Behind every great actor is a team of people responsible for managing their business interests and each of these people serves a different but equally important role. At the forefront of this team are the agent and manager. Many actors who are new to the business mistakenly think that agents and managers are the same, but they are actually quite different. Understanding the roles that an agent and manager are supposed to play is very important and will help you make a sound decision when it comes time to sign with an agency and/or management company.
A talent agent’s sole priority is finding work for an actor. An agent will promote actors to a buyer (casting director, advertising agency, production company, or photographer), submitting talent that fit the appropriate age, race, sex, look, talent, etc. that the buyer is looking for, for their project. Usually, an agent will submit an actor’s headshot for consideration. If the buyer feels that the actor could be right for the role, they will be called in for an audition. Once the buyer has seen all of the talent submitted for a project and made a decision, they will contact the agent of the actor who booked the part. The agent will coordinate all the details of the job, from wardrobe to directions, etc., as well as negotiate the contract and pay. Since agents work on a commission basis, they only make money when an actor does—10% of the gross earnings for every project they negotiate for the actor. No reputable agency charges for representation, but they may suggest steps that will cost money, such as headshots and acting classes or workshops, which are necessary for an actor to get work.
A talent manager differs from an agent, in that they are responsible for guiding the professional career of an actor. They will keep in close contact with the actor’s agent to make sure they are on the same page. A manager’s job is not to get auditions for an actor—that is the agent’s job. Handling public relations, business matters and ensuring their actors stay on a path towards a successful acting career are a talent manager’s main focus. Actors will receive more personal attention from their manager than agent, because the agent does not have the time to manage the day-to-day affairs of an actor– their focus, after all, is getting the actor work. Just like agents, managers do not charge money up-front to represent an actor. Depending on the actor’s experience, a talent manager will receive 10-15% of their earnings.
While the differences between agents and managers is notable, their responsibilities are geared towards the same goal—advancing an actor’s career and getting them more jobs so the actor makes more money. The more money the actor makes, the more money the agent and manager make, so it is in their best interest to work hard for their clients so that at the end of the day, everyone is happy.