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Managers vs. Agents

November 29, 2017

The Top Five Differences So You Can Decide What You Need

One of the questions Children In Film receives quite frequently from those getting started in the business is "What is the difference between an agent and a manager?"  Parents often ask this question so that they can decide whether they want an agent, a manager or both. 

The following top four differences between the two types of representation are important to understand before moving forward in selecting your team:

Managers and Agents may collect different commission - First, let's be clear that no agent or manager, regardless of where he or she is located, should take an upfront fee as a condition of representing your child.  Your agent and/or manager should ONLY be paid when your child gets paid.  Period. You can read about avoiding scams here.  Now that we have that straight, it is common for managers and agents to take different percentages of commission.  Agents, generally speaking,  take 10% (the 10% was negotiated by SAG which is why non-union print agents get 20%).  Managers, however, commonly take 15%, but manager fees can fluctuate anywhere between 10 and 20%.  The higher end of this range tends to occur when the manager is dealing within the music industry, but don't be alarmed if the manager you are pursuing suggests higher than the standard 10% that an agent would request. 

Agents must be licensed - In the state of California, legally all agents must be licensed.  You can view a list of licensed agents here to determine if the agent you are interested in is following this law.  In states outside of California it is important to ask questions and do your homework.  Does an agent need to be licensed? Does their agency, as a business, hold a business license? Find out before moving forward.  The Association of Talent Agents publishes a list and Children In Film is incorporating this info into our rules and laws pages as well.   Talent managers, on the other hand, do not need to be licensed.  They may, however, choose to be a member of the Talent Managers Association which, while not required, is a sign that they have agreed to abide by a certain set of ethics.

Managers do not procure work - Okay so this is admittedly a grey area in the industry.  Legally, in California, managers may not procure work for their clients. That said, it happens all the time. What does this mean for you? Well it means that your manager may end up getting you tons of meetings, auditions and jobs, but it should never be looked at as his/her main job.  The job of a manager is to help you find an agent and to guide you within your career.  Keep this in mind when selecting your representation.  Does the manager you're about to sign with know a lot of agents with whom you'd like to work?

Agents negotiate contracts - This is a simple point, but one that does indeed define the difference between an agent and a manager.  The job of an agent is to help you get auditions, then book your job, and finally to negotiate the terms of your child's employment.  Some contracts are 'SAG" standard contracts - so the agents are really only negotiating  pay unless there are special celebrity perks.  Contracts also need to be 'renegotiated' as a child moves up the ladder.  Let's say they start out on a series that comes back for a second season - pay goes up.  Let's say a commercial gets picked up for an additional period of time, pay goes up because the child is exposed and cannot compete for other commercials.  Managers, on the other hand, are there to guide your career.  They often use the term "development" and help a client select acting coaches and introduce their clients to potential agents.

While agents and managers generally have a very similar job, this is only a half-truth.  Their jobs are indeed different and therefore need to be considered before you move forward with either...or both.  And remember, if you choose to sign with an agent and a manager you've taken on the responsibility to pay both regardless of who made the initial connection.  In the end, finding the right representation is all about building your team and you need to make sure you've done your homework so that your team is built on a solid foundation.

We encourage you to read Entertainment Attorney and CIF Board of Advisor Member, Rob Pafundi's, article on entitled The Practical and Legal Differences Between an Agent and a Manager.

And when the time is right to begin researching and submitting for representation, you can start with the Children In Film member directory where you will find reputable agents and managers who are seeking new talent just like you.