An agent is a person who can submit you to a producer or casting director so that you can hopefully land an audition. The fee usually charged by an agent is 10% of a paycheck. The term "franchised agent" means a talent agent that is licensed by the state in which they operate and has been officially approved by at least one of the three performance unions (SAG, AFTRA, AEA).
Union actors may only work with union-franchised agents. If you are not a union member, franchised agents can still represent you for non-union work, or for work that leads to union membership.
How does one get an agent? There is no definite answer. Agents go to the theatre and also see films. If they see your
|Check List of Things to Know About the Role of an Agent|
|√||There seems to be no clear path to signing on with a particular agent. If you have a unique contact to make an introduction for you (performers often find agents through fellow performers, drama coaches, managers and industry people), fine. Otherwise it seems the only other way is to work hard at all aspects of your career, particularly getting into productions and raising your profile through publicity efforts, and through appropriate networking.|
|√||SAG offers an opportunity for actors to meet agents every year when they present the SAG Annual Agents Showcase. The showcases are known to have a special agents’ evening where you can meet and work in front of prospective agents.|
|√||Primarily and principally, the agent’s job is to submit a client’s photo and resume, and negotiate a contract should the actor get the job. It is still incumbent upon the actor to handle much of the marketing of their careers.|
|√||Agents are looking for skills and experience. Therefore take the time to study your craft, and building your experience in it by appearing in productions.|
|√||A franchised agent means the agent is registered with one or more of the major unions which helps in being submitted for union auditions.|
|√||Agents may not charge up-front fees of any kind or require you to go to a specific acting school or use a specific photographer as a condition of representation.|
|√||Lorem ipsuThere are two ways you can be represented by an agent: by signing a contract or by freelancing. On the East Coast, actor’s may have a variety of agents; on the West Coast most agents require a contract.|
|√||Your resume and photos should be tailored to suit the area of representation in which you are interested. Stage, commercials, film, television, etc., all have unique varying requirements which must be fulfilled.|
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work, and they meet you, this is certainly one way to get an agent. Also, maintaining a media presence and attending or being awarded at awards ceremonies certainly could not hurt. Just to be sure, there are various kinds of showbusiness agents throughout the world of entertainment. Different agents cater to different areas of the entertainment business and so researching for the right fit is essential.
Although there is such a thing as boutique agencies which are smaller agencies, and are focused on a specific talent niche or talent pool, the largest and most well-known agencies in Hollywood include:
- Agency Of The Performing Arts (APA)
- Creative Artists Agency (CAA)
- International Creative Management (ICM Partners)
- United Talent Agency (UTA)
- William Morris Endeavor (WME)
In New York, if you don’t have an agent, it’s still possible to solicit casting directors directly. In L.A., its unlikely you will get an audition with a casting director without being submitted by an agent.
Additionally, you do not necessarily have to be in the union to get a franchised agent. An assisting factor is the Taft-Hartley Act, which allows an actor the chance to appear in a union production as long as he or she joins the union prior to working on a subsequent job.
So, if an agent sees potential, he or she may sign the actor, figuring it won’t take long to get that Taft-Hartley rule applied to the new client.
There are two ways an actor or artist can be represented: by signing a contract with an agent, or by freelancing. On the West Coast, most agents require, while on the East Coast it’s not unusual for an actor to have a variety of agents. Just because you are signed with an agent, doesn’t mean you are strictly bound, and can't get out of the contract.
Normally, in order to best serve their client base, agents will only handle a certain number of actors for which they are able to keep track of.
Of course the large agencies which handle lots of clients can still be effective because they employ sufficient numbers of agents and subagents to which the workload is delegated. In this way they can either split the clients between them or divide up the studios and other contacts so that each agent has a manageable load.
Smaller, boutique agencies may have one or two agents who handle a select number of clients, approximately 50, but may not have the freedom of splitting up their tasks. In essence, it is important to have a good relationship with the agent.
If a client is not happy with an agent, it becomes important to seek some kind of a meeting to air any grievances. But if an agent consistently shows a pattern of not responding to a client’s attempt to contact them, it may be time for the client to look elsewhere for representation.
There are different kinds of agents, including commercial agents, who submit clients for TV commercials, music videos and at times industrial films; modeling agents that typically place high fashion models, but through which a number of actors and actresses have gotten their start; commercial print agents who place actors in print media assignments suited to their talents.
Voice over agents handles the people whose voices you hear on television, cartoons, radio, etc., industrial agents, that place primarily for corporate training films and "how-to" videos; specialty agents that handle sports figures, stand-up comics, cabaret, circus performers, radio talent, novelty acts, and just about everything else in show business.
There are agents that function as submitters and contract writers, while others prefer to maintain a close relationship with clients they represent. The relationship can seem like a managed one, particularly if the agent feels there is potential and so takes an active hand putting time and effort into furthering a career.
|Terms to Know|
Audition. A formally arranged session (usually by appointment through an agent) for an actor to display his or her talents when seeking a role in an upcoming production of a play, film or television project.
Booking Agent. One who finds employment for artists from buyers of talent.
Book Out. A call to all of your agents to let them know you are working, traveling or are unavailable for auditions or a job.
Breakdown Services. A fee-based service provided to agents that offers a daily breakdown of roles for each production submitted by participating casting directors.
Casting. When a casting director puts out the news that he needs to fill a certain role that requires an approximate age range and appearance such as a certain ethnicity, height, build or look.
Headshot. A term used to designate an 8" x 10" photograph of an actor used for securing television, film and theatrical work.
Image. The casting type or quality you wish to convey and portray to the theatrical community.
Rush Calls. A last minute call by an agency to an actor for an audition or a job.
SAG-franchised. Status of an agent or agency that has signed papers with SAG and agrees to operate within SAG guidelines.
|For a full glossary listing click here|
Beyond submitting an actor to try out for a role when Breakdown Service posts a casting notice for someone of his or her type, agents can also get on the phone and call a director, producer, or casting person, in effect shopping or selling the actor for a specific part.
SAG/AFTRA Franchised Agents
Only these agents listed for New York and Los Angeles and no others are authorized to act on behalf of AFTRA members in AFTRA's jurisdiction. Of course there are other AFTRA agents in other major cities across the U.S. Check the website at http://www.aftra.org for a complete listing. The symbols, which appear next to the agent's address, indicate the type of representation offered by that agent: (LINK JUMPS TO NEW PAGE OF LISTING)
Whether to use a talent agent or manager
In a number of instances deciding whether to go with a talent agent/agency or manager may not be an either/or proposition, but just simply knowing the different functions between the two. An agent works for a talent agency (and therefore is based out of an office) that is licensed by the state and (advisably) could be franchised by the union. They are legally empowered to find employment for their clients and negotiate contracts for them. In contrast to agents, managers may not be employed by a management company and can run a more virtual operation without a physical office.
They can work on their own, and their sole function is to provide guidance although they are known to provide connections leading to employment. By state labor laws, managers are restricted from formally setting up auditions or negotiating contracts. With regard to commissions, agents are limited to just 10 percent of their client’s earnings, but managers can ask for up to 15 percent that would be capped off at up to $50,000 in annual earnings before their commission would be scaled back to 10 percent.
The Music Agent
To musical performers, a music agent may also be referred to as a booking agent. Unlike a performing or stage artist, The band or musician's management would take on more of the responsibility to oversee and collaborate with the agent. It is helpful and expected to have a working synergy between band or artist, manager, and agent. Expect that most agents will want to see that a potential client has already booked a tour or can sell-out shows before they want to work with them.
The American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) is one of the largest unions of musicians in the world. Among many benefits, for its members it maintains a listing of audition notices. In a similar way that the movie, television, and theatre industry have the SAG/AFTRA and Equity unions that provide their artist members with directories of "franchised" agents, the American Federation of Musicians offers its member musicians a directory of AFM-Franchised Booking Agents. AFM-Franchised Booking Agents are signatories to the AFM's Booking Agents Agreement.
The Artist Manager
Contemporary talent managers (also referred to as the artist manager, band manager or music manager) are associated with all artistic fields, sports, as well as various fields in business. The roles and responsibilities of a talent manager vary slightly from industry to industry, as do the commissions to which the manager will be compensated. Naturally, a music manager's duties differ from those managers who advise actors, writers, or directors.
A manager can also help artists find an agent, or influence them to leave their current agent and aid in the selection of a new agent. Talent agents have the authority to make deals for their artist clients while managers usually can only informally establish connections with producers and studios, but, as has often been the case with acting industry managers, they will consummate the entire transaction.
Closer in relationship to the musical performing artist than the booking agent is the artist manager. In an era where the influence of record label influence has fallen by the wayside, the artist manager can have influence over music publishing, album and other product releases, artist videos and merchandise, production of music, developing the artist – their music, and their brand, create and manage budgets and cashflow, coordinating marketing and publicity, and even affect the traditional role of a booking agent of show bookings and tours. Depending on the needs of an artist, managers can replace publishers, dive deep into the record promotion or negotiate live performances.
Relevant Associations & Organizations
Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
Casting Society of America
Casting Society of America
National Association of Talent Representative
For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here