How do I know if I have a Professional Agent?
by Spencer McCoy
How do i know if the agent i am looking into representing me is not just some scammer?
The number one rule is that no money should come out of your pocket. Legitimate agents do not ask for money upfront for marketing you or taking your headshots or ANYTHING. They make their money from commissions only, once you booked a job. When you do an acting job, the production company pays your agent who takes out a 10% commission and gives you the rest (for print work, commercials, and non-union jobs, the commission can be up to 20%). Sometimes, when you get paid directly, you will have to pay your acting agency the commission, but that's after you got an acting job.
Also, a legitimate agent will not require that you work with a particular photographer or acting coach. They may recommend you get new headshots or give you a list of people they like to work with, but they shouldn't request that you pay a specific individual in order to get representation. The only exception is legitimate online casting websites. They may ask that you sign up for CastingNetworks that has a small fee and possibly Now Casting (Actors Access is free).
One other thing you can do is see if they're a member of ATA, the Association of Talent Agency. This association has business guidelines that their members have to follow. If your agency isn't, that doesn't mean they're not legitimate, of course, especially if you're outside of NYC and LA.
Ask questions during your agent interview. Find out who the agent represents and how many of their actors get work. You can look at these questions to ask acting agents for ideas. If you're still not sure after the interview, see if you can work with the agent on a freelance basis for a while without signing a contract so you can "try it out".
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