The Kufewa Team with Flora Suya and Shemu Joya at the launch of Multichoice Talent Factory 2018.
For the past few months, I have been working closely with Kufewa Acrobatics, which is primarily an acrobatics outfit that starred in the movie, "The Town Monger". Their role in the movie has given them a new status. They are now actors too. Our working relationship dates back in 2016 when I firstly booked the team for a gig at The British High Commission. Later on I booked them for another gig at Lake of Stars Children's festival and we kept on working together ever since. My role had always been of their talent agent.
Fast forward to 2017, when the Town Monger film went viral and the world came calling, we decided to change things a bit. I became their talent manager. So what changed? Was it just the name? NO!
So we agreed that I would be playing "talent manager role" for the group. Trust me, it is not as easy as many think to manage a group. Everyone has their needs and preferences of doing things and as actors, there are few chances there will be a production that will want to feature the whole team at once. So there has to be a better way of working with each one as an individual actor. Well, our working relationship has been a huge learning curve and it has taken me and the Kufewa Team, to places we both only dreamed of and I am hopeful that this journey will always be one we can both look back at sometime and appreciate our efforts.
Our perceived success has meant that a lot more artists, have been asking me to manage them. Truth is, I have tried to manage several artists in the last 2 years but I realized that managing art in this country is not easy and even so, what most artists need is an agent and not a manager. So even managing Kufewa is a very special case for me.
And my question to most of the artists has been, " Do you need a manager or an agent?".
Most of them have been blank about what they are looking for or how the two roles differ.
In the past few weeks, I have also reached out to several artists offering them an opportunity to be listed on our new talent agency list and over 50% of the "established talents" told me, "I am sorry, I already have a manager".
Well, what I was offering was an agency role and not management role.
Now these scenarios got me thinking, "does our industry know the difference between a talent manager and a talent agent?"
To begin with, why do talents and their managers need an agent?
Here are four things you should realistically expect from a potential agent:
1. A talent agent is not a manager or a publicist. The truth is it’s up to you to manage and run your own career. You’re expected to arrive on the talent agency’s doorstep with the proper tools (professional headshots, résumé, performance footage, music or acting demos) and you’re prepared to work. The more prepared you are from the start of your relationship with your agent, the more confidence they have in you and in putting you to work. Much like a professional athlete, you are expected to be well trained and actively maintaining your training, as well as keeping your promotional tools current if you hope to work.
2. An effective agent, often like successful talent, specializes. Not every talent agent handles every aspect of the entertainment industry. So, if you’re looking to break into voiceover, you want an agent who specifically handles voiceover. If you intend to pursue film and television, you want an agent who has access to the film and television work you’re best suited to land. Otherwise, you may have a wonderful rapport with this agent (and they with you), but it’s unlikely you’ll secure much work. For instance, if you’re a humorous, character actor that’s best suited to book an opening act on “The Presindents of Laughfrica,” and a majority of the projects your agent scores are for corporate industrial spokesperson gigs, then it may be time to amicably part ways and move on.
3. Agents have access to work you wouldn’t get on your own. Someone who may hire you as a talent will go through a talent agent because they’re interested in considering a variety of talent options for their project, and because they require professional reassurance that you are a reliable and capable professional. Its sad that in Malawi such roles are given to girlfriends and cousins on the expense of professional talents.
4. A proper agent understands what the job is worth. Talent agents typically determine the value of what you’re paid based on the intended and ultimate usage of your performance or likeness. For example, a potential client may initially only intend for the commercial to be used on the radio, but the usage may expand after the fact, and ultimately, your performance may end up on the Internet, on television, or on streaming platforms. Each of these forms of usage have a value. Most agents will make sure you’re paid whichever is greater, either intended or ultimate use. How long the potential client ultimately uses your performance or likeness further determines the value of the job. This is the primary reason you need and want a talent agent.
Certainly not all talent agents are built alike. A talent agency (not the agent) mostly earns 10 percent from you if the job is union, and for nonsigned up agents typically earn 20 percent once you’ve booked the job. Suffice is to say, you’re expected to do better than 90 percent of the work, not the other way around.
It’s up to you to live up to your end of the bargain by being prepared at a moment’s notice. Ultimately, it is your career, therefore it’s imperative you own it and own up to it.
If you need a serious talent agency to help you land gigs in Malawi and internationally, then checkout Kuwala Creatives.
Dennis Imaan is a Global Citizen born and currently staying in Malawi. He loves to share his experiences and lessons with others. Travel, Tourism, Innovations, Media and Youth development are close to his heart.