In today’s industry, representation is still mostly described from the male’s perspective. To shake things up a bit, I sat down with LA managers Tina McDonald and Abby Johnson, as well as New York manager Sherry Kayne of The Green Room– a “full service talent management company that prides itself on representing uniquely talented and driven performers.”
How long have each of you been working in representation?
T: “I started 5 years ago at a company called Lane Management Group, which was my first management position. During college I interned for three different production companies. After I graduated from college I decided that I would try a job at an agency or management company to get more comfortable with the names in the industry… and I never left!”
A: “I have been in the business for 4 years. In college I majored in Broadcast Journalism and minored in Entertainment Management. After graduation I started an internship in Santa Monica at a management company as a complete beginner. Eventually I was asked to start bringing on my own clients as I transitioned into a Junior Manager position. From there I moved to a company called DreamScope Entertainment representing many child actors, after that I took a Head Manager position at a production/management company, and now I’m here!”
S: “I started this year, but I was a lawyer for many years and had a background in public relations. This job seemed to be a good fit with the knowledge I gained from managing my daughters in their careers and networking for about 10 years. I have connections on the east coast, west coast and everywhere in-between and feel like this was what I was meant do. Since I was a “momager” to my kids, and I represent youth and young adult talent, I have found my experiences on the other side make me uniquely understanding of youth talent concerns.”
Do you feel like actors often misunderstand the difference between an agent and a manager, and if so, how would YOU describe the difference?
T: “In my opinion, in today’s industry our job is to manage the entire career of an actor. We help them get working, and once that starts picking up, we figure out what the best next step is for their career. For example, what jobs they should take or leave, what roles they should target, etc. An agent’s job is to generate as many appointments as possible, bring in the bookings and negotiate the contracts.”
A: “Adding to that, when our actor’s career starts taking off and their team starts to grow; we set them up with the right team. This includes a good entertainment attorney to negotiate bigger deals, a publicist to help platform off of the TV or films they are currently working on, etc.”
S: “I think that actors have expectations that agents can’t always meet- they aren’t there to manage the career, the long term- that’s why a manager makes sense. They are much more inclined to be communicative because they generally have smaller rosters and focus more on the individual actor.”
What is one thing you wish actors understood about your job?
T: “We are always working. You don’t need to call and tell us that a role is out there; trust us, we’ve seen it probably days or weeks before you have. Your representation wouldn’t have taken you on unless they wanted you to make money and book jobs. They’re going to do whatever they can do to make that happen. We don’t criticize your materials or choices to provide excuses, but rather to make sure you’re putting the strongest version of yourself out there. I feel like sometimes actors take things negatively, when in reality we are thinking about things from a business-perspective and are seeing the big-picture.”
A: “We are ALWAYS working for you. I know a hard part about this business for actors is the rejection phase, but remember your managers/agents go through that same rejection dozens of more times for you than you realize. When you don’t book something, we’re just as bummed too!”
S: “I wish they would understand that we want them to audition and book just as much as they do- that we are pitching and submitting but sometimes, casting has something entirely different in mind than just what it says in the breakdown and so it may be harder than they think to get them into a certain casting room. I also wish they’d understand that much of the roles are decided in advance and a breakdown isn’t even released, so when they see a character on TV and wonder why they weren’t called in for that- well it may have just been a straight offer.”
What is the hardest part of your job?
T: “The hardest part for me, is the idea that none of this is really in our power. You may fall under the illusion that if you work harder or longer or push clients more it will result in more bookings, but the reality is that there are still so many elements outside of your control. Letting go is a tough one. You’re better off just to keep moving forward instead of dwelling.”
A: “Our job isn’t a job- this sounds so cheesy, but it’s our life! Because our clients are constantly working or traveling to work, we need to be available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
S: “Saying to someone that I cannot represent them. There are so many talented actors out there and I love that they are chasing their dream, but I have to consider my roster. I can’t have too many actors or the others will not get the dedicated time they need and I can’t take many of the same type of actor because that would be a conflict. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 coming next month!