Agents vs. Managers



The Right Agent

The right agent can be an actor’s greatest champion, strongest supporter, and wisest counsel.

The Union “franchises” talent agents throughout the United States. A franchised agent is someone who has entered into an agreement with the Union setting forth certain terms and conditions of a SAG-AFTRA member’s relationship with an agent.

Although agents primarily seek out work opportunities for actors, they often do much more. They also help to ensure young performers are working under safe conditions, assist the Union in enforcing its contracts and help the parents understand their obligations regarding their child’s employment. There’s a reason so many actors thank their agents in their acceptance speeches at awards shows. The right agent becomes a friend and partner in nurturing a successful career. So choose wisely before signing with one.


In some areas, exclusivity of representation is customary; in other areas talent may be represented by several different agents (also called freelancing or “hip-pocketing”). Ask around before signing an exclusive contract to be sure you are not limiting your child’s opportunities unnecessarily.

Agents and Managers

Many young performers also work with managers. Managers are neither franchised nor regulated by the Union. And they are rarely regulated by state law. Here is a basic breakdown of the difference between an agent and a manager:

An Agent:

  1. Should be franchised under either SAG or AFTRA’s franchised agency agreement  
  2. Generally licensed by the state as employment agencies
  3. Primarily focused on obtaining employment and negotiating contracts.
  4. May have a small or large number of clients
  5. Generally limited to charging a 10% commission

A Manager:

  1. Not licensed by the State, or franchised by the Unions.
  2. May counsel, advise and provide general career direction
  3. May assist an agent in securing employment for their clients (In NY and CA, they are not permitted to obtain employment without working with a licensed agent).
  4. Generally has fewer clients than an agent.
  5. Generally charges 10-15%.
  6. You should always have an attorney review a management contract before signing. Since they are not franchised, and often unregulated, it’s important to fully understand the terms and conditions of the relationship.

Many agents also represent children for “print work.” It is important to note that this type of work does not fall under the jurisdiction of any union.





Are You Ready to Compete as a Professional?

SAG-AFTRA membership is a significant rite of passage for every working professional in the media and entertainment industry.

When you are offered your first principal union job, we urge you to consider joining SAG-AFTRA, but understand it is a commitment. For broadcasters, membership in SAG-AFTRA is governed by the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement under which you are employed. Contact the National Broadcast Department or your nearest Local when you are offered a job in a SAG-AFTRA shop for more information and initiation fees. Once you are a member, you must abide by the rules of membership, starting with Global Rule One. And, whether you are a SAG-AFTRA member or not–never accept work during a union strike!



A performer becomes eligible for SAG-AFTRA membership under one of the following two conditions: (1) proof of SAG or AFTRA employment or (2) employment under an affiliated performers’ union.

  1. Proof of Employment
    SAG-AFTRA membership is available to those who work in a position covered by a SAG-AFTRA (or AFTRA or SAG) collective bargaining agreement, provided that any person qualifying through work as a background actor must have completed three (3) days of work as a background actor under a SAG-AFTRA (or AFTRA or SAG) collective bargaining agreement.
  2. Employment Under an Affiliated Performers’ Union
    Performers may join SAG-AFTRA if the applicant is a paid-up member of an affiliated performers’ union (ACTRA, AEA, AGMA or AGVA) for a period of one year and has worked and been paid for at least once as a principal performer in that union’s jurisdiction.
  3. Potential broadcast members should contact the National Broadcast Department or their Local for information on joining.

Legitimacy of Application

  • Your application and proof of employment will be fully investigated by the Union for validity. Your application for SAG-AFTRA membership will be denied if you have falsified your credentials, or if your qualifying employment is not bona fide.
  • While it is your responsibility to ascertain the validity of your qualifying employment, the Union will be the sole arbiter in determining whether the employer was legitimate or bogus, and whether the qualifying employment which you performed was actual production work or work created solely to enable you to gain Union membership. Please be aware that false representation or deception on your part will jeopardize your chances to join the Union.
  • Further, if after your application has been granted the Union discovers such misconduct on your part, you may find yourself subject to disciplinary proceedings, which could result in your being fined, suspended and/or expelled from the Union.

Appointments for Admission
If you are eligible under the conditions stated above, please contact your nearest SAG-AFTRA office  so we can advise you of the amount of your joining fees.

Submitting Proof of SAG-AFTRA Eligibility
You may contact the Union about your eligibility status. If your file is not on record or incomplete, you may submit one of the following documents as proof of eligibility:

  • Original paycheck stubs.
  • Original activity print-out or report from the payroll company that states your name, social security number, the name of the production company, the title of the production, the salary paid in dollar amount, and the specific date(s) worked. The payroll company must submit this document directly to the SAG-AFTRA Membership Services Department.

Background vouchers and copies of paycheck stubs are not acceptable as proof of work. Submitting these types of documents will only delay verifying your SAG-AFTRA eligibility.

If you provide the Union with your original paycheck stubs, please make copies for your records before submitting them to the office.

In addition to enclosing proper eligibility documentation, you will need to include a separate piece of paper with your name, current address, current telephone number, and date of birth. A self-addressed stamped envelope must also be included so that we may return your documents to you. We ask that you print clearly to avoid input errors. Once verification is completed, you will receive a letter of eligibility from the Union.

Please mail your document to:
Membership Services Department – Proof of Eligibility
5757 Wilshire Blvd. 7th fl
Los Angeles, CA 90036

You may also deliver your documents in person to the 1st Floor receptionist at the above address.

Once you have submitted your eligibility documents, please wait until you receive your original documents back in the mail before contacting us at (323) 549-6769 regarding joining fees.