A talent agent is responsible for securing employment opportunities for his or her roster of clients, which may include performers, screenwriters, composers, designers, and a number of other creative professionals in the entertainment industry. An agent differs from a talent manager in that an agent is licensed and operates under strict state and local laws. A manager is not permitted to procure employment on behalf of a client, nor are they allowed to negotiate contracts related to employment.
Talent agents labor to find jobs for clients by reviewing production notices and working contacts to investigate new projects that are in development. When the agent identifies a potential gig that is suited to the talent he or she represents, the agent will attempt to set up an audition with the casting director or book a meeting for the client with the producer and director. In preparation for the meeting, the agent will coach the talent through their monologue or discuss with the talent the script and other related background material that is pertinent to the production. This person is also tasked with updating the client’s reel; this is a video of clips displaying the talent’s work on previous projects. When necessary, the agent updates the client’s résumé and will contract with a photographer for headshots.
After a client has secured a job, the agent is then responsible for representing the talent in contract negotiations concerning salary, benefits, credit, and a myriad of other stipulations. When representing a client that is a member of a union or guild, the agent is bound by the minimum basic agreement as set forth by the union and cooperates closely with a business manager from that organization to ensure that contracts include the standard requirements established in the MBA. Talent agents who are members of the Association of Talent Agents are bound by agreements signed by that organization with the Directors Guild, Writers Guild, AFTRA, and similar unions. In all other business matters concerning the client, like personal appearances, endorsements, and other forms of service for an income, the agent is also present for negotiations and will continually work to provide for the best interests of the client. For their efforts, the agent is paid a commission from the client’s salary for each job secured by the agency. This is usually 10 percent of gross wages.
Skills & Education
A college degree in entertainment business is recommended, but a formal education in any relevant business or production field is applicable. Courses in entertainment law, public relations, marketing, and mass communications are also beneficial. Most importantly, a future agent must be familiar with the people and processes associated with his or her industry. Reading the trades compulsively is a good start. From there, the ability to learn quickly and charm/talk your way through any meeting (sales pitch) are the indispensible traits of a great talent agent. Of course, an eye for talent is a necessity. An agent will go broke without a roster of talented clients.
What to Expect
Characters portrayed in Entourage or by Mathew McConaughey in his role in Tropic Thunder are an exaggeration of the roles of talent agents but not terribly far off. The agent is in constant motion, striking deals over a plate of sushi, pumping up a depressed client, or holding a producer’s feet to the fire over a contract stipulation not yet met. The agent must be a best friend, confidant, and ferocious proxy for the roster he or she represents. At the same time, this person strives to create mutually beneficial relationships with casting directors, producers, directors, and other industry professionals. While tiffs and squabbles happen all the time, an agent cannot afford to burn bridges. To begin a career toward becoming an agent, most individuals start in an agent-training program—the mailroom. You will be tested to see how well you can take doing crappy work for crappy pay before you are given the opportunity to prove your talent. You are expected to work hard, pay attention, and learn as much as possible from the veterans around you. Only the most dedicated will persevere to attain advancement in the agency and eventually become a full-fledge talent agent.
Have some feedback for our editors? Contact Us