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September 15, 2023 | CaliforniaEntertainmentNew York

Are Talent Agents and Managers Required to Affiliate with Talent Unions?

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Marc D. Ostrow

Of Counsel

Jari Wilson

Associate Attorney

While there are key differences between agents and managers, both must  consider whether it’s necessary or desirable to affiliate with entertainment unions, including the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA or SAG), the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Franchised Talent Agencies

Talent agents are regulated by state laws, such as California’s Talent Agencies ActArticle 37 of New York’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law and other regulations.  In addition to these laws, many talent unions require agents to become franchised agents in order to represent the union’s members.  A franchised agent or agency is one who has entered into an agreement to work with a particular talent union and follows certain rules when working with talent who fall under the union’s control.

Currently, SAG, the DGA and the WGA all require their members to work with franchised agents.  SAG also requires that an agency’s talent agreement be approved by the union.

Association of Talent Agencies

Because agents must be franchised with the appropriate unions, they may want to consider joining the Association of Talent Agencies (ATA).  Though not a union, the ATA is a trade association that advocates and negotiates agency franchise agreements with the major talent unions.  It also advocates on its members’ behalf regarding legislation affecting talent agencies.

Talent Managers and Talent Union Affiliations

Currently, the DGA and WGA do not offer any talent manager affiliation programs.  Managers do have the opportunity to be affiliated with SAG-AFTRA.  To become an affiliated talent manager, the manager must sign SAG-AFTRA’s Personal Manager Code of Ethics and Conduct.  While signing the Code means the union will recommend you as a manager to its members, the Code does contain two major rules for talent managers:

  1. A manager cannot also be licensed as a talent or employment agent.
  2. SAG-AFTRA must review and approve every contract the manger signs with talent.

While a manager may choose to be affiliated with SAG-AFTRA, it is not a requirement and many managers choose not to affiliate because of the limiting rules.

Talent Managers Association

Similar to the ATA, talent managers may join the Talent Managers Association (TMA).  The TMA is a trade organization that mandates ethical and responsible conduct for managers.  Though TMA does not negotiate or advocate agreements with the talent unions, it has collaborated with SAG-AFTRA.


If you are a talent agent, it is essential to become a franchised agent with the appropriate unions.  Managers, however, can’t affiliate with WGA or DGA and should carefully consider whether to affiliate with SAG-AFTRA.  For more guidance on whether affiliating with a union is right for you, reach out to a member of our team.


Photo by Sergey Sokolov on Unsplash
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