Do You Need a Personal Manager?

Choosing a personal manager is a big decision, regardless if they will be for a child actor or an adult performer. Knowing what to look for in a manager, and what to avoid, can help your first manager experience be a good one. As with any career decision, your child will probably change managers at some point, but making wise decisions can save you a lot of frustration.

The first question you should ask yourself is: Does my child really need a personal manager? In my book, Kids in the Biz, I outline several career indicators that help identify if a personal manager is even needed. In essence, if the day-to-day aspects of the business such as managing auditions, callbacks, going over residual and production payments and other business tasks are getting too much for you to handle, it is wise to look for a personal manager who can help you in those areas.

Many parents at this stage find themselves working more and more on their child’s career, and consider the possibility of quitting their job and becoming their child’s personal manager. Some may even think “If I’m going to give away 20%, might as well be to me.” This is WRONG and could lead to DISASTER.

Personal managers, especially those listed with the Talent Managers Association, rely not only on their business sense, but also on the contacts they have in the business. It is not very easy, or recommended, to jump in to your child’s career and call yourself a personal manager – it is more than just a title.

So how can you tell the good managers from the bad? As with anybody you meet, there are good manager and bad managers. A good place to start is looking for a manager who is a member of the Talent Managers Association. There are also books on acting that list talent managers and agents in the appendixes. A great one to look for is the Hollywood Representation Directory.

Managers I would recommend staying away from are a little more difficult to define. Generally, I would stay away from any agent or manager who solicits YOU. You should be the instigator in finding a personal manager, anybdoy who approaches you in a mall, over email, at an acting class or convention, or even on the street, should be scrutinized carefully. As much as I embrace the Internet, reject meeting with a manager just because you like their web site, or the web site of their clients – casting directors don’t care about how a web site looks.

While most legitimate managers are members of the Talent Managers Association, there are also some good managers who are not. Don’t let members of the TMA be an end-all criteria for meeting with a manager. Meet with your prospective manager with your child and see how they interract with you. Your best guide when choosing a manager is your gut feeling. If you have other people you know in the business, ask around. If you have an agent, ask them if they have heard of the manager. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

The actual process of getting a manager is too large of an article to post in this one. Bottom line is – be careful. The manager you choose will be a part of your child’s life for the next 6 months – year or longer. There are always ways to break a contract, but it is best to identify potential problems before they happen.

Vouchers Still In Place for Background Actors

In 2003, The Screen Actors Guild officially promised to move forward with a new system that would allow background performers, or extras, to join the union.

For many years, the most common way background performers joined SAG was by getting three union vouchers. When you work on the set as an extra, usually through one of the bigger extra casting agencies, you receive either a non-union, or union voucher. For adult actors, this would be Central Casting for union, and Cenex for non-union, however they are both the same company.

Getting a union voucher on a project instead of a non-union voucher was supposed to be the luck of the draw. Countless books on the subject would say “pay attention to what is happening on the set, and look for opportunities for the ‘bump.’” A bump is a specific action or lines given to an extra that will make them deserve a union voucher.

Unfortunately, since the goal for every actor was first to get into the Screen Actors Guild, the voucher system became corrupt. Friends of the assistant directors and the cast got preferential treatment, people were paying off decision makers with bribes, in short – it got ugly, and guild membership swelled.

SAG decided to revamp the system which would still use the union vouchers to an extent, but would assign points to specific things, other than acting, that would have to be totalled before a new member could join. For instance, you would get X many points if you attend a guild meeting, X amount of points if you helped distribute flyers for an upcoming initiative, etc.

As of today though – the system has not changed.

The official line from the guild is as follows:

The new system will provide two separate routes to Guild membership via background work: 1) Union (Covered) or 2) Non-union (Non-covered) work on SAG Signatory projects. A performer may also achieve points towards membership by participating in other designated activities that raise professional standards and support the basic aims of the Guild.

According to the SAG web site, there is a transition committee working to put the new joining requirements into place. The question on everybody’s mind is – when?

Until that happens – you are eligible to join the Screen Actors Guild after receiving three union vouchers, and paying the initiation fee. Other ways to join the guild are still in place, including having a line in a motion picture or television show.

Related Information:

Central Casting – union, adult
Cenex Casting – non-union, adult
Kids! Background Talent – Kids