October 05, 2010

Modeling: How to Choose an Agency

Some of you have dug through my past posts and found this one about my children and modeling.  I have had so many emails asking how we got started and where someone who is intersted in modeling should begin. 

Since there are so many traps out there, I thought I would share a few insights after what we have learned ourselves or from other parents during the past seven years…

Turkey Hill Twin-Mint Ice Cream Ad

If you watch Dateline NBC, 20/20, or 60 Minutes, you can see the horror stories from parents who were stopped in the mall or other public places by someone claiming to be a recruiter for a modeling agency. These recruiters promised that their child had what it takes to be famous. (Let’s face it, we all know that our children are the cutest and most talented of all the kids we know. It is flattering when a talent agent confirms our own beliefs, right?)

Those news stories go into depth showing how less-than-reputable “agencies” milk parents out of money on the promise that their child can be famous. These agencies can suck you dry monetarily by requiring professional photo portfolios, expensive modeling/acting classes, and annual membership fees. I can tell you right now that if you come across one of these situations… run away, FAST!!!

Let me tell you that ANY good and reputable talent agency will not charge you anything up front to take on your child as talent.  They will require you to come in for an interview and will base their admission of your child solely on how well they feel your child will book for them, should they sign you.

Tips on How to Choose a Modeling Agency for Your Child:

  1. First, your child has to want to do this.  If he/she doesn’t want to model, you should not force them.  There is nothing more that an agency or casting agent dislikes than a stage parent with a crying kid.
  2. Good agencies do not advertise… as their reputation is such that they do not have to.  If you see an agency advertising on the radio, TV, or internet, it is highly likely that the agency has a hard time hanging onto talent because most of its income is derived from fees.
  3. Casting calls at hotel ballrooms are usually nothing more than hooks trying to get your child to join a purported agency’s expensive modeling classes.  An agent will interview your child, and then they will tell you that your child has all the intagibles to be a star, but that he/she needs some polishing to hit the big time!  Stay away from all of these!  Newspaper ads are scams!
  4. Call around to local casting agents, advertisers, and businesses and ask them which agencies they use when they need models for print/commercial work.  If one or a few agency names are consistent across these lists… then you know you likely have a good agency.
  5. A legitimate modeling agency will not charge you an administrative fee to join their agency.
  6. The agency should not refer you to a professional photographer (expensive session fees) to put together comp cards (which are also expensive).  Those agencies that refer you to a “highly sought-after” photographer whom “the agency uses” are essentially getting a huge kickback from the photographer.  These are often called Photo Mills.  A good agency may provide you with a list of local photographers that you can go out and price, or you can book your own through a family friend, etc.  Your child should only need an 8×10 headshot, with his/her name printed on the bottom.  We take annual headshots through a family friend, edit our own cards with Photoshop, and print them out at Kinko’s.
  7. A reputable modeling agency will only charge you a commission, usually 10-20%, from the jobs you book for them.  The best ones charge the client that amount on top of the pay the talent will be given.  (For example, if your child books a half day commercial shoot (approximately $400), the agency will bill the client $480 and then cut a check for your child in the amount of $400, keeping the $80 for them.)
  8. When you have your short list of agencies, call the Better Business Bureau and check them out.
  9. No matter how flattering an agency may be when talking about your child, remember that you are checking out the agency just as much as they are checking our your child.
  10. Ask the agency how many children are in your child’s age-based talent pool. This can give you an indication of how saturated your child’s age group can be in that agency.
  11. Ask the agency how many auditions its talent in your child’s age group had booked in the the previous month.
  12. The agency may ask your child to go on a test audition, which will be filmed. This is normal, as it gives the agency an idea of how well your child will slate him or herself on a true go-see or audition.  He/she may be required to memorize lines for that audition.
  13. Never sign a contract in the first meeting. Take it home and review it thoroughly (asking on all specific points and fine print, “Why would this language be included?”).  If you have a family friend who is an attorney, have them review the contract first.
  14. Try whenever possible to get a non-exclusive contract for areas outside your local area.  (Exclusivity in your local area is OK). 
  15. After the interview, send a follow-up email or card to the agency stating simply “Thank You”.  It shows that you appreciate the time it took for them to take a look at your child.
  16. After signing, and you enjoy the agency you are with, drop by every once in awhile with your child to say “Hello“.  You may possibly even drop by some goodies.  Big Hint: As the booking agents are the ones referring children to casting agents or client photo shoots… they tend to refer those children they can recall off the top of their head!
  17. After you sign with an agency, as you take your child on auditions, ask the casting agent which agencies they prefer using and what they think about the talent from those agencies.  You will be suprised how much they will tell you.  This can help you evaluate what they think about your agency as compared to others.
  18. After you sign with an agency, speak often with the parents of other talent to see what their experiences have been and how they like the agency.  This is particulary insightful when you speak with parents of talent from other agencies as you go on auditions.  Once again, you will be suprised how much they will tell you.
  19. Don’t have your child model for the money, as the bookings come very few and far between. Stardom results are atypical. Modeling can be a fun hobby, like ballet or piano lessons, but you may be able to tuck a little bit of money into your child’s college fund as a result.

Fortunately for us, we have had a very good experience with modeling and it hasn’t cost us much more than a few printed photos, gasoline, and our time on auditions.  We are very level-headed with our expectations, and as long as our girls enjoy it… we will continue.

I am hoping that if any of you have interest in your child modeling, you will be careful in how you choose one. If you know of anyone who has commented to you that they would like to get their child into modeling, please email them this link, or at least link to this post on your blog or Facebook where they can see it. There are too many parents out there who could be taken advantage of, and they need to know how to make an informed decision on a reputable agency for their child.

The agency that we use, may not be the right fit for your child and vice versa. There are great ones out there. So far our girls have had bit parts in two movies, four TV and radio commercials, and many photo shoots; however their most fulfilling modeling jobs to date have been on one little website called Adopt a ‘Do – Cute Girls Hairstyles!

* Note from Mindy: I want to give a special thanks to Stephanie who emailed me with the ad posted above. This one was done so long ago, just after we first started, and I hadn’t known that the photo was used in the final advertisement. Obviously, it was long before I dreamed up this hairblog!

Happy Hairdoing!

* Note from Mindy: Don’t forget to follow us on BlogLovin, a new easy-to-use blog reader!