In the simplest cases the Client calls the Model Agent directly, tells them what they need, the agent selects someone who
is right for the job, and the deal is done. In the most complex, the Casting Director calls every Model Agency in town, they end up with hundreds of comp cards and then hundreds of applicants in a complex recursive process, and everybody in the chain feels they get to make a decision. When that happens models will be looked at, photographed, discussed and sent home. They may be asked back for another look. Someone may decide to hire them and put them on hold, while someone else decides they aren’t right, and substitutes other models. It can be frustrating when there are so many people in on the decision.
Most of these people (Model Agents, Clients, Photographers, Ad Agencies, Casting Directors, sometimes Stylists) have the
power to keep a model from getting the job. The model needs to understand who these people are, how they affect her career, and learn how to make each of them part of her team. If you haven’t gathered it already, modeling is a team sport.
Your First Call from the Agency
The first time you will hear from your agency about a job is when you are sent out on a “go-see” or “casting.” For you, this is
the beginning of the process, even though the creative team is nearing the end of their efforts on an ad. Selecting models is one of the last things that happen before a shoot, and even a lot of the casting process may have taken place before they ever get to calling you.
When you get that call you need to call them back quickly. Jobs may arise and be cast in a matter of hours. Sometimes
clients select several models for a single assignment, call them, and give it to the first model that calls back to confirm. If you don’t have a way (beeper, cell phone, good answering service that will track you down) to find you quickly, you run the risk of losing a lot of jobs you otherwise could have. You might even lose your agency.
So, what do you need to do in that call? Make sure you get all the information you will need for the go-see. Your first problem is whether you even want to take the job (sometimes you may not). So you need to know:
1. What is the job for? Who is the client and what is the product?
2. When is the shoot?
3. Where is the shoot?
4. What does it pay?
5. What will you portray, and how will it be used?
6. Does it require wardrobe that you don’t have?
If you get through all that, don’t have any conflicts or objections, you need to know about the go-see itself. You should
ask your agent:
1. Where is the go-see?
2. When is it?
3. How do I need to be dressed to play my role? (For commercial models.)
4. Who should I see at the go-see?
All of the questions above relate directly to that job and should be asked if the agent doesn’t volunteer the information.
But one of your obligations is to get off the phone quickly. A complex casting call may require your agent to call 50 or more models in a hurry. She doesn’t have time to chat or deal with other issues; she would rather not have to give you detailed directions to the go-see. That’s why you bought all those maps! You have just been given privileged information. You should not share it with others and you should not take other people along with you to either the go-see or the shoot (unless you are a child and need an escort).
Before and At a Go-See
If you get a call from more than one agency for a go-see, the general rule is that you should tell the casting director (and each agency after the first) that you are going for the first agency to call. That is standard practice and should be accepted by all agents. There are some exceptions: if you are called by several agencies and one of them has a preference clause in your agreement with them, you should tell the casting director you are represented by that agency regardless of what order the calls were received in. You should also tell the other agencies who call you that you, since they may know that they called you first. Another exception is if an agency gets a “name-request” from the client specifically for you. In that case you should accept the go-see for that agency, even if you got a call earlier (not a name request) from some other agency.
Bring your portfolio if you have a good one; leave it at home if you don’t. If you have a wide selection of portfolio pictures, make sure to include some that show you in the role this job requires. Do not include pictures that may be inappropriate for the client (e.g. don’t take a portfolio full of lingerie shots when “young mother” is being requested.)
You should arrive near the beginning of the go-see period. The mechanics of the selection process favor those who are first
seen. Don’t let an opportunity slip away because you chose to go at 5:45 for a go-see that runs from 4-6 PM. Yes, you were “on time”, but as a practical matter you may be “too late”. When you are at a go-see you are being evaluated for a particular role that the client wants a model to play. Your agent should give you the details if he knows them, although all too
often the casting director hasn’t told the agent and you are on your own to figure out what they want. If it is for “young mother” or “executive”, “sporty” or “active retired” or some other type you need to put yourself in that frame of mind and remember that you need to project that persona from the moment you open the door. The photographer or client needs to be able to visualize you as what they need to shoot – you should give them all the help you can. That means to dress in a way appropriate to the role, and take on the demeanor of a person in that role. You still need to be courteous, but always while acting as the person they are casting for.
What counts is what you look like, not how old you are, except in special circumstances. If there is a data sheet to fill out,
do not list your exact age or birth year. Rather, list an age range appropriate to you in the role you are being asked to play (for instance: 27-32) and if birth year is required, select a year in the middle of that range. Some exceptions include people under 18 (who should indicate exact, true data) and ads for tobacco or alcoholic beverages, which require that the true age of the model be over 25.
Many times the sign-in sheet asks for your personal contact number in addition to your agency phone number. Many agencies have a policy that you should not give this out, both to protect you and to protect them. You should ask your booker about this before you get sent out on your first go-see. Normally if there is a reason for the photographer or stylist to have your direct contact information (sometimes there is, but later in the booking process) it will be given to them by your agent. Sometimes a photographer will attempt to renegotiate the terms of the deal (different start/stop times, different pay rates, additional usage of the pictures) either at the go-see or later, when you have been booked. In all cases you should decline any such request and refer the question to your agent. Frequently these seemingly innocent questions have the effect of costing you a lot of money. It is your agent’s job to recognize that and to protect your (and their) interests.
A photographer or client may ask to book you direct, not through the agency that sent you to them. That is unethical and
they know it, but they might ask anyway. In all such cases you should politely decline and report the matter to your agency as soon as you can. Models who accept such offers may get that job, but agencies who find out about it will drop the models
immediately. Under no circumstances should you sign a release of any sort at a go-see. If asked to do so, politely say you have to call your agency for permission. It is best to allow the agent to take on the “bad guy” role when this kind of thing happens.
After all those “don’ts”, what should you do? Be outgoing, cooperative, friendly, expressive, but within the role you are
trying out for. There will be lots of people at the go-see whose looks qualify them for the job. The one who gets it will be one
whose personality shines through – that the team feels they will enjoy working with.
After the Go-See
What happens after the go-see? Most often, nothing. The number of models sent by agencies greatly exceeds the number
who will be hired, so mostly the casting director will tell you they “will let you know,” and then you will never hear from them again. But sometimes something better happens. You may be called back (you made the short list) one or more times, you may be put on “hold” (or “option”), or you may be booked.
A call-back is just another go-see for the same job, but this time knowing that somebody liked you well enough that they
want to see you again. It isn’t time to break out the champagne, but it is time to start getting optimistic. Your agent will advise you of anything special you should do to prepare for the call-back. If you are put on hold, you have a good chance of being booked. That means that the client has selected you for the job but the job itself still may not happen, or may be postponed. A client may also select more people than they really intend to use; you may be the first, second or third choice. Sometimes your agency will know that, sometimes they will not.
If you accept the “hold” you give that client a “first right of refusal” on your services for that time slot. If something else
comes along, you can have your agent call them and ask if they want to book or release you. They are obliged to do one or the other. If the “hold” hasn’t been released within 24 hours of the shoot it is customary for you to be paid for the job even if you don’t do it.
Being “booked” is the brass ring you are in this business to grab. It involves an offer to your agent for your services, which is
relayed to you. If you accept, you are obligated to do the job. The client is also obligated at that point, and once the time for the job nears you may become eligible for cancellation fees if the job doesn’t happen.
You have been booked, the appointed time is near, and you are about to have a lot of fun. You should be relaxed and enjoy
yourself – you are about to get to do what models all want to do. But some rules apply at the shoot that you should be aware of – both to protect the amount of money you are about to earn, and to make the client want to have you back again:
1.Be prepared. For men this means having a haircut, ideally about a week before the shoot. For women it means have
your hair attractively styled in a manner consistent with the shoot. For everyone it means knowing before you get there
what role you will play. Unlike fashion shoots, most commercial shoots require you to have appropriate wardrobe (a small selection of clothing and shoes that fits the role you will play). It should be clean, pressed and ready. Even if you have been told that there will be a makeup artist present, bring your own makeup. Get a good night’s sleep!
2.Show up on time! This is the most important rule of all. If you are late, you are liable for all the overtime you just
contributed to. At the huge hourly rates of other models, the photographer, stylist and others, you really don’t want
to have to pay that. “On time” doesn’t mean the time scheduled – it means 10-15 minutes earlier, so you have a chance to get ready for the shoot. At the appointed time you need to be able to step out on the set, ready to shoot. If
a makeup artist is provided you can be made up “on the clock” – but sometimes a scheduled makeup artist is cancelled, and you need to be prepared.
3.Introduce yourself to everyone. Or at least to everyone who seems to want to meet you. These are people who can
make you look bad or good, who may or may not want to hire you for the follow-on TV commercial that goes with your print ad, for instance. Do what you can to help them look good and they will return the favor.
4.Do not discuss rates or terms. If someone on the set brings these things up, politely refer the question to your agency.
Never change the terms of a shoot without your agent being involved.
5. Shoot what was booked. But no more than what was booked. If you are doing a TV commercial and someone asks to “just take a couple of still shots,” call your agent immediately. Never put yourself in the position of having to be the one to say no, but don’t allow any shooting beyond what was booked without your agent’s approval. If you do, you may give up rights to thousands of dollars worth of usage fees, especially if the photographer asks you to sign his release.
6.Sign the voucher. When the shoot is over you should fill out the portion of the voucher that shows how much time you
worked and the rights being purchased at the time of the shoot. Time is computed from the time the shoot is scheduled to start (if you were ready on time) until the last shot is taken. Lunch and other breaks are included in the time. When the shoot is shorter than what was booked, you get paid for the booked time. When it runs longer, you get paid for each 15 minutes extra that you worked. Use a little common sense in this – good relations suggest that a 62- minute shoot shouldn’t be billed at an hour and a quarter. Sign the voucher, have the photographer or client’s representative sign it, take one copy for yourself and one for the agency. Leave a copy with the photographer or client rep.
7.Releases. The voucher you just signed is a release, and no additional release is normally necessary. Nonetheless if you
are given a separate release, make sure that the usage and duration specified on the release is the same as on the voucher. If it is not, cross out any portion that is different from what the voucher says, write in the voucher’s usage restrictions and duration, and sign it. If the photographer objects to you making changes to the release, politely ask to call your agent. Never sign a release that has different usage or duration from what is on the voucher or you may be signing away thousands of dollars in future rights purchases. Even better, if the client or photographer presents you with any document to sign, make sure your agent sees and approves it before you sign it.
That is what it’s about, right? You’ve made all that investment, done the right things, finished a shoot, the client loved you. So you’re rich!
Not so fast, Bucky! You may have just earned a very hefty paycheck, but this isn’t quite the time to blow your money on a
new car. There is this little, tiny problem. Your agency might pay you immediately after the shoot is completed, but most will
not. Much more likely, your agency will collect the money for you, and will pay you after the client’s check clears (after taking out his commission of course — he has to make car payments too). But we missed a few steps along the way. You have to take the completed voucher back to your agent, who uses it to compile an invoice for the client. If we get the next-toworst- of-all-possible worlds, the agency sends the bill to the photographer, who forwards it to the ad agency, who sends it to the client. They take their usual 30 days to pay the invoice from the ad agency, which then eventually pays the photographer, who waits until his rent is paid and sends a check on to the model agency, which waits for the check to clear before paying you. It isn’t always that bad — sometimes the client can be billed directly, and sometimes they pay promptly on receipt of the bill. But don’t count on it. It is much more likely to take 45-90 days from the shoot before anyone gets any money. And there is the (fortunately rare) worst-of-all-possible-worlds: the client doesn’t pay. He may go bankrupt, or simply be unable or unwilling to pay for any of a number of reasons. When this happens the agency will help you collect if that is possible, but that’s all they will do. If they don’t get paid, you don’t get paid. A wise model spends money only when she knows she has it. This business can be tremendously lucrative, but it can also be a feast-or-famine nightmare; even if you just did a huge job for a national corporation, it’s best to remember: