Also questions to ask & how to know if they are legit or not!!
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No, not that A.A. We mean Agents Anonymous.
And their partner in deception, Mangers Anonymous.
These fringe types – operating on the outskirts of the mainstream entertainment industry –would love you to have you believe they’re legit, that they’re really an agent or manager, all the while employing their well-honed hidden agendas – skillfully aimed at playing into a dream and always separating you from your money, with nothing left to show for it.
In the approach of being positive and avoiding the temptation of degenerating into a bitch-fest,
A legit agent:
1. Never asks you to “sign” on the first meeting.
2. Never says you “should shoot with our photographer” as a not-too-veiled inducement to be represented by them. Note that legit agents may recommend a number of photographers or have a printed list. That’s OK.
3. Can only take a 10% commission of what you earn through them. By Law. They are actually employment agencies, licensed and bonded by New York State. However, print commission is usually 20%, where the “agent” morphs into a “manager” to be able to charge the higher rate.
4. Does not scout talent in malls. That development company territory.
5. Represents a limited number of actors. Not 500.
6. When wanting to meet with you, will meet with you individually, not as part of a group.
7. Doesn’t charge for representation or to be submitted for casting on Breakdown Services. Note that this is different from charging a small fee to be on a website – if this is the case, ask that to be taken from your next (or first) booking with them.
8. Does not take an assembly line, herd mentality to their actors. Doesn’t engage in emotional head trips, or “everyone’s doing it,” or promises of a quick fix or instant stardom.
9. Has a “brick and mortar” place of business. An office, preferably in an office building, not an apartment building. We know some “faux agents” whose “office” is Starbucks. Their office furniture: a cell phone.
10. Is at their office doing business during business hours. Any agent or agency you call during business hours and you get voice mail is a bad sign.
11. Is well-respected by real casting directors and managers. They can open doors for you, not close them.
12. Doesn’t have to go out of their way to impress you
13. Similarly, is really busy and may not have a lot of time to talk to you. They don’t have time to talk “about the business.”
14. Has access to the industry’s movers and shakers, the “go to” people; can pick up their phone and can make things happen.
15. Works their butt off as an agent, all the time. It’s an all-consuming occupation. They don’t have a lot of side deals going on. They’re focused on their job.
16. Never leaves you and your gut, wondering about something, but you can’t put your finger on it. Hint: it’s your innate sense of right and wrong trying to get your attention!
17. Is someone you wouldn’t mind introducing to your parents.
And, similarly, in addition to the above, a legit manager:
1. Is different from and should not be one’s best friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent, coach.
2. Answers the phone during office hours. No voice mails! Think if an agent or casting director had to do a fast booking for you and they call your “manager” and get a recording. You lose.
3. Doesn’t float between being a manager and an agent, depending on where the work and money is coming from.
4. Has clout and connections. They should be able to get you the proper agent representation. When they pick up the phone, things should happen.
5. Has 100% of their income from being a manager. This is what they do full-time. No temp jobs or other distractions.
6. Works with far fewer actors than an agent. That’s why they’re called “personal.”
7. Will work with you to put together a career game plan for both sides, and stick to it. This includes what should be accomplished at various times in the relationship.
8. Usually charges a industry-norm commission of 15% of your income.
9. Does not charge monthly fees for mailings, etc.
10. As a departure from agents, some legit managers do have their place of business in their apartment. This is acceptable, if all the other criteria hold up.
11. Are you working signed or free-lance? Most legit managers work signed. If “free-lance” enters the picture, why? What is the time commitment? In what areas/combinations are you working together – theatre, TV, commercials, print, moves, soaps and/or voice overs?
12. Knows who you are when you call…. (There must be a reason we’re saying this.)
13. Doesn’t shy away from initial interview questions like: a) How many actors do you represent? b) How many of my types do you have? c) What can I do for you and what can you do for me? d) How much of your income comes from being a personal manger? e) What agents do you work with? f) What other industry contacts do you have?
14. What happens if it doesn’t work out? What’s a professional, graceful exit strategy?
New York is a big town and there are a lot of very good agents and managers. They all need qualified actors. Stick with the winners. You’ll see the doors swing open. Leave the “faux agents” and “faux managers” to the “faux actors” as they try to impress each other. The legit types have better and more important things to do.
We should all be able to stand in the sunlight and say, “This is who I am and this is what I do.”