The Difference Between an Actor's Agent and a Manager

By Mark Stolzenberg

Mark Stolzenberg Acting CoachMany of my acting students 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, it’s important to note that you need a good head shot, a strong acting resume, and a thorough knowledge of your craft before you seek an agent or a manager. There are several acting schools and teachers in New York who can help you prepare.

Actor’s Agents

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. and are not available to actors or the layman. Agents also get direct phone calls from casting directors and producers who are seeking talent.

Agents are primarily interested in their 10% commission. They don’t advise their actors or promote their careers. Most reputable agents are affiliated with The Screen Actors Guild and Actor’s Equity; they focus on Union talent and projects. Some agents work without a union affiliation and cast non-union projects. Many agents have personal connections in the film business. They can draw on these personal contacts and friends for favors.

More recently, many major agents have begun packaging projects with well known actors; in effect, they’ve become a kind of producer. But this is not officially what an agent does. Often agents leave the agent business altogether and become producers.

Actor’s Managers

A manager traditionally is a more loosely defined term, but managers take more of an interest in promoting, cultivating and marketing their actors, functioning as an advisor and guide. A manager may advise you on your headshot, your resume, and your career choices. Your manager may help you get an agent.

A manager also does many of the things that an agent does. While a manager does not have a union affiliation, he may still submit an actor to Union projects and also to agents. A certified manager will have direct access to the same casting breakdowns that agents use.

Managers usually take 15% commission, which may be in addition to an agent’s 10% if an agent is involved.

In recent years, the distinctions between an agent and manager have blurred a bit, and there is a lot of overlap. Ultimately, you want to work with someone who cares about you, gets you auditions, and can negotiate deals.