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Working in the Industry
The film industry is often filled with so many different people that it can get confusing as to who does what. As with any large-profit industry there are many people that deal with the handling, transfer, and representation of talent and material. In this you have both agents and managers, who each have their own function.
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An agent is someone who represents a person within the industry. They are aware of your talent or ability to produce properties and then contacts financiers and distributors to sell projects or you as a person to be involved with an existing project. They are the main person to rely on in terms of finding and selling work. For example, if you are a director you have your agents either find projects that are in the works for which you may be eligible or to try and sell you along with a project you have already been developing. There is a legal precedence for an agent, which is ten percent of any amount of money you make from which their services were used. This does not just mean work that they got you specifically but any work that is within the scope of your purpose for hiring them. That means that even if you find a film project entirely on your own you still need to pay them that ten percent. This does not usually include residuals that a person makes from a project. There are often different classifications of agents that represent different types of positions, such as directors/producers or below the line positions like art designers. Agents tend to be involved all the way from the pitching process, which they are heavily involved in, all the way through post-production and distribution. Agents also tend to have a large number of clients, usually through a huge agency that employs them.
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Managers are similar in function to an agent but tend to be even more involved and have fewer clients. They do not have the same ten percent cap, but it is still usually in the fifteen to seventeen percent range. They often take on the role of agent and publicist and help them arrange everything in their lives. If they have legal council and assistants the manager will work with that, as well as dealing with them on a day to day basis. A manager is meant to coordinate the lives of working industry professionals who do not have time, or concern, to worry about practical considerations in their lives.
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Too Many People
If you are an industry leader you may also have various assistants, publicity representatives, lawyers, and other people stick their hands in your pocket. Unless you are absolutely huge in the business you will do fine with just an agent or manager, as long as they are doing their job on all fronts.