Assembling a winning team: Finding and choosing an Agent

WHAT DOES AN AGENT DO?
If you think of your entertainment career as you would any business or company, you are the production group, ultimately… the product you're selling. The Talent Agent should be thought of as your Marketing and Sales department. It's his or her job to find you jobs, to get you employment.
An Agent's job is to “sell” you to casting directors, producers, etc. A good agent will review all the casting opportunities in town and figure out which ones are good prospects for your particular type, look, style, etc. Then, the Agent sends your photo to the casting director, follows with a call, and with luck, arranges for an audition, interview, or screen test.
In some states, such as California and New York, agents and agencies must be licensed. Agencies range in size from the one-person operation to the giants like CAA (Creative Artists Agency), ICM (International Creative Management) and the William Morris Agency. Smaller agencies often specialize in one or two areas of the industry, while the larger agencies handle them all. It's not unusual for actors to have different agents for different parts of their careers: Theatrical (movies), Television, Commercials, Stage, Modeling, Voice-over. Since each of these areas is a business in itself one agent can't possibly do it all. For starters, you’ll probably want to have a commercial agent and a TV agent… possibly a Theatrical agent too.

AGENCY AGREEMENTS

Most agency agreements have an initial term of two or three years, often with an option for the agent to extend for an additional one-year period. Like personal managers, talent agents are paid commissions, generally from 10 to 20 percent of the Artist's earnings. Most performers' unions impose a cap of 10% on agent's commissions. Since Agency agreements are almost always exclusive, the agent will receive the commission on all monies earned by the artist, regardless of whether the agent was involved in booking the job.
Largely as a result of the influence of the performer's unions in securing artist friendly contracts, agency agreements are, for the most part, non-negotiable. One provision that's often available is an earnings benchmark. That is, if the artist does not earn a predetermined amount within the first year of the contract, the contract may be terminated. Another important provision is a so-called key person clause. This insures that, should the artist's handling agent (the key person) leave the agency, the artist may terminate the contract and move to another agency.

FINDING AND CHOOSING AN AGENT

Finding an Agent can be tricky. First, you’ll have to do some legwork to identify agents who represent young Artists. Send your resume and photo to all of them. Then, after two or three weeks, you'll want to follow up with a polite phone call. Hopefully, a few agents will agree to meet with you. Once you get to this stage, it's all about your sparkling personality! Of course, as with most aspects of the entertainment industry, the best method to finding an agent is word of mouth. Referrals from other actors, managers, attorneys and other industry professionals are the most likely road to getting signed.
Similarly, word of mouth is an important tool in selecting the right agent. As with all members of your team, your agent must be someone familiar with the market for your particular talent and for the fields in which you will be working. Among the most important traits of a good agent is his or her enthusiasm about working with you. Though being represented one of the giant agencies can be terrific, it's often more advantageous to work with a smaller, but more energetic agent, who truly believes in you. Ultimately, the agent may be the most important member of your team, so it's important to select carefully.

This article originally appeared in “Callback Kids” Magazine

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