What’s the difference between the two? These are both valid questions asked by actors every single day. Knowing the answer to both can go a long way with the direction your career takes in the first few years.
Do you need both an agent and a manager? No you don’t. Some actors only have one or the other. Do keep in mind that by having both, you are obviously paying out a higher commission for jobs booked.
Now let’s break down each for what they offer.
An agent works for a talent agency. A good portion of these agencies are franchised by the union. Once you join the union (SAG-AFTRA) having a union franchised agent is a requirement. Agencies across the board are required by law to work out of an office and have a legal right to solicit employment for their clients. This is where the two differ.
Managers are technically not allowed to set up auditions as well as negotiate contracts. Their sole purpose is to help guide you through your career. Whether that’s recommending new headshots, finding the right classes, setting up meetings with agents or just making sure that your casting sites are up to date. That’s their focus. Essentially, marketing you. In addition, they can also work anywhere. A coffee shop, their home office, etc. Other important factors about managers is that they generally represent a fraction of the talent that an agent would. On top of that, their commissions for work booked is 15%. A 5% increase from that of an agent. Since the agent is tailored more to booking work in the now, communication with your manager is generally at a more frequent rate. They are cultivating your long-term success. Agents are more in the now. They thrive off the work you book. It’s more business than relationship building in most cases.
So, which is for you? There isn’t one answer for this. If you are looking for guidance and/or a strategic partnership then a manager may be for right you. A good manager can put you on the right track and help with connections. If you are confident in your marketing materials (headshot/resume) then seeking an agent may be the better option to start with as they can help you book work in the now. Either way, with a good agent or manager on your team, the path to success becomes a little easier.