"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dear Struggling Actress

Musician Paulina has a question about representation:

I was recently offered representation from an agent, but I have no idea if
the contract is appropriate. Do most agencies take 20%? And the agency is
a "talent management company licensed by the state of California." What
does that mean? Should I take the contract to an entertainment lawyer, and
if so, do you have any suggestions about who I should see?
Hey Paulina, thanks for reading! And here we go:

It's not clear to me whether or not the person wanting to rep you is an agent or a talent manager. You need to ask them because there is a big difference between a talent agency and a talent management company. An agent is legally able to submit you for jobs and negotiate your contract. Most are SAG franchised, which is basically a stamp of approval from the screen actors union, and many use the SAG standard contract when they sign you. A talent manager, however, is not legally able to submit you for jobs (although most do) and cannot legally negotiate your contract. They are there to help guide your career, your appearance, make introductions for you to agencies, etc.

This is why you need to know:

Agents are only allowed to take a 10% commission. UNLESS it is for a non-union job. Then they can take up to 20%. Non-union jobs are usually less money, and some agents qualify their 20% by saying it helps make up for that. (There are MANY agents, however, who will not submit you for non-union, or if they do, do NOT take 20%.)  For instance, it is industry standard with print jobs, which are non-union, for your rep to make 20%. It depends on your contract with your agent.

Managers are legally able to take up to 20% for their services. But most don't. Most cap it at 15%. The top tier ones (you know managing, say, JLo or an Olsen Twin) will only take 10%. Or 9. Or 8. If you're making a ton of money, they'll take less to keep you.

And I checked out your website: are you an Actress/Singer/Songwriter, or just a Singer/Songwriter? Is your representation for your music or for acting? If it's only for music, it could be a whole new ballgame, filled with answers I don't know.

Does anyone in the music industry have any tips for Paulina? Paulina, let us know if this is for an acting career, or for your music. And find out if the person wanting to rep you is an agent or a manager.


Paulina emailed me back:

Hi Lira!

Thank you so much! This helped tremendously. I'm so new to acting and
representation issues; I had no idea where to begin and your response was
a huge help. Your questions are questions I have as well, but I couldn't
figure out how to word them, so thank you so much for your blog post. It
really helped me clarify the things that I need to understand.

I talked to the agent on the phone today (it's just for acting, by the
way) and got some more information, and I'm scheduled to meet with her
next week. I'm going to set up a short meeting with an entertainment
lawyer next week to go over the contract first, to make sure I understand
it. I'm pretty familiar with music contracts, but not acting contracts, so
hopefully this will all work out! :)

Thank you again! So grateful for your help!


So hooray! Paulina is going to meet with a lawyer to completely understand her contract and meet with the interested rep in order to fully understand what she wants. After doing all her research, she'll be able to make a fully informed decision that's best for her. Yay!

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