The word "agency" gets thrown around a lot, and within the entertainment industry it's easy to get confused as to what kind of agency someone may be referring to since there are many different types out there. Because of this, I wanted to do a post about the differences between casting agencies and modeling/talent agencies.
Even though models can be present on a casting agency’s website, modeling agencies and casting agencies are not the same and it is very important for a model to know the difference between the two.
In a nutshell, a casting agency contains a database of models, actors, and other types of talent and essentially acts as a matchmaker between the talent registered on their website and clients casting for various projects. Whenever a client is looking for talent, they will 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. Basically, they are just like the ‘head hunters’ or recruiting agencies you can use to find your regular 9-5 jobs in the non-entertainment world.
Three of the biggest differences between modeling agencies and casting agencies are:
Casting Agencies Don't Have Contracts
Unlike signing with a modeling agency where you’re locked into a time-sensitive contract that involves various stipulations, when you sign up for a casting agency there is (generally) no contract involved. You can sign up with as many casting agencies as you want and don't have to worry about any conflicts of interest. You are basically signing up for a membership that you are free to leave at any time. There are various perks that come with said membership, but you are not ‘represented’ by the casting agency and they aren't considered your ‘agent’. They are simply giving you a webspace to house your portfolio images and assist in finding you bookings you may otherwise not be able to find on your own.
Casting Agencies Don't Charge Commission
When signed with a modeling agency, the agency makes money by taking a commission (usually 20%) from the paychecks models/talent earn when they book jobs. Generally speaking, casting agencies don’t take a commission from their talent, instead getting their commission directly from the client that used their services to find them talent. It is not uncommon for casting agencies to also charge a monthly or yearly membership fee to cover being featured on their website and presented to their clients. If the talent is also being charged a commission fee per job they book through the casting agency, this can be a red-flag because they are also probably charging the client and making a large profit off of your booking.
Casting Agencies Aren’t as Involved in Your Career as Modeling/Talent Agents
Unlike modeling agencies where your agent is very involved with all aspects of your career, casting agencies are pretty hands-off aside from putting you on their website and submitting your weblink to clients. This can have its pros & cons. A pro is that you have full control over your personal image and don’t have anyone to check-in with regarding your schedule and career goals, but that is also in a way a pretty big con. While casting agents are on hand to answer basic customer service questions, they are not in a position to guide you through your career & give the support and advice the same way a standard modeling/talent agent does. They also won’t go to bat for you if an issue with a client arises.
Whether a casting agency is right for you or not is all about personal preference and what your career goals are. Working with local casting agencies can be an incredibly beneficial tool and resource in finding work, connecting with clients and building your network. Many freelance models will choose this route if they can’t get signed with a modeling agency or don't find one that they’d like to sign a contract with.
At the end of the day, working with a reputable model/talent agency or a casting agency can only help your career. As always, make sure the agency you're interested in is established, reputable, and doesn't try to pressure you into paying for additional services you don't need or in-house photoshoots and training courses. Be sure to check out my post for what red flags to keep an eye out for when looking for reputable agencies!