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Tools of the Trade

by Shauna Smith Duty


What’s an agent? Who needs a manager? Aren’t they the same thing?

As experienced professionals with inside connections, a great manager and agent could kick your child’s showbiz career into full gear. They can also save you, the parent, time and energy. Let’s first address what these two professionals do, how much their services cost, and how they could help you and your child.

Agents are state licensed professionals who find work for your child, much like an employment agency. They charge 10 percent commission for services, and they can work with as many or as few actors as they feel they can handle. Bottom line: an agent finds your child auditions that could land paying jobs. And, because they are commission-based, if your child doesn’t work, they don’t get paid.

Managers work more closely with actors to guide their careers and open up possibly unrecognized avenues for success. Actors work with their agent to get into the business, finding trusted photographers for headshots, learning how to choose the best photos for submissions, developing publicity like a resume and cover letters, and hopefully landing some auditions. It is not unusual for an actor to work with a few agents while under contract with a manager. This is completely acceptable and can increase potential for success. Managers expect 15 percent off the top for compensation. A good manager can usher your child into showbiz, show you the ropes, and help you make wise career choices.

JJ Minnick, co-owner of Go Talent in Los Angeles says, “I was more discouraged than anything when I was a young actress. I only wish I’d have had better tools.” As manager to many child actors, JJ routinely helps her clients choose the best headshots, find improv and acting classes, and create promo materials. She also makes certain that children have the proper work permits, follow labor laws, and establish Coogan accounts if they’re working in California. She knows that LA and New York are the best places for her clients to find high-paying work, and she can advise them on which agencies to pursue, such as William Morris, ICM, Osbrink, Bobby Ball, Diverse, or Daniel Hoff.

She describes managers and agents as “two essential structural supports for your team.” Areas like LA and New York offer higher paying gigs, but they’re also saturated with applicants, so, JJ says, “you can get lost in the crowd, especially if you don’t have a team of experts who know the ropes and are dedicated to guiding your success.” She recommends that her clients stay busy with film work in the off-season. Student films and community theatres are good forums for professional child actors to practice and hone their skills between peak audition seasons.

If you have the time and energy to invest in your child’s career full-time, you may want to consider being your child’s manager. Because no license is required, many parents act take on this important role. Of course, a huge amount of dedication, time investment, and energy are required. You’d have to learn all about the industry, from the legal and financial aspects, to finding a photographer and landing gigs. It’s not easy.

Self-Management for Actors: Getting Down to (Show) Business by Bonnie Gillespie (Cricket Feet Pub., 2006) has many 5-star reviews at Libraries of books are available for parents who want to explore managing their child’s career, and the Internet also has terrific resources. You can find support and guidance right here at from other parents who have experienced your ideas, struggles, and questions. Because you know your child best, and also because you probably care more about his success than anyone else on earth, you may be the best talent manager he could ever have.

So, do you need an agent? Most likely. Do you need a manager? That’s one you’ll have to think about. Knowing what these professionals offer, and understanding your options, are steps toward success. For a comprehensive listing of agents and managers, check out a subscription service to Ross Reports at



Tue, Dec 07, 2010 12:47pm

Please, Can someone look at my baby pics and help me with resources.

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