To avoid any mishaps and ensure that you're on the right track, I felt it would be good to do a post to break down the important differences between casting agencies and talent/modeling agencies.
Since I've written at length about talent and modeling agencies, the points listed below will be in direct reference to how casting agencies operate.
To sum up casting agencies in a nutshell: this type of business contains a database of actors, models and other types of talent and essentially acts as a matchmaker between the talent registered on the casting agency's site and those casting for various projects.
Whenever someone is looking for models or actors, they typically post their project on the casting agency's site and the talent that matches the requirements are notified and given a chance to submit themselves directly to the project. From there a casting or audition is arranged between the client casting the project and the talent submitting.
CASTING AGENCIES DON'T HAVE CONTRACTS
When you sign up for a casting agency there is no contract to sign or worries about being exclusive or non-exclusive. You can sign up with as many casting agencies as you want and don't have to worry about any conflicts. You are not "represented" by a casting agency and they aren't considered your "agent."
CASTING AGENCIES DON'T CHARGE COMMISSION
The great thing about casting agencies and booking projects through their services is that there isn't a commission you need to pay them. The casting agency makes its money in other ways so you don't have to pony up a percentage each time you book a gig.
CASTING AGENCIES LET YOU CONTROL YOUR CAREER
Many freelance models and actors use casting agencies as a method of finding local work for a variety of projects according to the preferences set in their member profiles. Updating your photos, resume of experience and other profile preferences are all in your hands. Simply login to your account and you can control everything.
CASTING AGENCIES WORK WITH TALENT/MODELING AGENCIES, TOO
This varies from casting agency to casting agency but oftentimes, traditional talent/modeling agencies work closely with local casting agencies so it isn't uncommon for a represented model/actor to have a profile on a casting site even though they have an actual agent.
This type of profile will look different on the casting agency site compared to someone who is freelance and doesn't have agency representation. For example, if a client is looking to cast a project and is looking at the profile on a casting agency site for an individual that is freelance, the contact info will be that of the model/actor. But if they are looking at a profile on a casting agency site for an individual that is agency repped, the contact info displayed on the profile will be that of the agency's (in most cases).
Because of this close working relationship between local casting agencies and talent/modeling agencies, it is common for both freelancers and repped talent to go to the same castings and auditions that may be held at the casting agency's office.
CASTING AGENCIES CHARGE AFFORDABLY FOR THEIR SERVICES
At least the legitimate ones do, haha. While the cost of being included in a local casting agency's database may differ from market to market (i.e. smaller and medium markets tend to have more affordable fees, while large markets may be a bit higher), in general you can opt to pay an annual fee or break it down into a smaller, recurring monthly fee.
This is one of the main ways casting agencies make a profit and why you don't have to fork over a percentage of your earnings in the form of a commission. As long as you keep up with your payments, your profile will remain active and viewable by potential clients.
Some casting agency sites let you set up a profile for free. Of course that tends to be limited in the services available but if you're hesitant to pay or want to test the waters first, checking out the free version is a good approach until you feel confident enough to pay for a basic membership.
CASTING AGENCIES LET YOU DO YOU
You don't have a booker at a casting agency to call or email to check in with or ask advice for in regards to what kinds of photos to have in your portfolio. They are the middleman that simply gives you a place to house your photos, video clips (for actors) and stats so you can get matched up to projects and be found by clients.
While they are on hand to answer basic customer service questions or troubleshoot tech issues, they are not in a position to guide you through your career the same way a standard talent/modeling agency does.
IS A CASTING AGENCY FOR YOU?
It is optional to enlist the services of a casting agency in regards to your modeling/acting career. I've found working with local casting agencies to be an incredibly beneficial tool and resource in finding work, connecting with clients and building my network.
I've always had profiles on local casting agency sites whether I had agency representation or not. The monthly fees are also affordable and, in my case, are tax write offs since they count as a business expense.
There are a score of casting agency sites out there and while there are those that contain nationwide castings as well as more location specific ones, I tend to focus on the local ones. This is mainly because the numbers game tends to be in your favor with local casting agencies compared to the ones that have nationwide castings where you're now competing for jobs along with other people around the country.
At the end of the day working with a reputable casting agency can only help your endeavors and not hurt them. Make sure the casting agency you're interested in is established, has reasonable rates and doesn't try to nag you with paying for additional services you don't need, or try to up-sell you on photoshoots and training courses.
Stay tuned for my next blog post, which will address some of the red flags to be on the lookout for when it comes to finding a solid casting agency to work with.