.
- Client Volume – If a manager is representing too many clients they will not be able to dedicate an adequate amount of time to each individual. Divide the number of clients a manager is handling by eight to gain an idea of how much time they can realistically spend on each client during a work day.
- Manager Contacts – Who your manager knows can directly influence your career prospects. By finding out who their connections are you can decide if they have the right network for your specific goals. When a manager also works as a casting director or acting coach this can provide their clients with stronger opportunities for work.
We hope that the Premiere Talent Tip Series is helping those of you seeking a career in the entertainment industry. If you are looking to showcase your skills in front of industry professionals, come visit us at one of our Interview Weekends near you.
Talent Agents and Managers: The Basics
Agents and managers typically play an essential part in the careers of actors, models, singers and dancers. While the two play different roles the functions of their jobs are related, which makes it necessary for them to work together. Most professional actors will sign on with both a manager and an agent.
The experience of meeting with agents and managers can be intimidating at times. However, it is important to keep in mind that you are the chief decision maker when it comes to your career. Even if someone wants to take you on as a client you are not required to sign with them. Before you agree to any arrangements you need to make sure that you are going to be working with someone that is aligned with your goals.
Contracts and Commission Structures
Commission structures will vary between agents and managers. While agents only earn a commission on jobs they were directly responsible for helping you book, a manager that you are signed with will take a 10 to 25 percent commission on every job that you complete.
The type of agent you are working with will also influence the percentage of commission owed to them. For example, film and television agents charge talent between 10 and 20 percent. Whereas a literary agent takes between 10 and 15 percent, while the average commission for music agents is 20 percent.
Therefore, if you have a manager, a print agent and a theatrical agent, their cut will be dependent on the jobs you book. So if your theatrical agent books you on television show you will end up paying approximately 10 percent of your pay to your theatrical agent and 15 percent to your manager. As the print agent was not involved in this job it will not be necessary to pay any commission to them.
AFTRA and SAG union regulations support the consistency of agent’s commissions. Managers can charge any percentage that they choose but a reasonable rate will range between 10 to 25 percent. Their rate will be affected by the market in the area and the industry standard for their specific niche in the business. You can look up the standard fee to determine if the commission percentage that a manager requests is fair. An amount that is greater than 25 percent is most likely excessive and unreasonable.
No matter what the requested rate is, you should not sign a contract until you have an attorney look over it to make sure that everything in the contract is clear and agreed upon by both yourself and the agent or manager. If the talent representative pushes you to sign immediately then you should decline to do business with them. If they have a sincere interest in working with you then there is no reason they can’t wait. This is an important decision that can influence your career so don’t hesitate to ask questions and discuss the matter with people that you trust.
Contract Length and Payment Arrangements
The agreed upon length of a contract can vary greatly and can be based on the needs of the talent. The most common range for a management or agency contract is between one and three years. If a contract is designed to exceed three years then problems may arise since many things can change in that length of time. It is not recommended to sign a contract longer than this period of time.
Genuine agents and managers will never ask for money before they agree to represent you. Their pay should always be commission-based and come out of your earnings with jobs that they book for you. Although there will be starting costs associated with headshots, resumes and any necessary training, they should not result in your representative gaining a profit.
Agents and managers will oftentimes recommend specific photographers or coaches that they have experience with but you should not be required to work with these individuals. You always have the options of using another resource of your choosing.
It is never a good idea for family members to take on the role of manager. Mixing business and personal relationships can interfere with the quality of the job and the talent’s career. A relative is usually not the most qualified individual for this role and this type of arrangement will often end badly.
Managers are involved in the process of making sure that everything is running smoothly and will need to coordinate events with their talent’s agents in order to achieve this. If a problem comes up that will affect the talent then the manager should step in and resolve the issue. A large part of a manager’s job is to negotiate rates and contracts for the benefit of the talent. This can be an effective system since the manager is aware of fair rates and will be more experienced than the talent at these types of negotiations.
How to Work Effectively with Your Agent
When you sign with an agent it is important to have an understanding of the nature of the industry and your role in the process. By becoming familiar with the casting process you will have a better chance of landing jobs. It is also necessary to be aware of the expectations that your talent agent or manager will have of you. This article will provide an overview of the casting process and how to fulfill your end of the business relationship with your agent or manager.
Understanding the Casting Process
Before an actor can be cast in a role there is a whole series of events that must take place. Once you are aware of the complete process you will gain a better understanding of the roles involved and the larger picture. This will allow you to fully comprehend your part in the sequence and give you an uninhibited view of the most advantageous path.
The first segment of the casting process begins when a producer hires a casting director to locate the best actors for their project. After the casting director has been hired, they will send a message to talent representatives (managers and agents), which includes a summary of what type of person they are looking for. The job of the talent representative is to only submit actors they believe will fit the part for consideration.
The casting director will usually have a limited period of time to sort through hundreds and maybe even thousands of actor headshots once they receive them. This is why the quality of your headshot is so vital. After they have selected a list of candidates they need to meet with as many of them as possible in order to find the most ideal match. The actors that the casting director thinks will be the best match are then presented to their producer or director who will make the final decision.
Expectations for Talent
Having knowledge of the casting process gives you an idea of how challenging it can be to simply get an audition. Actors that are represented by an agent or manager have an edge over the competition because it gives them the connections of a professional in the industry. This is why it’s important to maintain your relationship with you agent or manager. There are several reasonable expectations that a talent representative will have for their talent.
- To be Available: You should not audition or sign with an agent until you are ready to work and willing to make the necessary accommodations.
- To be Accessible: If your agent or manager tries to contact you it should not take more than 20 minutes for you to get back to them. If you change phone numbers or addresses it is important to notify anyone representing you.
- To Keep in Touch: If you only call your agent late in the day they will already be done with their submissions to directors. Call them early on when it is necessary and only do so during regular business hours. Additionally, if you have upcoming circumstances that will keep you from being able to audition or work you should let them know beforehand.
- Supplying Headshots and Resumes: Making sure that your agent has an adequate supply of your headshots and resumes is your responsibility. Check in at regular intervals to see if they have enough in stock.
- To be Engaged and Active: Successful actors are always practicing and building their skills. This can involve performing in showcases and stage plays, or attending workshops and classes, etc. Many agents want their clients to create a listing of themselves on the Academy Players Directory or on IMDB.com.
- To Pay Commissions: This aspect of your relationship will be outlined in the terms of your contract.
You may also be expected to join trade unions as necessary (You should not join any union without consulting with your Agent or Manager first). Some of these trade unions may include:
- AEA (Actors Equity Association)
- SAG (Screen Actors Guild)
- AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)
Relationships are an important aspect of working in any field. In the entertainment industry, the relationship that a performer has with their agent or manager is one of the key elements tied to their ability to succeed.
Talent Agents in the Entertainment Industry
Our Premiere Talent tip this week is to educate all of you about agents in the industry. Professional actors, singers, dancers and models need to have a good working relationship with their talent agent. In order to achieve this relationship it is important to understand both the role of your agent as well as your responsibilities. There are different types of agents and certain qualities that you should look for before you sign with them. This article will break down your agent’s job, how to interact with them and what expectations you should have.
What Is an Agent?
A talent agent is a person who works to market talent and find them opportunities for jobs much like an employment or staffing firm. They function as the middle man to get you signed up for auditions so that you can go in and close the deal by selling your skills. When you sign with an agent they will speak with casting directors on a daily basis to pitch your talent to get you auditions that may lead to jobs. The relationship that you have with your talent agent is essential as you would not be able to find the opportunities they offer on your own.
Each agent typically has hundreds of individuals that they have agreed to represent. The larger the agency, the more people they will be able to work with. This can be beneficial to you because the bigger agencies tend to have more information and contacts available to them. Smaller agencies may be able to give more individualized attention and even act as a manager for their talent. However, this is not common since agencies require a certain amount of clients to be successful.
Types of Agents and Agencies
Some individuals will need more than one agent or a specific type of agent since their services can range from broad representation to a focused area within the industry. There are several different types of agents and the talent they represent may have varied skills that they want to market. For this reason it is not uncommon for certain people to have three or four agents.
For example, someone that is involved in animated films and radio would have a voice-over agent, as well as a theatrical agent for film and television, a print agent for print advertising, a commercial agent for television commercials, a literary agent for written work and a music agent for singing abilities. The most common types of agents are:
- Theatrical: Motion Pictures and Television Shows
- Legitimate: Theatre Productions
- Commercial: Acting for Commercial Purposes
- Variety: Entertainment Events with appearances at shows, nightclubs, etc.
- Modeling: Print Work and Modeling
- Voice-Over: Radio and Animation
There are also different types of agencies, which have various levels of influence in the industry. These are categorized as:
- A List Agency: At this level, an agency will deal with major directors, writers and starts. It will have the capacity to put together “package deals.”
- B List Agency: While this type of agency is close in size to an A list agency, it does not have nearly as much influence. Most of the clients for this agency will consist of experienced actors and possibly directors and writers.
- C List Agency: Mostly finds jobs for guest stars and supporting actors.
- D List Agency: Represents new talent and are set up for basic day players.
Before signing with an agent, talent should be aware of what their contract agreement outlines. It is only possible to sign with more than one agent per talent category if the talent has signed a non-exclusive agreement and the agents are located outside of a 70 mile radius from one another.
Working with Your Agents
Most agents will typically contact you about once a week but it is a good idea to stop by and check in on occasion to stay on top of new events and make sure they have everything they need from you. As long your visits are not excessive, they can help your agent keep you in mind for jobs as they come in. It is not necessary to hear from your agent all the time as long as you are getting regular opportunities for auditions. Most of your agent’s time will be dedicated to speaking with casting directors in order to get you jobs.
An agent should never ask for money upfront, instead they will receive a commission from the jobs that they secure for you. The average commission for an agent is 10 to 20 percent of an actor’s gross income. Agents will not receive this commission until an actor gets paid. The structure of this commission is determined by union and non-union affiliation, as well as print works and location. Union agents are only allowed to charge a maximum of 10 percent because of SAG and AFTRA rules.
Features of a Quality Agent
Your agent should have your best interest in mind when they are working with you. Essentially, this means that they should do what is best for their client’s career regardless of the commission they stand to gain. Some characteristics that a good agent will have include:
- Competitive/Assertive: Since the main responsibility of an agent is to submit their talent for auditions, most of their time should be devoted to this area. Agents will need to have a solid understanding of past, present and future projects in the industry so they can effectively promote the skills of their clients to industry professionals.
- Passionate: It is highly desirable to have an agent who is enthusiastic about your skills and will work hard to market them.
- Communication: An agent will only contact you if they have a job or audition they are attempting to book for you. There may be times when you hear from your agent less than usual but this is normal. Your agent’s time will mostly be spent speaking with professionals in the industry to get you auditions and jobs.
- Contracts: When you land a job your agent is responsible for negotiating your contracts and rates. This is why they need sufficient experience handling this type of important paperwork.
- Number of Clients: Find out how many clients your agent represents, and divide this number by eight to see how much time can be spent on each client per day. It is necessary for agents to work with a larger number of clients than managers so that they can receive enough commissions but you do not want to work with someone who is overloaded.
If you want to have a fruitful business relationship with your agent it is important to understand the functions of their job. Keep in mind that you must fulfill your responsibilities as well to keep your agent satisfied and have success with auditions and jobs.