What's the difference between an agent, manager or casting company? This is a common question for newcomers in the acting and modeling industry. Initially they all sound alike in the roles they play. Yet, there are key differences between all three and what they can and can't do for you as an aspiring actor/actress.
A casting company is basically a repository of actors/actresses/models and so forth. A casting company will not get you jobs but rather serve as a means to provide listings of available auditions. Essentially you will end up in a database with other actors allowing for you to be contacted if a relative audition opens and you are selected. Often you can post your resume, photos and, in some cases, voice and acting demo reels on the casting company's website. Some casting directors will use a casting company to fill extra positions. Casting companies can be beneficial in smaller markets outside of Los Angeles, New York or Atlanta where local acting jobs may be harder to find. Not all casting companies are the same. Do your research and make sure the company is legitimate and beware of scams.
The lines between an agent and a manager are where things can get a little blurry to newcomers in the industry. Most agents are not there to offer guidance or suggestions on how to further your career. An agent will typically work off a commission for jobs they line you up for. Their commission will generally be about 10% of what you make from the role you were cast for. Agents are there to get you in the door for an audition and get you roles. Again, when you're working, the agent is making money. Agents often seek out their clients in an effort to find actors and actress they can use to fill various roles. It's not uncommon for an agent to have many clients he or she works with.
Managers on the other hand are there to support you and help further your acting career. They will assist in helping develop you into a successful actor/actress. A good manager will make suggestions on which roles are the best fit. They will provide feedback on what you should do during the audition even down to what you should wear. They should provide attention in development and be a mentor as your acting career blooms. Unlike an agent, a manager will often have fewer clients as they are investing in your future. With that being said a manager will generally require you sign a multi-year contract to work with them. You can expect your manager will charge about 10-15% commission for any roles you land.
There is no question that any of the above will be beneficial to an acting career but not necessarily required for new actors or actresses. You don't have to have a manager to get roles. Show up to the auditions and as you meet other actors you will begin to hear names of agents, managers and agencies. Write down some names you hear for when the time is right to make that move in your career. Regardless if you're signing up with a casting company, an agent or a manager, again do your due diligence in researching them. Be sure your investment in you is being met. Building a good team with those that can help develop your career.