Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Difference between Agents & Managers

I recently got an email (one of dozens I’ve gotten on this subject) asking me if I could -

“explain the difference between an agent and a manager and tell me which would be better for me to sign with – which will be better at getting my career going?”

Here’s my answer:

Dear Friend Talent,

Neither an agent, nor a manager, can help you “get your career going.”

The concept that a powerful man or woman can step in and help you skip all the hard work involved in building an acting career - is a “fairy tale.”

There is no shortcut to the top of show business (or even to the middle, for that matter).

There’s also no Great Pumpkin or Tooth Fairy.

If it could be done this way, then agents and managers would simply pick out any talent from of the thousands of headshots they get every week – and turn them into stars.

Hey, presto!

But, it cannot be done this way.

This is the main reason agents and managers are generally so unresponsive to unsolicited submissions.

The good ones are pros and they’re not going to waste their valuable time trying to accomplish what they know cannot be done.

As to the difference between agents and managers: Their businesses are similar - but not the same.

One sells a product.

The agent is a sales person for the product known as YOU. Sales people (agents) judge how well their business is going – by how much money they make.

A really good sales professional likes to make lots of money.

If your product is not saleable (one that people aren’t ready to buy yet) then a sales person won’t make a lot of money selling it (you).

Not surprisingly, agents are coldly business-like about this part.

Until you’ve managed to start your career yourself (making money as an actor) don’t expect any really good sales people to be particularly interested in representing your ‘line.’

Managers are just what the word implies.

The manage things.

Mailings, bookings, transportation, job offers, promotion - the day-to-day business of YOU. (But keep in mind that in most markets, they are precluded, by law, from seeking work for you.)

The top managers are usually the top managers because they manage very successful careers.

In the past two decades the professional manager class has had its own difficulties with an influx of “bottom feeders.”

The worst of these are outright crooks, whose only goal is to separate you from you money or your credit card with no intention of helping you in any way.

Almost as bad are the ineffectual show biz hangers-on who rent offices and go about the business of “signing” practically anyone who walks through their door - then what they do is they send out your pictures to every little thing listed in the Breakdowns.

All they are risking is postage.

Since these folks are generally clueless themselves, they will submit you for stuff you aren’t right for.

This is a good way to get labeled as a clueless actor by the casting people.

Many young actors are fooled into thinking that they must have a manager, any manager - that it’s “good business”.

It usually isn’t.

In reality you are signing an agreement to give someone 15% (or more) of your income after YOU successfully ESTABLISH YOURSELF as an talent who makes money.

Bottom feeders spend a great deal of their business day writing threatening letters to collect money from talents who have realized their mistake and don’t want to pay 15% of their income for someone to do ineffective mailings.

Since the agreement you sign with a manager is often an employment contract – you are the employer and they are the employee – they almost always win in court.

The big boys (and girls) in the management game, are just like agents when it comes to money.

They want to manage a “going concern” and they spend all their time looking for the next “big thing.”

Think about that.

Since professional managers make a boatload of money when they manage to sign on with a Vin Diesel or J-Lo - isn’t it reasonable to assume that they are LOOKING ALL THE TIME.

In fact, they hire people to look - they’ve got part-time, secret lookers on their payroll.

Believe me, If you have what they want - if you are a going concern with a name that you’ve made for yourself - they know their managing skills will take you to a whole new level (making LOTS of money) and they get a big chunk of a LOT - then, believe me, they will seek you out.

Most important point:

As long as you continue to believe that your main job is looking for someone else to help you ‘get your career going’ – you won’t be spending enough time doing the crucial things you need to do yourself, to build your own career.

This is a very bad tactic – which almost always results in frustration, wasted years and, ultimately, failure to achieve what you want.

If you don’t concentrate on doing your part it’s unlikely that you will ever build your business into something big enough to be noticed by a good agent or a good manager.

In other words, by all means keep looking for a sales staff, and a management team - but don’t neglect your business while you’re doing it.

Hope that helps.

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