Also known as a Theatrical Agent, a talent agent represents your child and is primarily focused on obtaining work and negotiating contracts on their behalf. They should be licensed by the state they work in, and franchised with either SAG or AFTRA. The number of clients they represent can vary from just a few to many (something to consider when looking for a good match) and they typically are limited to charging 10% commission.
I would only sign on with one that is SAG-AFTRA franchised. You can check with SAG-AFTRA at https://www.sagaftra.org/contracts-industry-resources/professional-representatives for a list of their franchised agents, organized by major market.
Ideally, you would sign on with one who is also a member of the ATA, or Association of Talent Agents, the nonprofit trade association of professional talent agents. You can go to their website (https://www.agentassociation.com) to see whether the agents you are considering are listed. Just because an agent isn’t a member of the ATA doesn’t mean they aren’t reputable, but if they are a member, it means they are accountable to an additional supervising body of peers.
IMPORTANT: In the major markets such as LA and New York, there are Youth Divisions and Youth Agents who specialize entirely in representing young people. These are the agents you want to find. They generally are in that line of work because they love children, and are familiar with the special rules, regulations, and issues of employing and working with minors. They are also the ones casting agencies contact for roles that call for young people. In my opinion Youth Agents are a very special breed.
A Commercial Agent is a little different, as they are not engaged in finding acting jobs for your child, but commercial ones—i.e. literally TV or radio commercials, and/or modeling for print ads, etc. Many agencies have both kinds of agents, and some kids pursue both types of work and therefore have two different agents.
It is really important to understand that just because your child has an agent, this does not guarantee that they will go out on many, if any, auditions.
Yes, the agent only makes money if your child works. So it would follow that they would want to send as many of their actors out as possible all of the time. But the truth is that until your child has a legitimate TV or film role under their belt (something that would get them a legitimate entry on IMDB, as opposed to a vanity entry) their odds of actually being cast are slim—and so they are less likely to be sent out. Yes, it’s a Catch-22.
This is why it is so important for your child to have SOME experience on their resume—even if it is just community theatre or local commercials—before you sign with an agent. This will give the agent some confidence to send them out on roles that are at least a step above background, and increase your child’s odds of landing something with credits. Credits lead to traction, and traction leads to the kind of roles your child is actually hoping to play.
NEXT: Part 2: Managers
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
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