How to Excel at Becoming a Talent Agent
Do You Need a College Degree?
A skilled talent agent doesn't just recognize talent; he also knows what is going put his client at the top of the list of their particular trade. In movies, we call it the A-list.
Being a talent agent is a demanding job for any newbie to film. This field requires knowledge of marketing, law, promotions, and public relations.
You need a college degree: at least an AA in marketing. Most successful talent agents hold a degree in business law.
A talent agent may work for various people that have specific talents. The most common, of course, are actors, but others who work with talent agents include models, singers, musicians, directors, screenwriters, authors, and professional athletes.
Being a star is an agent's dream, not an actor's.— Robert Duvall
How an Agency Works
Talent agents usually pick a type of talent to work with and stick with that type throughout their careers. Many choose to work exclusively with children, professional athletes, or authors. Some work with television series actors, commercial actors or film actors, or high-profile celebrities.
The larger agencies create package deals with studios where they include the actor, screenwriter, and director clients in on the same movie production deal.
The larger talent agencies provide training programs, called internships, for individuals who are interested in a career as a talent agent. The agency requires the intern to do errands and paperwork, at first: very little to do with working directly with talent.
I wish to be cremated. One-tenth of my ashes shall be given to my agent, as written in our contract.— Groucho Marx
Ari Gold in Entourage
Whether or not being a talent agent is like Ari Gold in Entourage, it is crucial to know that the entertainment business is all about the "business."
If you want to be a talent agent, you need to be dedicated and willing to work hard and be apart of the business of making movies, taking in sports, or reading a lot of scripts. Whatever niche you pick, make sure you love it to death and are willing to support your clients for blood.
Learn the Rules
When you join a talent agency, it is very wise to learn the rules of the land. You need to find out the dos and don’ts of the group. You do not want to step on anyone’s toes or make a blunder that could cost the agency in money and reputation.
When an agency hires you, you begin as an assistant. The agency assigns you to an experienced agent, and you help them with their clients. How long you are in that position depends on how hard you work and how well you get along with other people in the agency. If you have a specialty like law or public relations, you move up relatively soon - a year or two.
What a Talent Agent Does
Here are everyday tasks an agency does:
- Meeting with current or potential clients to find out what type of talent they need for their upcoming projects, and make talent suggestions.
- Promoting talent to different clients through networking and public relations is primary in setting up auditions and jobs.
- Scheduling or booking appointments to attract work for talent. Regulations and appropriate working hours and regulations need to adhere to by the agent and agency.
- You are marketing the talent agency itself to obtain more talent. Procuring talent is a very competitive aspect of an industry town. So, keep your wits about you.
- Collecting fees due upon booking of auditions or obtaining employment of talent. Billing requires a 30-day cycle.
- You arrange classes and workshops, such as voice, acting, and specialized training, so that the talent can advance in his or her craft.
Agencies Keep Track of Residuals
One time a friend of mine heard a commercial she starred in went regional, which should have meant more pay (residuals) for her as an actor. Without an agent, it would have been trying for her to prove the increase in residuals.
She contacted her agent and explained to him what happened. He immediately called the company responsible and got her residuals plus penalty fees. The agent earned his 10% fee as well.
An Agency's job is to keep track of its clients residuals. Clients should receive residuals each time a commercial, TV, or movie airs on a network, cable, or streaming outlet.
Every time I try to retire or even think of retiring from acting, my agent comes up with a script.— Anthony Hopkins
Differences Between "Union" and "Non-Union" Towns
In "union towns," union agencies are registered with the unions and follow the rules according to what the organization states. Working for a union agency is the ideal way to go because then everyone in the business is on the same page. Study the union rules on your own: the right way is the union way.
Non-union agencies are not regulated, so they operate under different rules than union agencies. They can throw you a curve and present you with unexpected situations.
When looking for work as a talent agent in a non-union or non-industry town, your options are limited. Try locating and listing the agencies within a 100-mile radius. Meet with each owner or manager and see if there is any way you can help the agency. Ask to intern for three months, and then be considered for a permanent position.
Don't think being an agent is a cushy job. It takes hard work and dedication, working with the talent you support to the core. It's also a people's person job that requires handholding and knowing when to offer sound advice to your client.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2007 Kenna McHugh