What's a Talent Agent?
April 25, 2003
A recent UC grad gives an insider's view of what it's like to work for a top New York City talent agency.
After moving to NYC and completing an unpaid internship with a smaller firm, Jon was recently hired as an Agent Assistant.
What it's like
Agent Assistant is essentially an agent in training It's the last stop before becoming an agent. I am very lucky because normally one goes from being an intern to the mail room, then to receptionist, then to floating assistant, and finally to agent assistant. I shaved off years of grueling labor by networking 24/7!
Being an agent is about working with the studios to get your client a role and then finagling and arguing over the major and minor points in an actor's contract. The perks of the job: you party, you schmooze, and the actors come to you for guidance. Another longer term advantage of working for a talent agency is that you learn the business behind the stage or camera. You see how projects are put together -- how the TV network hires a studio that pitches a project to them and then in turn hires a casting director who auditions the actors that the agents submit.
Experienced agents are very well connected. Successful ones often become their biggest client's managers or join their production company and leave the agenting world. Working as an assistant is good because you meet people who are either in the studios or work for them (like casting directors), and thus can help you get a job when you've paid your dues and are ready to move on.
The daily grind of an assistant agent
The main part of my job is to make the agent's life easier so he can gab on the phone to his clients and argue with the studios. I book all the auditions for all the actors which involves talking to the casting directors to get appointment times. For each audition I have to prepare the sides (pages from the script for the audition), the scripts, and an appointment sheet that tells the actors where to be and when.
I work 45 hours plus (no one takes lunch breaks -- they order in and eat at their desks while they work). My hours are supposed to be 10am-7pm (we are loosely based on Hollywood time because being in NYC there isn't much we can get done when everything in LA is closed). During pilot season things are hectic and I often work until 8pm or even 11pm sometimes (with no overtime pay).
I only get $550/week (and after taxes it's only $425) and 10 vacation days per year. But I get to network, read scripts, meet actors, and attend tons of free movie screenings, premiers, plays, and even parties. So it's still worth it for me to do this.
Where I go from here
Another cool part of the job is to be on the lookout for up-and-coming talent (that's why we get so many free movie/theater passes). Some of the assistants who've been here a year already have clients. This job moves quickly. You either start becoming an agent within 1-3 years of this position (usually within 1-2) or you move onto something else. Agents are rarely middle-aged -- they burn out young. Many of them retire from entertainment and go on to work in other areas.