Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Real Differences Between A Talent Agent and a Talent Manager (This post has 70,034 views)

Wendy Alane Wright with Cynthia Barry Talent Agent at First Class Talent, Philip Marcus Talent Agent at Clear Talent, Robin Nassif Taent Agent at Media Artist Group, Jackie Lewis Talent Agent at LB Talent, and Talent Managers from Pink Hammer Management and Elileen O'Farrell Management

Wendy Alane Wright is a Hollywood talent manager and the president of WAW Entertainment. Her clients have appeared on television networks such as ABC, NBC, TNT, CBS, Comedy Central, BIO, Lifetime, and more. They have booked TV shows including “Modern Family,” “Blackish,” “Extant,” “The Colony,” “Animal Kingdom,” “My Haunted House,” "Nightshift," "Walk The Prankooks called, “Secrets of a Hollywood Talent Manager.” Wright teaches the business of acting all over the country and is on the faculty of the New York Studio for Stage and Screen in North Carolina For years she has appeared in numerous magazines, and on radio shows and talk shows including “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Wendy is also a Recording Artist, Actress, Author and Music Producer all  giving her a 360-degree perspective of the industry.
," and “Henry Danger,” as well as hundreds of commercials for major spots including Shutterfly, Mercedes, Visa, Taco Bell, Honda, Legos, Hot Wheels, and many more. Prior to being a manager and a talent agent at Burn Down Entertainment, Wright assisted many high profile managers, agents, and publicists. For 20 years she was a recording artist, actor, and music producer, and is now the author of five b

What is the difference between a Talent Manager and a Talent Agent?

Acting can sometimes be a confusing profession to those just starting out. There are so many unwritten rules. However, going into an acting career armed with knowledge will help minimize the confusion and maximize the success. Many beginning actors mistakenly think that “talent agent” and “talent manager” are two names for the same job. Actually, they are very different, but in a similar way. The best way to explain the differences is to tackle the job responsibilities separately, giving actors a good idea of those differences.


A talent agent works for a talent agency where they use their contacts to arrange auditions for the actors represented by the agency. They are a very important piece of the puzzle to your career.
A talent agent is able to provide an actor with auditions they would not otherwise know about. Without the appropriate industry auditions, an actor’s career will go nowhere. When securing a talent agent, actors should seek talent agencies franchised with The Screen Actors Guild (SAG). This means the agency and its agents have signed a contract agreeing to follow the rules regulated by the actors union.

An actor should NEVER pay a talent agent or agency up front for auditions or representation. A legitimate talent agent ONLY gets paid when their client books a job from an audition the agent has arranged. Agents typically receive a 10% commission, sometime 15%. For commercials they typically receive 20%. Legit talent agencies do not charges fees for representation EVER.

Agents spend most of the day on the phones, looking through the “breakdowns” (a daily listing of all the acting roles the studios/casting directors are seeking) and submitting pictures to casting directors, hoping to get you in on an audition. If an agent works hard for you, they may be able to get frequent auditions for you. This is a good thing because the more acting auditions you go on, the better chance you’ll have of getting a part. Agents also negotiate contracts and how much money you get if you do get an acting role. However, most of the days are spent trying to get you the audition.

There are many other factors that can determine you getting the role. Do you fit the part? Having a great DEMO REEL is critical along with a great headshot and a good resume. In any occupation you must have some experience in order to get a job and the entertainment business is no different. Having an agent on a “higher level” can open some doors smaller agencies might not be able to. But you will have to work your way up to the higher-level agents. In fact, 99% of new actors are not even considered by these “A” Level agencies because they mostly handle the big stars (CAA, William Morris Endeavor) It is very well possible that one of these agents will approach you one day. I say, “approach you” because the majority of the time these agents cannot be acquired. They seek you out when you reach a certain level in your career. Of course, you’d have to be out there in film or television doing something notable in order for these agents to approach you. Most actors seek representation from agents on the B and C levels. But quite honestly you can build amazing careers with some of the lower level agencies. I personally have friends at many of these agencies too and they are outstanding agents. The bigger agencies have a huge packaging system that package projects their lower level actors and with their stars to give the newer actors bigger opportunities. That's the benefit of the bigger agencies and the clout that comes with it can open almost any door and the relationships they have with producers and directors and writers are profound since they represent most of them.

Here is what the former head of a major studio and now Talent Manager has to say about "A" level agents vs "B or C" level agents: "When actors are young they are intrigued by the big building and their egos get stroked by potentially being sought after by a top 5 agency. But my job is to let them understand they they will get lost at the big agencies and that at this level in their early career, it does not serve them. If you have a young movie star on your hands, who has reason to believe that they could be the next Halle Barry or Ryan Reynolds, then when the time is right, you walk them into an APA or CAA or Paradigm just like Talent Agents Cindy Osbrink or Judy Savage has done and you become the mother agent. But if they are just going to be a hard working actor on a series and don't envision needing to be packaged, then you are good with a lower level agency."

Agencies play a numbers game and money is the sole objective. The more clients they have the more opportunities clients have to book and make the agency money. Therefore some talent agencies will have 500 to thousands of clients. Agents drop clients if they are not booking work. Every year during 'drop season', agents evaluate their roster and release the actors who are not getting jobs, network tests, producer's sessions and callbacks. Agents are not in the artist development business. They often do not take newcomers unless they are children. They prefer to have actors who already have credits and can prove their marketability. In today's market, actors often build up their own resumes through self-submissions,  or help from a talent manager until they are ready for the attention of an agent.  Today's actors must be very social media savvy and those with large Instagram, or YouTube followers can prove to be a huge draw for agents. 

Actors often have several agents working for them on their behalf. 
1) Talent Agent for Film and Television 
2) Commercials Agent for Commercials and Print work  
3) Voice Over agent 

Actors can have agents in different markets. For example they can have local Agents in their home state covering that region of the country and have agents in the larger markets.  If your hometown agent gets you a job, your agent (s) in the larger markets do not take commission and vise versa.


Legally managers are not allowed to procure employment for actors unless they have a Talent Agent License. Managers can not negotiate contracts on behalf of talent. For most performers, the reason they want a manager is because they think the manager will find them work in the industry. But in California, it’s actually illegal for anyone other than a licensed talent agent to procure of offer employment to actors, or others rendering professional services in motion picture, theatrical, radio, television and other entertainment enterprises. California Labor Code §1700.4. If a Talent manager is working in conjunction with a Talent Agent,  managers are legally allowed to be a part of the negotiations.

The following are some things that many talent managers may also do:

* Prepare talent for meetings with potential talent agencies.
* Arrange introductions to agents.
* Help talent decide on a talent agency for representation.
* Advise talent on acting classes and coaching.
* Help talent choose a good photographer and pick out headshots.
* Promote talent to industry professionals to try to help talent get auditions.
* Prepare resume or advise talent on preparation of a resume.
* Help make any and all decisions related to talent’s career.
* Answer questions on anything related to a career in show business.

Talent managers make sure that actors are accurately listed on IMDB, Actors Access, LA Casting and that an actor’s membership is current with SAG-AFTRA, and other collective guilds or unions; Managers determine an actor’s most marketable type and the kinds of projects on which an actor is most likely to find work; Managers will advise actors on their image, resume format and content, headshots, acting classes, demo reels, websites, personal appearance and overall career direction.

A talent manager also handles public relations, business matters, and helps to make a career plan and keeps the actor on a path toward success. An an actor's fame and career grows, most actors cannot juggle the acting demands, interviews, and appearances that come with a prominent career. That is where a talent manager comes in. They coordinate the actors schedule and speak on behalf of the actor.

Some talent managers are very hands on and give very specific instructions on every little step that you make in the entertainment industry, including exactly what acting teacher and coaches to use, workshops to attend, what photographer to use, where to get your haircut, and so on. Others have much more flexibility and only give you suggestions for these things. Managers are more or less the quarterback of the team (actor, manager, agents), setting a direction, telling the actor what they need to do to compete -- and giving them the bad news in terms of what they cannot do.

Managers take more of an interest in promoting, cultivating and marketing their actors. Managers will help actors understand contracts, compensation, billing practices, safety, and speak on your behalf when necessary. Personal mangers act as liaison between their clients and theatrical agents, other professionals in the entertainment industry, and the general public. When you have problems on the set or in a job an actor should always contact their manager, not their agent. It the managers duty to coddle, mold, advise and generally speaking, smother their clients with individual care, attention and at times emotional support. Managers have been known to deliver your favorite sandwich to the set if it makes you feel better.

The manager’s job is to guide and advise your career. If you haven’t been able to get an agent yet, the manager will guide you and help you become as marketable and attractive to talent buyers and agents as possible. When the manager feels you are ready to meet with agents, they may help you get an agent. Further, they help manage the artist's personal and professional life in a way that allows the artist to focus on creative productivity.

A manager is the artist's representative, and acts as liaison between their clients and both the public and theatrical agent, publicists, label, studio, publisher, talent agency, touring personnel, attorneys, business managers, and other professionals and anyone else associated with the artist's business. A manager works closely with the artist's publicists and stylists to create and maintain the artist's image. Depending on how hectic the artist/business schedule is, we also manage aspects of the artist's/business owner’s personal life such as hiring household staff, finding contractors, hiring doctors, nurses, personal assistants.

From simple suggestions, to complex negotiations, to long term career plans, a manager lives the artist's career every day behind the scenes. The manager's commitment to and involvement in the artist's career is one hundred percent. The personal manager is the driving force breaking through the barriers of frustration and difficulty so often encountered in the entertainment industry.

Personal managers have the expertise to find and develop new talent and create opportunities and develop marketing strategies for those artists which they represent.

Chris Giovanni President of CGEM Talent Management in LA/NY explains:

Talent Managers are the 'brand strategist' of your career. We are here to help develop and create opportunities for you. A talent manager's responsibility will include:

Handle business matters and negotiate contracts.

Arrange auditions and interviews with notable contacts, agents, and casting directors.
Submit you for roles that fit your typecast or character background.
Advise you on your casting material, providing references to industry professionals.
Give stellar advice on personal career tips, as well as build a personal relationship with you.
Public Relations — Your image is everything in show business.
Provide Career Advice and direction at all times — You should never feel stuck if you have a talent manager.
Create side jobs and produce branding project to help further you in your career.

Manager DO submit on breakdowns just like agents. For any audition we get you, your agent will close the deal in team effort.

Questions to ask this manager:
(1) What is the vision he has for your career?
(2) If there is anything you need to improve to help make his job easier with getting you opportunities.
(3) Does he submit on breakdowns and casting networks?
(4) The commission rate, terms, sunset clause?

I would honestly advise that you seek an attorney or someone with a great business background to review your contract.

Talent managers invest a great deal of time and energy into an actor’s potential, and into a long-term career for their clients, long before the actor has a track record of booking consistently. They typically work with their clients over a period of a number of years, sometimes for the entire duration of an actor's career. They tend to genuinely care about their clients, almost like a family, and protect their clients from the harmful situations that may be encountered in the dog-eat-dog world of show business. A personal manager is the one who believes in and keeps fighting for a client when all others have given up.

Agents in larger markets have very little time for direct interaction with actors and often prefer to work in conjunction with a manager. The manager deals directly with the actor, or the parents if the actor is a minor, and is a spokesperson on behalf of the client. Some actors only have a manager, some actors only have a talent agent. Actors who are working in Los Angeles typically have both if they are lucky and talented enough to get them. Managers tend to have a small limited roster of 50 - 100 clients which allows them to give clients much more personal attention. (Some of the larger management companies may have 500 clients.)

In the past, a talent manager’s focus has always been on managing an actor’s career rather than with arranging auditions. Talent managers keep in close touch with talent agents to ensure a shared vision for the actor, but a manager stays mostly on the management end of the actor’s career. Sometimes a talent manager may set up an audition for an actor, but that is not their focus unless that is part of the services they have agreed to provide to you. A talent manager will not guarantee auditions for an actor and does not have to. Securing auditions is the primarily the talent agent’s job.

Outside of the big entertainment industry cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Atlanta most actors across the country in the smaller markets only have talent agents. In smaller markets there are Mother Agencies that discover, develop and take talent to industry showcases where their clients can meet agents and managers from the bigger markets.

Just as with talent agents, an actor should never pay a talent manager up front or for representation. Because of the extensive amount of work talent managers do they take a higher percentage of an actor’s earnings than a talent agent does. Most managers earn 20% of every dollar an actor makes from ANY work they do in the entertainment industry across the board, that includes work the actor gets on their own and work the actor's agent gets them.

The differences between a talent agent and a talent manager vary, but their responsibilities are geared toward the same goal… advancing an actor’s career and getting the actor more acting jobs so the actors makes more money. A good manager will help shape the direction an actor goes so as to generate the most revenue. The bottom line is that when an actor succeeds and gets paid, everybody gets paid. Both talent agents and talent managers will work hard to make that happen.

The Bottom Line for Actors: Both talent agents and talent manager can be very important to the success of your career in entertainment. An important step to building a healthy and successful career is to understand the difference between the two.

WATCH THIS VIDEO: The Difference Between An Agent and Manager

And READ this wonderful article in Backstage written by my friend Matt Newton:

ALL NEW ACTORS SHOULD READ THESE BOOKS for step-by step instructions to get working in show business. They will be of great help to you. To buy click HERE

CREDIT DUE: Above article is compiled from personal experience, and various websites including National Conference of Personal Managers (NCOPM) and Talent Managers Association (TMA).


As always I am here to give actors Valuable information to help build a strong acting career. Stay close for information and resources you can TRUST.

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See You On The Red Carpet,

Wendy Alane Wright
Talent Manager, WAW Entertainment
Acting Career Coach
Secrets Of A Hollywood Talent Manager
IG: Wendyalane1

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