There are many different people in the entertainment industry who are essential to an actor. Here we will try to clarify who is who.
An agent is someone who finds work for an actor in exchange for 10-15% (10% for union actors, typically more for non-union) of the actors' earnings. Agents have an extensive network of contacts and clients, and use this network to get interviews and auditions for the actor. They also will work on the terms of your contract when they want to hire you. As an actor, you are a product and the agent is your salesperson.
A manager is a person hired by the actor to find work, give advice, and generally guide the actor's career. With the exception of child actors (who often need extra development and guidance into the business), most actors will not require a real manager until they are well on the road to success.
The Casting Director is hired by the producers of a show to find talent, or "cast" for the show. These are the people who the agent will send photos and resumes to, and the actor will audition for. While it is possible to submit your photo and resume directly to a Casting Director, they usually only seriously consider actors submitted by an agent.
A producer is the person in charge of all the "behind the scenes" work of a show or film. They bring together a script, director, and actors, and then oversee the film until it is released. The easiest way into the entertainment industry is to know a producer. Unfortunately for most of us, this isn't possible. But if you do happen to have a connection, don't hesitate to use it. Who knows, you could be the next Tony Soprano.
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