Choosing the right one
The right agent can be an actor’s greatest champion, strongest supporter, and wisest counsel.
The Union “franchises” talent agents throughout the United States. A franchised agent is someone who has entered into an agreement with the Union setting forth certain terms and conditions of a SAG-AFTRA member’s relationship with an agent.
Although agents primarily seek out work opportunities for actors, they often do much more. They also help to ensure young performers are working under safe conditions, assist the Union in enforcing its contracts and help the parents understand their obligations regarding their child’s employment. There’s a reason so many actors thank their agents in their acceptance speeches at awards shows. The right agent becomes a friend and partner in nurturing a successful career. So choose wisely before signing with one.
In some areas, exclusivity of representation is customary; in other areas talent may be represented by several different agents (also called freelancing or “hip-pocketing”). Ask around before signing an exclusive contract to be sure you are not limiting your child’s opportunities unnecessarily.
Agents and Managers
Many young performers also work with managers. Managers are neither franchised nor regulated by the Union. And they are rarely regulated by state law. Here is a basic breakdown of the difference between an agent and a manager:
- Should be franchised under either SAG or AFTRA’s franchised agency agreement
- Generally licensed by the state as employment agencies
- Primarily focused on obtaining employment and negotiating contracts.
- May have a small or large number of clients
- Generally limited to charging a 10% commission
- Not licensed by the State, or franchised by the Unions.
- May counsel, advise and provide general career direction
- May assist an agent in securing employment for their clients (In NY and CA, they are not permitted to obtain employment without working with a licensed agent).
- Generally has fewer clients than an agent.
- Generally charges 10-15%.
- You should always have an attorney review a management contract before signing. Since they are not franchised, and often unregulated, it’s important to fully understand the terms and conditions of the relationship.
Many agents also represent children for “print work.” It is important to note that this type of work does not fall under the jurisdiction of any union.