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Industries & Professions /
Talent Agents and Scouts
Talent agents act as representatives for actors, writers, artists, models, and others who work in performing and visual arts, fashion, and advertising. They look for clients who have potential for success and then work aggressively to promote their clients to film and television directors, casting directors, production companies, advertising companies, publishers, catalog companies, photographers, galleries, and other potential employers. Agents work closely with clients to find assignments that will best achieve clients' career goals.
Agents find clients in several ways. Those who work for an agency might be assigned a client by the agency, based on experience or a compatible personality. Some agents also work as talent scouts and actively search for new clients, whom they then bring to an agency. Or the clients themselves might approach agents who have good reputations and request their representation. The methods agents use to locate talent are different, depending on each agent's specialty. Modeling, acting, and broadcasting agents review portfolios, screen tests, and audio recordings to evaluate potential clients' appearance, voice, personality, experience, ability to take direction, and other factors. A literary agent reads scripts, books, articles, short stories, and poetry submitted by writers. An artist's agent looks at portfolios and original works of art, visits galleries, attends art fairs, and visits student exhibitions. All agents consider a client's potential for a long career—it is important to find people who will grow, develop their skills, and eventually create a continuing demand for their talents.
When an agent agrees to represent a client, they both sign a contract that specifies the extent of representation, the time period, payment, and other legal considerations.
When agents look for jobs for their clients, they do not necessarily try to find as many assignments as possible. Agents try to carefully choose assignments that will further their clients' careers. For example, an agent might represent an actor who wants to work in film, but is having difficulty finding a role. The agent looks for roles in commercials, music videos, or voice-overs that will give the actor some exposure. A model's agent might find shooting assignments for fashion catalogs while searching for a high-profile assignment with a beauty and fashion magazine.
Agents also work closely with the potential employers of their clients. They need to satisfy the requirements of both parties. Agents who represent actors have a network of directors, producers, advertising executives, and photographers that they contact frequently to see if any of their clients can meet their needs. Models' agents are in touch with magazine and catalog publishers, advertising firms, fashion designers, and event planners. Literary agents have contacts in the publishing world, including small and large presses, magazines, and newspapers. Artists' representatives know gallery owners, art dealers, and art book publishers.
When agents see a possible match between employer and client, they speak to both and quickly organize meetings, interviews, or auditions so that employers can meet potential hires and evaluate their work and capabilities. Agents must be both persistent and aggressive on behalf of their clients. They spend time on the phone with employers, convincing them of their clients' talents and persuading them to hire their clients. There may be one or several interviews, and the agent may coach clients through this process to make sure clients understand what the employer is looking for and adapt their presentations accordingly. When a client achieves success and is in great demand, the agent receives calls, scripts, and other types of work requests and passes along only those that are appropriate to the interests and goals of the client.
When an employer agrees to hire a client, the agent helps negotiate a contract that outlines salary, benefits, promotional appearances, and other fees, rights, and obligations. Agents have to look out for the best interests of their clients and at the same time satisfy employers in order to establish continuing, long-lasting relationships.
In addition to promoting individuals, agents may also work to make package deals—for example, combining a writer, director, and a star to make up a package, which they then market to production studios. The agent charges a packaging commission to the studio in addition to the commissions agreed to in each package member's contract. A strong package can be very lucrative for the agency or agencies who represent the talent involved, since the package commission is often a percentage of the total budget of the production.
Agents often develop lifelong working relationships with their clients. They act as business associates, advisers, advocates, mentors, teachers, guardians, and confidantes. Because of the complicated nature of these relationships, they can be volatile, so a successful relationship requires trust and respect on both sides, which can be earned only through experience and time. Agents who represent high-profile talent make up only a small percentage of agency work. Most agents represent lesser known or locally known talent.
The largest agencies are located in Los Angeles and New York City, where film, theater, advertising, publishing, fashion, and art-buying industries are centered. There are modeling and theatrical agencies in most large cities, however, and independent agents are established throughout the country.