Okay. Talent Agents, Booking Agents, Managers...What they can and can't do and why they aren't lawyers.

Very Generally,


As an actor or model you are a sole proprietor or business entity and should treat yourself as such. Just like lawyers you are selling your time and delivering your craft. However, the transfer of goods and services is the same whether you are selling plate lunches or your ace performance.

Hawaii is the wild west when it comes to licensing for managers, talent agents, booking agents and the aforementioned agencies.


A talent manager, also known as a "manager", is one who guides the career of artists in the entertainment business. The duty of the talent manager is to oversee the day to day business affairs of an artist; to advise and counsel talent about professional matters and personal decisions which may affect their career.


A young model or actor will often start with a manager because agents are reluctant to sign untested talent.


A talent agent on the other hand.

Stands in the Actor’s shoes and is their representation

Negotiates contracts (see why aren’t they lawyers below)

Books the assignment on the Actor’s behalf

May do the invoicing and distributes payment to the Actor.


An actor or model may have several agents but should only have one manager. Most importantly the agent has apparent authority. Meaning, the law may hold the actor liable for the acts of the agent done on their behalf unless the actor notifies the other parties of a termination in the agency relationship.


Usually an agent specializes in a particular market, such as commercials because that is their primary client base. Yet an actor might be interested in acting in feature films. A good manager promotes the entertainer in all the areas where the actor has an interest and locates or has relationships with agents that specialize in that market.


Casting directors are hired by the producers and directors to audition talent for roles. Their job is to find, screen and get the best talent to the producer and director for the final hiring. They also know how to negotiate and finalize the talent's contracts (see why aren’t they lawyers below), however, they are not representing you and they are not your agent. This is an area where many actor’s have problems. Because of their relationship with a casting director they may assume the casting director is representing them. The casting director is representing the producers and directors. It is your agent's and your duty to get your photos and resume in front of casting directors.


Booking agents work in the middle ground between artists and their fan base. For example booking agents for actors arrange for that actor’s appearance at certain venues, events, meet and greets, product endorsements, etc.

In the industry manager, talent agent, casting director, booking agent are often mixed and matched and there is even a trend that shows many agents are labeling themselves as managers in an effort to circumvent onerous and restrictive agency requirements and licensing.


So...Why aren’t all these persons lawyers?

The number one reason why Talent Agents, Booking Agents and Managers aren’t lawyers is because lawyers are pessimistic people. Agents, Casting Directors and Managers are happy optimistic people. Lawyers are trained from the time they are little Keiki lawyers to look for everything that can and will go wrong. Others in the entertainment business are looking at everything that is going to go so right, like your big break and the $$. There is no area of law where pessimism is more important than Contracts law. In fact, the entire area of Contracts law is focused on what will happen when everything goes down the tubes. Unfortunately, there is antediluvian language like force majeure, liquidated damages and impracticability used to describe what happens when things go down the tubes and that is where pessimistic lawyers come in.


That leads us to our second reason:

If you want to test the second reason why Talent Agents, Booking Agents and Managers aren’t lawyers just ask your agent or manager to describe to you the six (6) legal elements required of every contract. This may be a wake up call for the both of you. However, ask yourself: How can this person be negotiating or relying on a document when they are unaware of the most basic elements required to make that document a legally binding contract? This is not meant to be an unattractive assessment of agents or managers. God forbid everyone become an awful lawyer.

Hope this helps to inform for your next gig! ALOHA

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Replies to This Discussion

Very informative and helpful posting. I hope everyone reads this. I know I just when through a Sisyphean task of cutting ties with a very bad agency here in Hawaii and getting my contract with them canceled. Crawling from Kona to Hilo would have been easier and less painful. Now I fear they're badmouthing me and "blacklisting" me to former clients.
I truly appreciate your honest assessment of the different roles these entities play in an actor's or entertainer's career. I agree that everyone should read this posting and learn the truth. Again, mahalo!



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