Legitimate agents and managers don’t charge upfront fees. Ever. If someone who wants you to sign up for a bunch of classes that cost a fortune approaches you or your kid, then they aren’t a proper talent agency or management company. They are some other kind of business.

Most of you know by now, if you’ve been reading my blog or have read my book, that legitimate agents or managers cost NO money. Agents and managers should ONLY get paid if and when you do. And then they take a commission— 10% for agents, and 10% to 15% for managers.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with running a business! Businesses are great. But you need to be very clear what you are buying if you write those big checks.

In the state of California it is actually illegal to charge money to represent talent.

January 1, 2010 the Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act went into law, making “advanced fee talent services” illegal. Agents and managers who are discovered charging their clients advanced fees for representation can face lawsuits and jail time. Note that advanced fees are very different from commissions, which is how legitimate agents and managers make their money.

However, in other states outside of California, this practice is not technically illegal—just a clear conflict of interest and a red flag.

Here is what SAG-AFTRA, the national union says about this:

“No franchised agent may charge a rate of commission higher than 10%. In some cases, an agent must negotiate your fee above the minimum scale, or in other words, “scale plus 10%” in order to collect commission on a job. This rule may vary according to the local area in which you work, or the collective bargaining agreement you are working under. Always check with your local SAG-AFTRA office for specific rules. An agent may only receive a commission when and if you receive compensation for your employment.

Agents may not charge up-front fees of any kind. They may not require you to attend a specific school or use a specific photographer as a condition of representation. If the agent does have some suggestions on these subjects, you should be supplied with a list of several schools or photographers.”

Source: https://www.sagaftra.org/content/getting-started-actor-faq

There are a lot of businesses that offer what looks like representation but if you read the fine print, they are actually schools, or talent training centers. They often bundle a lot of different services together into packages. This is your hint that they are not really in the business of representation so much as selling services.

Representation works both ways

A legitimate agent or manager is very choosy about who they represent, as they can only properly represent so many actors at a time and do a good job. They want to balance their portfolio out and have a wide range of “types” or “looks” while not going too deep on any particular type of actor. This way their actors don’t compete with one another. They also want actors who have training as well as talent, because when they send an actor out to an audition, that actor is actually representing them as well! The idea of representation goes both ways.

To keep a strong reputation, an agent or manager only wants actors who are genuinely ready to compete in the professional arena. If a rep routinely sends out talent that is unprepared, they will eventually have a hard time getting appointments with good casting directors and good projects.

Contrast this with someone who will essentially take anyone with a checkbook.

This “agent” or “manager” is more interested in signing people up for a long list of expensive services than anything else. And if you feel that you are getting your money’s worth with those services, and your child is gaining in confidence and having fun, perhaps it’s worth it. But be clear about what you are paying for, and what you are actually getting for your money.

And if you want a legitimate agent or manager for your young actor, keep looking until you find one that you and your kid feel personally comfortable with, and whose only business is representation.

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.

If your young actor is 12 or older, they will enjoy reading my second book, Young Hollywood Actors, which shares inspirational stories and advice from some of their favorite performers.

Invest a little in your kid’s future today.


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