What is a talent agency?
This could be a very complex answer but let's break it down to as simple as possible. In Hollywood, agents act as the intermediary or middlemen between the actors and the studios. A while back it was the studios who had great power and control over the actors. The studios would discover and groom their own actors without the need of agencies. Talent agents came into existence because actors had many financial and legal disputes with the big studios and needed someone to represent them. Today, even though the major studios are still a dominant force in the industry, talent agents are just as powerful if not more powerful than the studios because the studios must go through the talent agents in order to hire the actors.
What types of talent agencies are there?
Agents can be basically broken down into different categories, A, B, and C. An “A level" agency has the greatest power, “pull”, and prestige, similar to how we would consider an "A" list celebrity. Most new actors are not even considered by these top agencies because they mostly handle the big stars. It is possible that one of these agents will approach you one day, (and they do have to approach you) the majority of the time these agents cannot be acquired, they go looking for you. It goes without say that you’d have to obtain a reasonable amount of success in film or television in order for these agents to approach you. Some of the top agents in Hollywood are Creative Artists (CAA), The William Morris Agency (WMA), International Creative Management (ICM), United Talent Agency (UTA) and many others as well, but those are often considered the top four. Just about every major star you see in the movies or on television most likely are represented by one of these four agents.
Here is a list of some popular actors and actresses and their agencies:
- Johnny Depp - United Talent Agency
- Orlando Bloom - International Creative Management
- Keanu Reeves - Creative Artists Agency
- Colin Farrell - Creative Artists Agency
- Brad Pitt - Creative Artists Agency
- Halle Berry - International Creative Management
- Keira Knightley - Endeavor Talent Agency
- Jennifer Aniston - Creative Artists Agency
- Eva Longoria - Creative Artists Agency
- Jessica Alba - Endeavor Talent Agency
Which agency is best for me?
Most actors seek representation from agents on the B and C (and sometimes D) levels. A legitimate talent agent is always considered "SAG Franchised”, which means that they are licensed and registered with the main actor’s union, The Screen Actors Guild (SAG). If they are not listed with SAG, you’re usually wasting your time because most major productions require SAG actors. Always ask an agent if they are SAG franchised before dealing with them. Also, most actors don’t realize that when they seeking talent representation, it is the agent who works for the actor. Another thing, legitimate agents receive a 10% commission off the jobs they book you. This is the standard legal set-up, 10% always goes to the agent, never more, never less. Talent managers are a different story than agencies however.
The A, B, and C levels are basically Hollywood’s “in-house” way of rating the agents. The level of the agent or agency is determined by prestige, experience, contacts (who they know), years in the business and who they represent. Having an agent on a “higher level” may determine you getting the role over another actor just as talented as you just because you are with a reputable agent. Agents spend most of the day on the phones, looking through the “breakdowns” (a daily listing of all the acting roles the studios/casting directors are seeking) and submitting pictures to casting directors, hoping to get you in on an audition. If an agent works hard for you, they may be able to get frequent auditions for you. This is a good thing because the more acting auditions you go on, the better chance you’ll have of getting a part. Agents also negotiate contracts and how much money you get if you do get an acting role. However, most of the days are spent trying to get you the audition.
There are many other factors that can determine you getting the role. Do you fit the part? A great headshot and having a good resume' is most important. In any occupation you must have some experience in order to get a job and the entertainment business is no different. There is a major importance on headshots and resumes for newcomers. There's got to be something to give you the edge over the others since competition is so fierce in this business.
Search for a talent agency in your area
There are many different types of agents for different types of talent. The main types are theatrical (Television and Film) and commercial (for commercials). There are also dance, print, voice-over,etc. Your agent may represent you for one or more of these categories. Being with the same agency for everything is called being "signed across the board." Many actors prefer to have separate agents for different types of work.
Agents get information about auditions for roles, either directly from casting directors and producers or from an insiders-only fax service called "the breakdowns." The breakdowns is a daily faxed list of roles being cast, and they are available only to agents and managers.
For each role, a casting directors will receive hundreds to thousands of resumes and headshots, from which they will narrow the field to the amount that they have the time and/or need to audition. There are so many actors vying for so few roles that talent agents act as the first step in the weeding-out process. In this field, where the supply so greatly exceeds the demand, just getting an audition is quite an accomplishment. And to get the audition, you need an agent. Click Here
Submit a talent agency
We want to help our members find and select a professional talent agency. We believe that your representation is the key to success in the entertainment industry. We ask all agencies to submit company information and we will refer our members to you. If you represent a SAG or AFTRA agency you will be automatically entered in our database. Click Here
*Note: We have to check your agency's background if you represent nonunion agency