What is the difference between a Talent Manager and a Talent Agent? Acting can sometimes be a confusing profession to those just starting out. There are so many unwritten rules. However, going into an acting career armed with knowledge will help minimize the confusion and maximize the success. Many beginning actors mistakenly think that “talent agent” and “talent manager” are two names for the same job. Actually, they are very different, but in a similar way. The best way to explain the differences is to tackle the job responsibilities separately, 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. An actor should never pay a talent agent up front for auditions or representation. A legitimate talent agent should receive a 10 to 15% commission only from the work they find the actor. A talent agent should never receive any percentage above fifteen percent. Actors need a talent agent to survive. A talent agent is able to provide an actor with auditions they would not otherwise know about. Without the appropriate industry auditions, an actor’s career will go nowhere. When securing a talent agent, actors should seek talent agencies franchised with The Screen Actors Guild (SAG). This means the agency and its agents have signed a contract agreeing to follow the rules regulated by the actors union.
Agents spend most of the day on the phones, looking through the “breakdowns” (a daily listing of all the acting roles the studios/casting directors are seeking) and submitting pictures to casting directors, hoping to get you in on an audition. If an agent works hard for you, they may be able to get frequent auditions for you. This is a good thing because the more acting auditions you go on, the better chance you’ll have of getting a part. Agents also negotiate contracts and how much money you get if you do get an acting role. However, most of the days are spent trying to get you the audition.
There are many other factors that can determine you getting the role. Do you fit the part? A great headshot and having a good resume is most important. In any occupation you must have some experience in order to get a job and the entertainment business is no different. Having an agent on a “higher level” may determine you getting the role over another actor just as talented as you. But you will have to work your way up to the higher-level agents. In fact, 99% of new actors are not even considered by these “A” Level agencies because they mostly handle the big stars. It is very well possible that one of these agents will approach you one day. I say, “approach you” because the majority of the time these agents cannot be acquired. They seek you out. Of course, you’d have to be out there in film or television doing something notable in order for these agents to approach you. Most actors seek representation from agents on the B and C (and sometimes D) levels.
A talent manager’s focus is more on managing an actor’s, musician or dancer’s career than with arranging auditions. Talent managers keep in close touch with talent agents to ensure a shared vision for the actor, musician or dancer, but a manager stays mostly on the management end of the actor’s career. Sometimes a talent manager may set up an audition for a talent, but that is not their focus. A talent manager will not guarantee auditions for a talent. Securing auditions is a talent agent’s job. A talent manager handles public relations, business matters, and helps to make a plan and keep the actor on a path toward success. Most actors cannot juggle the acting demands as their fame and careers grow, interviews, and appearances that come with a prominent career. That is where a talent manager comes in.
Talent managers invest a great deal of time and energy into a talent’s potential, and into a long-term career for their clients, long before the actor, musician or dancer has a track record of booking consistently. They typically work with their clients over a period of a number of years. They tend to genuinely care about their clients, almost like a family, and protect their clients from the harmful situations that may be encountered in the dog-eat-dog world of show business. A personal manager is the one who believes in and keeps fighting for a client when all others have given up. The following are some things that many talent managers may also do:
* Prepare talent for meetings with potential talent agencies.
* Arrange introductions to agents.
* Help talent decide on a talent agency for representation
* Promote talent to industry professionals to try to help talent get auditions.
* Prepare resume or advise talent on preparation of a resume.
* Help make any and all decisions related to talent’s career.
* Answer questions on anything related to a career in show business.
Managers determine an actor’s most marketable type and the kinds of projects on which an actor is most likely to find work; Managers will advise talent on their image, resume content, headshots, acting classes, demo reels, websites, personal appearance and overall career direction.
Some talent managers are very hands on and give very specific instructions on every little step that you make in the entertainment industry, including exactly what acting teacher and coaches to use, workshops to attend, what photographer to use, where to get your haircut, and so on. Others have much more flexibility and only give you suggestions for these things. Managers are more or less the quarterback of the team (actor, manager, agents), setting a direction, telling the actor what they need to do to compete — and giving them the bad news in terms of what they cannot do.
Managers take more of an interest in promoting, cultivating and marketing their clients. Managers will help clients understand contracts, compensation, billing practices, safety, and speak on your behalf when necessary. Personal mangers act as liaison between their clients and theatrical agents, other professionals in the entertainment industry, and the general public. When you have problems on the set or in a job, talent should always contact their manager, not their agent. It the managers duty to coddle, mold, advise and generally speaking, smother their clients with individual care, attention and, at times, emotional support.
For most performers, the reason they want a manager is because they think the manager will find them work in the industry. But in California, it’s actually illegal for anyone other than a licensed talent agent to procure of offer employment to actors, or others rendering professional services in motion picture, theatrical, radio, television and other entertainment enterprises. California Labor Code §1700.4. So if you think the manager is going to get you work, they are not.
The manager’s job is to guide and advise your career. If you haven’t been able to get an agent yet, the manager will guide you and help you become as marketable and attractive to talent buyers and agents as possible. When the manager feels you are ready to meet with agents, they may help you get an agent. Further, they help manage the artist’s personal and professional life in a way that allows the artist to focus on creative productivity. Just as with talent agents, an actor should never pay a talent manager up front or for representation. Talent managers take a higher percentage of an actor’s earnings than a talent agent does.
Typically, a talent manager receives a fifteen to twenty percent commission. The differences between a talent agent and a talent manager vary, but their responsibilities are geared toward the same goal… advancing an clients career and getting them more jobs so the talent makes more money. A good manager will help shape the direction an actor goes so as to generate the most revenue. The bottom line is that when a talent succeeds and gets paid, everybody gets paid. Both talent agents and talent managers will work hard to make that happen.
A manager is the artist’s representative, and acts as liaison between their clients and both the public and theatrical agent, publicists, label, studio, publisher, talent agency, touring personnel, attorneys, business managers, and other professionals and anyone else associated with the artist’s business. A manager works closely with the artist’s publicists and stylists to create and maintain the artist’s image. Depending on how hectic the artist/business schedule is, we also manage aspects of the artist’s/business owner’s personal life such as hiring household staff, finding contractors, hiring doctors, nurses, personal assistants.
From simple suggestions, to complex negotiations, to long term career plans, a manager lives the artist’s career every day behind the scenes. The manager’s commitment to and involvement in the artist’s career is one hundred percent. The personal manager is the driving force breaking through the barriers of frustration and difficulty so often encountered in the entertainment industry.
Personal managers have the expertise to find and develop new talent and create opportunities and develop marketing strategies for those artists which they represent.
The Bottom Line for talent: Both talent agents and talent manager can be very important to the success of your career in entertainment. An important step to building a healthy and successful career is to understand the difference between the two.
CREDIT DUE: Above article is compiled from personal experience, and various websites including National Conference of Personal Managers (NCOPM) and Talent Managers Association (TMA).