by Christine Autrand Mitchell
You may know me as a writer and filmmaker on this site, but I also take on roles as Casting Director/Agent and teacher. I’m constantly educating actors and models on everything from resume advice to technique.
One of the most confusing aspects for new actors and actors away from Los Angeles is the difference between a Casting Agent/Casting Director, a Talent Agent and a Talent Manager. So let’s break them down.
Casting Agents and Casting Directors cast actors into roles. They are hired by a production company or advertising agency to find talent (i.e. actors, voice over actors or models) for their productions per their specifications, whether for a commercial, an industrial, TV, print or film. It can be as broad as: “We need an African American male age 25 to 35” or as specific as “We need a graying Caucasian male, 40-ish, engineer type with a shifty look in his eye and a scar on his right temple.” Casting folks may go into their own databases for talent or to Talent Agents and Managers to ask them to submit talent for a production. The production company or agency then pays the Casting folks for their fee. Here is where the distinctions begin.
A Casting Director generally works with above-the-line folks on a production to gather the talent pool for a particular project, from lead to background. The Director tends to make the final decision on cast in a film, but many roles are left up to the Casting Director to fulfill.
A Talent Agent’s sole purpose is to get their client (talent) work. Talent Agents must be licensed. If they are reputable, they do not ask for money up front. Talent Agents get a percentage of their client’s pay, which involves a contract with an agreed upon commission (10% is the industry’s norm but it can go up to 15%). Talent Agents can legally make deals for clients. They work with casting directors, production companies, advertising agencies, and so on.
Managers guide and advise their clients on their short and long-term professional career, and can oversee their daily business affairs. They’re not legally able to negotiate contracts or “sign” on their client’s behalf (like an agent). Reputable Managers do not ask for money up front. They make a percentage of the talent’s overall earnings, and only after the talent has earned something. This also runs in the 10% to 15% range.
So, read carefully through any contract you sign and know your rights. Consulting an attorney is advised. Contracts differ greatly from one another. Three key areas to examine are:
1) Percentage – how much will your Agent or Manager take of your income for finding you work,
2) Period – what is the length of your contract, and
3) Exclusivity – are you locked out of working with anyone else or finding your own jobs if your Agent or Manager isn’t doing their job.
Remember that the average percentage of your wages with which you’ll part is 10% per advisor. It is wise to enter into an initial contract for no more than one year, to allow both sides to discover their working relationship; if you are locked into a bad contract, at least you know it will only last one year. Also, actors and models, especially outside of the large markets like LA, New York, Chicago, etc., may be hard pressed to find work, so it is important to know that if you do have representation, if you are still “allowed” by your contract to find work on your own, and if so, do you now owe the fee to your Agent or Manager? Without a contract, these things cannot be easily enforced. Just because someone may call themselves your manager or talent agent doesn’t make them one if they don’t have a contract you both signed to prove it and stipulate jobs, tasks and rights.
In your acting or modeling career, everyone plays a role, including those that advise you (Manager), those that book you (Talent Agent), and those who cast you (Casting Agent or Casting Director). No one should be asking for money up front, only for actual services provided. Know where you stand and make informed decisions.
Now, break a leg!
Questions? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org