Differences Between an Agent and a Manager

This again falls under the category of, “The only stupid question is the one not asked.” To some, the differences between agent and manager are as starkly contrasting as night and day. But rest assured, you are not alone if you’re a bit confused as to the responsibilities of the agent versus manager—because there is some overlap! After all, both of these entities revolve around little old you.

There is a often-fuzzy line between agent and manager, which grows increasingly fuzzy with the advancement in technology. There are quite a few managers who have access to the casting breakdown service used by talent agents and, once given agency permission, can then submit actors for auditions. Knowing the differences between an agent and manager will help you decide what kind of representation is best for you at this stage in your acting career. Fortunately, West compiled this handy key to guide you through what to expect when working with both an agent and a manager:

Agents:

  • Talent agents normally earn 10 percent commission for the union roles they procure for an actor and 20 percent for the nonunion bookings.
  • Agents have access to the casting breakdown services and submit actors for auditions.
  • Follow up on your behalf
  • Agents receive payment from production companies. They take their 10-20 percent commission, and then cut their actor a check for the remaining amount the actor has earned.
  • According to California AB 884 and 2860, and New York Art and Cultural Affairs Law § 37.07, talent agents must be licensed and bonded with the state in which are they are operating business. Licensed agents are subject to state regulation.
  • Agents (and attorneys) can handle talent contracts for actors.
  • Talents agents are normally franchised by SAG-AFTRA, thus utilizing SAG-AFTRA union contracts. Agents may also associate with ATA (Association of Talent Agents) and use a general service agreement contract.
  • Agencies represent actors in different talent categories: commercial, theatrical (TV/Film), voiceover, print, etc.

Managers:

  • Managers earn a 15 percent commission of all bookings. That means in addition to paying 10 percent of your acting income to your commercial or theatrical agent, you are also required to pay 15 percent to your manager. So, if you are represented by both an agent and manager, 25 percent of your payment goes to representation.
  • Rather than coordinating auditions, a manager’s focus is to figure out the best trajectory for an actor’s career and help lay out those steps. Working along with agents, managers take a more personalized approach and guide an actor’s creative and personal choices to shape them into a more marketable actor.
  • Managers are not agents, publicists, attorneys, or accountants, but they can act as a liaison to all of these people. A manager’s connections may be extremely beneficial for actors who are having a hard time securing talent agency representation and booking jobs.
  • Managers may not legally book work or handle contracts for the actors they represent, because they are not licensed by the state to do so.
  • Managers may become members of organizations such as the National Conference of Personal Managers or Talent Managers Association. It is not required that managers join such organizations and some of Hollywood’s top talent managers have chosen not to do so. However, managers who choose to be a part of these private organizations have agreed to abide by their code of ethics.

The other crucial difference is, perhaps unsurprisingly, money! Agents are not allowed to take more than 10 percent of their client’s earnings, but managers don’t suffer from the same restriction. Most of the ones I know only accept 10, but quite a few ask for 15, and others work on a sliding scale. That means they take 15 percent of your earnings up to $50,000 during a one-year period, but the commission drops to 10 if you make more than that. And by the way, most managers commission all of your earnings, including theatrical, commercial, voiceover, and any other work that’s part of the entertainment industry.