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Acting Agents & Acting Managers - What's the Difference?

Many acting class students at my New York Acting Class for Film School in Manhattan, New York City have inquired about the difference between an agent and manager so I will try to address this issue.

Traditionally, there is a definite distinction between the two.

First, let me say that you must have a strong acting resume, headshot, and know your craft thoroughly before you try to get and agent or manager. Acting classes, acting schools, and acting teachers in New York and Los Angeles will help you prepare.

Agents are business contractors who submit their pool of actors for various projects from The Casting Breakdowns in New York and Los Angeles. The “Breakdowns” are official casting notices distributed only to approved Agents and Managers; usually based in New York or L.A – land are not available to actors or laymen. Agents also get direct phone calls from casting directors and producers who are seeking talent.

Agents are primarily interested in their 10% commission and do not advise or promote their actors. Most reputable agents are signatories of The Screen Actors Guild and Equity and focus on Union talent and projects. Agents also have personal connections in the film and stage acting business and draw upon personal contacts and friends for favors and deals.

In recent years, many big agents have started packaging projects with name actors and in effect have become kind of producers.  This is a gray area, but not “officially” what an agent does. Also some agents are now working without a union affiliation and cast non-union projects. Often agents leave the fold and become Producers, using their experience and connections to develop projects.

A manager traditionally is a much looser term; however a he or she does many of the things that an agent does.

A Manager does not have a union affiliation, but may submit their talent for Union projects and also to agents. A certified manager will have direct access to the same casting breakdowns that agents use. Managers take a more personal interest in promoting, cultivating and marketing their talent. So a manager may advise you closely on your headshot, resume, career choices, and work as an advisor and guide.

Your manager may promote you vigorously to various agents for example, and help you get an agent. He or she will also submit you directly for all sorts of projects.

Managers usually take 15% commission (this may be in addition to and agent’s 10% assuming there's an agent involved).

In recent years, the role, function, and distinction between an agent and manager has become somewhat blurred and there is a lot of overlap. In the end, you want to work with someone who cares about you, gets you auditions, and can negotiate deals. And that's what's going to matter most to you.

By Mark Stolzenberg

Mr. Stolzenberg is the Director of The New York Acting School for Film and Television - which provides professional acting classes for film and Tv acting.