As a former talent manager, acting coach, and mentor to my students, the importance of good representation is always at the top of my list. There are two types of representation for actors: an agent and a manager. Some actors have only an agent, some a manager, and some both. A question I am often asked is, “How do I know if my child needs a manager?” Knowing the difference between an agent and a manager is a good place to start.
A talent agent in New York or California is licensed by the state and their job is to solicit employment for their clients. They are franchised by the union and are generally limited to taking a 10 percent commission on money earned from employment. Agents can have a small or large number of clients. They use their eye for talent and their resources to get an actor into an audition and secure a job as well as negotiating contracts. Actors are usually signed to a one-year contract and have a 90-day “out clause” if there are no auditions within that time.
A manager cultivates a career. They counsel, advise, and provide career direction and guidance. They generally have fewer clients than an agent, which enables them to give more personalized attention to their clients. Managers take anywhere from 10–20 percent commission and usually sign a client to a three-year contract. A benefit to working with a manager is that while a client is signed with them, they can freelance with several agents, thereby having access to more auditions. An actor can also have a manager and work exclusively with one agent.
So how do you know when your child needs a manager? I usually recommend a manager when a young performer is just starting out or has a career that needs to be managed.
Perhaps your child cannot get an agent. If a manager believes in your child this may be a good place to start. As your child enters the business you will have a lot of questions and concerns. A manager offers support and guidance in the beginning of a professional career. A good manager will communicate with you effectively, help you find reputable photographers, teachers, and coaches, review your photo proofs, push for auditions, and introduce you to potential agents to round out the team. As a personal talent manager, I read with my clients before auditions (it helped that I was a trained teacher) and even taped them in my office where we had the luxury of re-taping until we were satisfied. I did a lot of handholding for both parents and kids and encouraged them when times got tough.
Managers can also be instrumental for a working young performer. They shape careers because of the intimate nature of their job. Representing talent is much more than just booking a gig. Reading scripts, packaging deals, setting career goals, introducing a client to the right people, getting more specific, tailored auditions, and working in tandem with a publicist to help market a career are all some of the ways in which a manager can support a successful young performer. On the flip side, if a young actor has a good agent who can handle a career in this way he may not need a manager.
Finding out what’s right for your child is a process of which you can only be certain once you get started. Whether or not your child has an agent or a manager, if their representation is caring, supportive, and believes in their ability and potential, success will follow.