Hi all, Mike again. So we are going to bounce off of the Commercial post from last week and do the first in a probably 3 part series I call, "The Business of Show Business". (Did you see what I did there? Okay good. I just wanted to make sure you realized how clever I was. See, because Show Business has Business in the title and this this going to be about Business and how Business is part of Show Business and...)
Sorry... So anyway, this first part is going to talk about two things that tend to come up whenever someone starts talking about professional acting. (The other two that pop up are Headshots and Resumes but they are cool enough to get a whole post to themselves.) The two things we are going to talk about in this post are Agents and Managers. We want to go over what they are, what they do, and if you, the young professional actor, actually need one.
Agents - Like Secret Agents, Like James Bond? Mike, does James Bond help actors?
Unfortunately no, 007 will not help you land your next paid acting gig, but your agent will. An agent's job is to schedule auditions for you to go on. Casting Directors send out notices to agents with roles they need filled, or actor types they are looking for and then the agent submits actors that he thinks might fit the criteria. Once the casting director okays the submission the agent sets up the appointment time and sends the actor any sides (a cut of a script used for an audition) that he will need to prepare. The actor shows up at his appointed time, auditions, and, hopefully, gets the part!
Okay that sounds cool, maybe not James Bond cool, but cool, but do I really need one?
The short answer to that question is yes. Now maybe you could get lucky and nab a big part at an open call but to really be able to work you have to have an agent. Most casting directors won't even see someone who is not represented. Getting a good agent can make all the difference in an actor's career.
Right, so I need an agent... How do I get one of those again?
Getting an agent as a young actor starting out isn't easy, it requires perseverance and a bit of luck. Basically you get together a Headshot and Resume (We will talk about those in Part 2) and start mailing them out to all the agencies that interest you. A quick Google search can give you the names and address of the top agents in the city, and Backstage Magazine publishes a list of names and mailing address for various theatre professionals, including agents, quarterly. If they like your look and resume they will give you a call to set up an agent audition, you will come in and perform and if they like what they see you will get signed on.
Well that sounds rough...
It kinda is, but here is the thing. NO LEGITIMATE AGENT WILL EVER CHARGE YOU HOURLY, OR MONTHLY, OR YEARLY. Sorry I wanted to make that very clear, agents get paid when the actor gets paid, the standard is 10% but it can go as high as 15%. This is why they are so picky, if you don't get work, they don't get paid. So they want you to get cast just as much as you do. But don't feel like they are the only ones who can be picky, feel free to ask for references and feel free to call them and see how their experience with the agency has been. If an agent refuses to give you references, think twice before signing up with them, it is a fairly common practice in New York and most agents should not have any problem with it.
Okay, so what about a Manager?
Managers do just that, they manage an actor's career. They handle paperwork, set up interviews, work with an agent to get their clients name out there and regularly have less clients than an agent. Managers are there to keep your life in order so that you can focus on acting. Like agents, managers DO NOT charge hourly for their services, they take a commission out of the actor's earnings, usually 15 - 20%.
Yeah, but do I need one?
Honestly, no. Managers are very important when an actor makes it big and they require more than one person to keep track of their various obligations. As a young actor just starting out you or your parents can handle the stuff a manager would do, without having to give up a fifth of your paycheck.
A Quick Word of Caution
When searching around for resources you will see a lot of groups claiming to be "Talent Managers", they are on the web, in the city, even in malls... A lot of these so called "Talent Managers" are scams to prey on young actors and their parents. They call themselves "Talent Managers" because Agents are required to be franchised by the SAG-AFTRA actor's union, while Managers do not have that same restriction. They tend to promise fame and work to the young actor, especially in print work (Print Agents are not required to be franchised either...) and there is usually a sign-up fee of some sort, or an event somewhere that the young actor would be "perfect" for that they require payment for to set up airfare... You get the idea... Then there is another thing that needs payment, and another... Remember what I said before, No Legitimate Agent or Manager Will Ask For Payment Up Front! The allure of these "Talent Managers" can be enticing, especially after trying so hard to find a real agent. When you have doubts ask for references or ask one of us at FSTS, we are always happy to help you out and answer any questions you might have.
So that is all for part one, as usual, let us know if you have any topics you would like me to cover in future posts and feel free to ask any questions about this or previous posts!