Strangers tell you that your child should model; you are curious about taking them seriously, and your child wants to model! However, you are not sure about the industry, and if it is a good idea. There are certainly many pros and cons. Modeling can teach kids about working, earning money, being professional, and can increase their confidence if handled the right way. But before you go any further, ask yourself who is really behind the idea. Pushing your child into something he or she does not want to do will only cause resentment and relationship problems. If your child really seems enthusiastic about modeling, be sure to understand what you are both getting into. Now let’s break it down.
What is a child model? When most people think of models, they think of runway models. However, kids are booked mainly for commercial work, meaning for advertisements to promote commercial products. So, kids need to look like kids and not runway models. While commercial work may seem less glamorous, it is actually more plentiful and often times better paying. If your child is lucky, he or she could be casted for a national commercial or one that pays royalties. But most likely, he or she will be booked for more local/regional work.
How to pick an agent: When looking for an agency, make sure you select one that has been established for several years. You want an agent with a great reputation and who has solid relationships with clients. The agency should never ask for any money upfront or suggest any classes. The only money the agency ever receives from you is the industry standard commission of 20%. Outside of that, you will only have to pay for professional photography once a year and comp card related expenses. See agency recommendation at the end of this article.
Prepping for an agency interview: Some agencies ask for online submissions prior to meeting in person. If you are asked to come into the agency or attend an open call day, prepare your child. Encourage your child to speak clearly and smile naturally during conversation (try role playing to prepare). The agency will want to see how your child does interacting with them, as well as their personality. Usually, conversations with agents are pretty short, as they see a number of potential talent during open call times. The agent may take some quick digitals of your child, so dress your child in something cute but simple.
Your child has an agent, now what? If your child gets signed by an agency, congratulations! You will now need professional pictures. Your agent will need headshots, 3/4 length, and full length digitals in each outfit that is shot. The agency will have a list of photographers whose work meets industry standards. You may certainly use any photographer, but share their website with your agency prior to having pictures taken to ensure you have chosen someone who knows how to shoot for the industry.
Expectations: Every three months you will need to email fresh digitals and sizes to your agent. You can take these photos yourself, as long as you use a good camera. Your agent will need headshots, 3/4 length, and full length digitals. Your child should have a smiling and non-smiling shot for each. It’s best to have your child pose naturally in outdoor lighting. And of course, make sure you have a tasteful wardrobe. Also remember to update your agency whenever your child changes sizes, lo0ses any teeth, or has any major hair changes.
Your agent calls with a direct booking or casting call, now what?! A direct booking is when your child is selected without having to be seen in person first (less common, most convenient). A casting call (most typical) is an audition where other models from your agency, as well as other agencies, will be seen for a job. Bookings/castings are often held in a another town or area that you are not familiar with, so look up the address to estimate the amount of drive time. You certainly don’t want to set the precedent that you are late. To prepare your child, make sure he gets good sleep the night before and eats well prior to the appointment time. A tired and hungry child will not help you get the job. When you take your child to a casting call, relax! If you are relaxed, your child will be too. Remember to bring along an activity like a book or iPad, as the wait can sometimes be long. An activity will also help distract your child from any pending nerves. You should also bring your child’s agency comp card. Your agent will call you with the details of the job (duration, location, pay rate) if you are selected. If you do not receive a call, your child did not get the job.
Considerations to think about
– Most castings and direct bookings are during school hours. When you child is young, this might not be a big deal. As your child gets older, missing school can be more impactful, not to mention some schools may frown upon the reason. If you constantly say no to your agent, your phone may not ring as frequently.
– In the Carolinas, most work requires a trip out of town which can be an hour or more. Some work is in Charlotte, but most companies shoot in studios outside of Charlotte (like High Point). Be ready to drive and be ready to rearrange your schedule!
– Your child will have to file tax returns, which requires keeping up with receipts. Taxes are not withheld when the agency sends payment (only their 20% commission will be deducted). Remember to save those haircut and wardrobe receipts and to log mileage.
– Kids do not get paid as much as adult models even if they are on set for the same amount of time.
– Often times, shoots require the model to bring their own wardrobe. Your child will need a variety of clean tops and bottoms, as well as shoes that are not too worn. Your agent will give you the specifics.
– When your child has an agent, it doesn’t mean your child will be booked for jobs right away. It also does not mean your agent is not supporting you. Clients have specific looks they are searching for and your child may not fit any immediate needs. Also, work can be very sporadic. While you are waiting for jobs, have your child practice poses in front of a mirror and camera. It is also helpful to look at how other kids pose in catalogs and websites. And always practice a natural looking smile.
– If your child is shy, she may not be shy behind a camera. Some kids enjoy performing even if they are not outgoing. Before starting the process, think about how your child acts during family photos. If she hasn’t been in front of a camera in awhile, have her shoot with someone she does not know to see how comfortable she is. You probably want to have this figured out prior to visiting a modeling agency.
– Most importantly, protect your child’s self esteem. You really want to arm your child with enough strength and self esteem to handle rejection. They will face rejection! Not necessarily in words directly spoken to them, but in action (or lack of). Both of my kids (and myself) have worked with an agency. I always explain to them that it is okay that we did not hear back about a casting: there is nothing wrong with you, they just needed a different look. You never want to leave your child with the feeling that he or she is not good enough.
– There are a lot of cute kids out there and we all think our own kids are the cutest. Do not push your child into modeling. Make it a fun activity for both you and your child. My kids and I have had some fun road trips that we still like to talk about. We made road time bonding time.
If you would like to contact an agency to see if you child is a fit, I recommend Directions USA out of Greensboro, NC. I have worked with them on and off since the late 90’s and my kids have worked with them too. They are a very reputable agency, having strong relationships with the best clients. Directions has been managing models and actors for over 30 years. They are very professional. Children are required to be at least four and live in the Carolinas. You can submit their information and photos through their website www.DirectionsUSA.com.