I am occasionally asked to answer questions by a person considering embarking on a career in modeling or acting. This post ranks as a bottom of the barrel item only because it largely consists of the advice I gave in a recent email. I have edited it slightly for general public distribution. It is my response to the query of a young person who knows almost nothing about the industry but knows they are attractive enough to be in print.
Here are the lessons that too many models never learn, or get hurt learning. My career has been as Santa, a threatening biker, or a jovial oaf. Typecasting to be sure, but it bought me a new car over the last 10 years. Nothing to sneeze at since I drive an Explorer! Yes, there’s money, but it doesn’t come right away, if ever. So, some rules/ideas to live by. Please do not be insulted. I don’t know you at all, and you may already know all of this stuff, but I’ll assume that you don’t. I have no stake in this game, so you can take this as Gospel. Here we go:
Prepare a short letter of introduction. Include 3 photos – one of baby, one of you with baby, one of you. Google all the local agencies. Call the agency and ask to whom you should mail it. Then walk in around 2 pm on a Tuesday. That’s a dead time. Don’t show up Monday or Friday – crazy times. If they don’t want to talk, just smile and leave your envelope with the photos and letter. Make a follow up call in 10 days. That gives them a chance to look at the pile. Three days after that, send a thank you note for their time.
Never pay for modeling lessons or acting lessons unless it’s at a community ed program or college. No reputable agency will require you to take classes you pay for to work for them. EVERY agency that does that is a scam. Run away from them.
No reputable agency will require you to pay a large up-front fee to work for them. If they have a website fee of under $100 that may be reasonable. I’ve paid a few of them over the years. They do put work into promoting you and putting you on the website. But get them to agree to take it out of your first check. That’s what I’ve done with one exception – and that agency had already paid me over $500 that year. It was a steal to pay them $50 to be on the website. Use good sense, if it’s more than $100 it’s a ripoff. Most agencies won’t charge until you work a bit.
No reputable agency will require you to work nude. Let me repeat that: no reputable agency will require you to work nude. You will always have covering over your genitals when working unless it’s a big arty shoot – not very likely in the Midwest. Same goes for lingerie. It’s just not a real modeling job if you are to do a lingerie show for a business lunch – sounds shady, is shady. If you have any doubts about any assignment, make sure you take a friend with you. Having your baby along is no insurance against creeps. This goes double for Craigs list bookings. Only go through agencies.
You may not work for months or a year when first starting. But keep going to auditions. You won’t get work unless you audition. Don’t buy outfits or props for auditions or shoots. They will provide what you need. Auditions eventually turn into work if you have what they are looking for in this business.
Be on time. Models are a pain to work with because they are always late. I always a l w a y s find the place at least 1/2 hour early and find a place to park. I hit the bathroom before knocking on the door. Your being on time and professional will impress them – most models aren’t.
Don’t be a diva, be humble and cooperative. No director wants to work with unpleasant people. Hey, they’re paying you for the time so consider part of the fee to be polite.
Checks will come within 100 days. Yup, very rarely will you be paid right away. Most jobs I do I see the check in about 9 weeks. Good agencies will be up front about that little detail.
Pay varies for the use of the time. If you score a national commercial, it pays a lot of money – thousands. If you do a 1/2 hour photo shoot for a local store, it might only pay $200. Your agency has a vested interest in getting you paid well – they get a percent. Speaking of which, their share of the fee should be no more than 15% in most cases, 20% max.
Do not audition for things you do not want to do or can’t due for scheduling reasons. Let your agent know if you have a moral objection to a product. And conflict of interest comes in to play as well. Sounds crazy, but my employer would can me if I worked for the competition, and I won’t do work for products that I find objectionable. I have had offers to work on things I object to, and I just nicely tell my agent that it won’t work for my lifestyle. All of my agents are cool with it. I have an public image to protect and they usually respect that situation.
Do not offer suggestions to the photographers and directors until you’ve worked for a year. Some of the really silly stuff they have you do has a reason – you will learn them and then once you are experienced you can suggest things nicely – they like it when you help. But learn the craft first.
Create a bag with basic wardrobe – a skirt, a blouse, a pair of tight jeans, a pair of loose jeans, a couple of t-shirts, a v neck blouse, a couple of scarves, a hat, some sunglasses, and some costume jewelry. Add a basic makeup kit, a brush and a comb, as well as a toothbrush, dental floss, and toothpaste. Seriously, this marks you as a professional. Iron the stuff before an assignment and make sure you have the wardrobe they request. Always bring a couple of pairs of shoes that match – they change that stuff all the time. Stick to basic colors – pastels, never black and white unless they request it- no corporate logos, nothing objectionable, etc. You’ll be glad you did.
Bring a book. You sit around a lot.
Bring a snack. It’s rare they feed you for modeling work under an hour or two. Then it will be grapes, cookies, and soda pop. Joy.
Learn people’s names. Send the director a thank you note if they were especially nice. Don’t ask for copies of the photos – big no-no.
Don’t gossip with other actors and models. It’s tempting but always backfires.
Have some fun. Where else do you get paid to smile?
You now have the sum total of my wisdom about modeling/acting. I hope it helps.