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 Getting An Actor, Manager and Agent to All Work Together 
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Post Getting An Actor, Manager and Agent to All Work Together
Getting an actor, manager and agent to all work together
By Brent Mather Swan

Can you explain how an actor, manger and agent all work together?

First let me preface my remarks: I am not a lawyer and all my comments are from my experience as a SAG Talent Agent, from what I know of entertainment law and practices. Some of the information is fact and some is informed opinion.

To answer this question let me first define each role. I’ll skip to the agent first:

A Theatrical Talent Agent (booking agent) takes bookings for entertainment industry jobs; primarily union affiliated productions. Their primary job is to receive casting calls for the actor and to make sure the actor gets the information they need to arrive at their auditions. Additionally, it is the agent’s privilege to facilitate the signing of union contracts between the production company and actor or in depended lawyer or on the actor’s behalf. By law talent agents are bound to a 10% commission on a union job. Strictly speaking, it is not their job to solicit work for, or to educate their clients or to develop an actor’s career. Agent's cannot produce productions and are not supposed to manage their clients. Agents will bend those rules if their client is making a significant amount of money for them.

Agents would love to do nothing more than sign contracts all day because that’s all they get paid for. But that is not reality. Agents mostly do submissions all day and coordinate phone calls and auditions. As a rule, agents don’t like managers because, generally a manager’s influence overrides theirs with the actor.

The key is that any agent will sign a working actor when there is a deal on the table. The reason people feel that it’s hard to find an agent is because they don’t need one, and don’t understand what an agent does. Finding an agent is the easiest thing in the world if you have a deal.

Agents don’t like explaining these roles to actors. In my experience, this lack of communication causes serious expectation problems between agent's and their clients.

For non-union work agents are not needed. As I have discussed more work is going non-union with the decline of SAG this redoubles the tension between managers and agents because non-union work is up for grabs between them.

What qualifies as non-union? Anything that is not affiliated with SAG or AFTRA, meaning most work on commercials and music videos.

A Talent Manager’s job is to take raw talent and turn that person's aspirations and turn them into a successful career both artistically and economically. Managers are prohibited from “acting as a Talent Agent”. Managers are not bound to a specific union and therefore are not bound to a set of rules or laws. Managers can produce, educate, coach and promote their clients. They typically settle for 15% but some go to a much higher percentage, especially for new talent.

Finally, actors go without saying. So how does the actor get the deal? Well, that’s the trick.

1) An actor builds a career through commercials
2) They get lucky and meet the right person on the street (or a relative)
3) They make a move from another career, ex. Modeling/Sports
4) They get a manager who tells the right things to do to promote their career and helps them and educates them.
5) A student filmmaker does something unique with them…

Then they have a deal and they get an agent. Eventually, the actor will move on to a larger agency and do another deal etc…

So, how do they all work together? There is not a clear cut answer to that. Traditional arrangements are changing and the older institutions don’t have the same validity as they did in the past. Right now, it’s not clear that there will be a union industry here in Los Angeles at all in the future. Or more likely, it will adapt somehow. The actual arrangement that people come to today generally depends on the personalities involved and the types of jobs that are in the offing. Ideally managers do what agents cannot and agents do what managers cannot.

Brent Mather Swan may be contacted at
Brent Mather Swan is one of the most innovative producers working in Hollywood today. He is applying the accumulated knowledge of a Screenwriter, a SAG Talent Agent and a Talent Manager in his current project The Stardust Film Festival. This new festival promises to usher in a new era for Hollywood. With the Stardust festival as a stepping stone, Brent will bring the best and brightest back to Hollywood permanently and develop the quality and creativity of our output.

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Wed Jul 11, 2007 10:29 am
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