Entertainment Industry FAQs
Representation - Agents & Managers
- What do the terms legit and theatrical representation mean?
- What is the difference between a talent agent and a talent manager?
- Can I look for new representation while I currently have representation? Is it okay to be looking for someone new, or do I need to drop my current rep first?
- Can I seek representation with a union franchised agent when I am non-union?
- What is the difference between a talent agent and a casting director?
Both of these terms mean talent representation for Film, TV, and Theatre work. The term "Legit" is more commonly used in the NYC market and "Theatrical" is more commonly used in the Los Angeles market.
Simply put, talent agents procure auditions and negotiate contracts. Managers develop talent and oversee and coordinate all aspects of a performer's career with a focus on leveling up an artist's name recognition.
Talent Agents normally work for talent agencies and are licensed by the state with the majority being franchised with the entertainment unions and guilds. This gives them the legal right and ability to solicit employment for their clients and negotiate contracts. They also submit artists for work through the major casting sites that not all managers may have access to. Agents typically work on exclusive signed contracts for a beginning 1 year period but also will freelance talent. The current standard commission is 10% for union roles and 20 percent for non-union bookings.
Managers are not required to be licensed by the state and anyone can call themselves a personal manager which can lead to questionable business practices. Personal Managers can be members of the National Conference of Personal Managers but many choose to work solely without any affiliation and on their own. Personal Managers oversee the coordination of all areas of an actor's career from development to producing projects specifically for their clients. Personal managers normally have a much smaller roster of artists that they represent than a talent agent. This will allow the time it takes to devote full attention to the task of coordinating all the multi-facets of maintaining a performer's career. A good manager works with your agents and works to introduces you to the industry across the board to acquire auditions and work. Managers traditionally sign clients for a 1-3 year contract period. Managers typically get 15 % commission on everything you book but commissions can range as high as 20% in addition to the 10% you are paying your agent.
If you are represented by both an agent and manager, a minimum of 25% of your gross income goes to representation.
A developing new trend - the hybrid agent/manager.
The old-school standard business practice is for talent agents to procure all auditions and negotiate contracts and personal managers to coordinate these appointments/project interests and oversee every facet of the artist's career development. However, a growing trend is, what I call, the hybrid agent/manager. These personal managers get their own daily Breakdowns and procure appointments directly for their clients, not having to go through an agent. They also can negotiate contracts above the line up to a certain amount according to the state that they do business in and can with the assistance of an entertainment lawyer negotiate contracts above this amount. There are even many personal managers who do not sign clients but freelance and take commissions only on work that is a result of auditions that they procured. Read more on the differences between agents and managers and how to build a working relationship.
If you are freelancing with the manager or agent, there is no problem with seeking new representation. If you are signed then you will need to know when your contract expires or the out clause in the contract which enables you to leave. That could determine the need to leave the agency before seeking new representation. If a new agent or manager is interested in you they will see that you have representation listed on your Actors Access Profile which you will have to address.
If you are freelancing, you can say something like this - Although currently freelancing with a (legit, commercial, etc) agent (manager), I am seeking exclusive representation that needs my "type" and your agency is on my targeted list. It would be a pleasure to meet with you to discuss the opportunity of working together.
Don't be afraid to leave an agency that is not getting you auditions. You are not losing anything as they are not actively getting you auditions.
You DO NOT have to already be a union actor to submit to a union franchised agency for representation. Nor do you need to be union to submit to a casting director for a union job.
A talent agent as described above procures auditions and negotiates contracts. A casting director works on film, TV, Theatre, Commercial, print, and voiceovers to find the best talent for every part while staying within the casting budget. They typically don't make the final decision on who's cast (that falls to the director and producers), but they provide a shortlist of candidates for consideration.
A major faux pas is to not understand the difference between an agent and casting director and as a result, ask for an inappropriate request. Simply put, when writing to an agent, you want representation. When writing to a casting director, you want an audition.
Submissions / Casting Directors
- What's best, either to email my picture & resume or send a hard copy by mail?
- What online casting sites do I need?
- Do general headshot/resume submissions to the industry still work?
As many industry professionals began working remotely during Covid, they found - as did the entire business sector - that office space could be eliminated. The traditional mailed headshot/resume submission has been replaced with email submissions and correspondence. Check out the information on the Up-To-Date Actor as to the agent or casting director's preference.
I am constantly encouraging actors to subscribe from the very beginning stage of building a performance career to these online casting services. The top two audition/submission sites are Actors Access and Casting Networks. Both of these sites have their own specialty - Actors Access is strong in principal legit casting (Film, TV, Theatre) whereas Casting Networks is strongest in Commercials, Print and Background work.
It used to be that casting directors and agents had the time to give general interviews where you would be asked to come in and perform a song and or a monologue so that they could begin to know you and this usually came from a general mailing of your picture/resume. This process more or less has fallen by the wayside in NYC and LA mainly due to the rising success of the paid seminar audition centers. Therefore, the most productive use of mailings to casting directors and agents, in these large markets, is to submit for a specific role or for specific representation in a certain area not just for a general interview.
Marketing Tools & More
- How do I represent Film and TV credits on my resume?
- What do the terms commercial print and lifestyle print mean?
- What are the major entertainment unions for performers?
On a theatrical resume, if the Film and TV project is on a low to medium size budget, it's best to list the level of the role instead of the name of the character as when you normally list theatre credit. Check out our resume resources for more details on film and TV role categories.
"So what is commercial print work?" Often called lifestyle print, commercial print work depicts real people in real life situations and runs the gamut from ad campaigns in magazines, billboards, booklets, web marketing ads to brand advertisements. Most of us are more familiar with fashion print which is model, high-fashion beauty spots with height, size, and look requirements.
In commercial print there are no size, height requirements and almost any type of actor can work as a commercial print model. It's not just a pretty young face that agents are looking for in print modeling. There is a high demand for diverse looks, including interesting character types, BIPOC, ages baby - seniors all types and sizes. There is no union that governs commercial print.
AEA - Actors' Equity Association, 212-869-8530, actorsequity.org Represents onstage work for actors and stage managers
SAG-AFTRA - Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of TV & Radio Actors, 212-944-1030, sagaftra.org Represent film, TV, and broadcasting work.
Using the Up-To-Date Actor
For more FAQs on how to best utilize your Up-To-Date Actor account, see our UTDA FAQs for more user experience questions.