I thought I would share a question I got from a reader. It's a great question, and actually raises some good points I think you should all know about the business. AND, added bonus, it's something industry moms ask and talk about all the time!
I'm going to edit the original question a bit, but I will still keep it in italics so you know which part was the question and which was the response.
We were booked mid-day today for a 9am shoot tomorrow in Brooklyn (less than the 24 hour notice I thought our agent guaranteed). Logistically I would need to leave my house at 6:45am to ensure we made it there on time factoring in an extra hour for rush hour. The rate was also only $50/hour, so none of this made it worth it to me and I told my agent we couldn't make it and she got extremely upset. How does one avoid these situations going forward? We went to the casting last week in Manhattan and all of the work we have done so far has been at a minimum $100/hour which makes parking and tolls less painful. Basically I would be losing money spending 6hours to make $80 (2 hour limit at this age and agency fee). Is this even worth it?
What a great question!
When I responded, I tackled a couple of points in particular.
I'll start with the "24-hour notice." That's not a thing. Your agent should not have promised that. Your agent could have said, "We will give you as much notice as possible." My daughter has worked for MANY clients who send out their bookings late in the day for the next morning. Usually there is a hold, so it's not a total surprise, but if you go to a casting and know the shoot dates...well, keep reading.
We are fortunate to have an extremely business-oriented, Type A, ultra-clear and concise agent. That is exactly the style of agent I want -- but remember, agents are all about the FIT. Just like some of us like iPhones and some of us like Androids, agents at reputable agencies all get the job done and do what they do -- for the most part -- well. Here's where I questioned this mom first: did your agent tell you the dates, rate and shoot location BEFORE the casting?
Agents, I know you read this...and I love you all and you know I have tons of respect for the work you do. But YOU know this information when you send parents on castings, and parents deserve to know this information as well.
When you get a request for a casting (and remember, "request" is a term I use loosely -- if your agent sends you the casting, it's a request whether 1000 kids or 4 kids are going -- never question that; it doesn't matter)...when you get a request for a casting, you should know the shoot dates, the location of the shoot, and the rate. This is what your agent should be telling you. (Agents who don't: if you have a compelling reason to withhold this information, please email me and explain...I will be happy to clarify.) If an agent does NOT know that information, they should tell you they do not know the information. For example: Client X, shoot dates: late summer (exact dates unknown), location: shoots in NYC and upstate NY, rate: 125/hr.
Parents: generally speaking, by signing on to be part of this business, you have agreed to take jobs within the tri-state area at the going rates the agents negotiate. IF a casting is for a location-shoot and for some reason you are unable to make a location shoot, you should let your agent know. Your agent should make all of this clear to you when you join their agency. The going rate in the NYC market is $100+/hr with a 2-hour minimum with the exception of a couple of clients. Your agent can let you know what the exceptions are. Expect that there are a few exceptions and be ready to take them when they come. A common exception is that some companies do not offer a 2-hour minimum when school is not in session or for children younger than school-age. Another common exception is editorial work; this is the type of work that appears in magazines like the ones we all get when our kiddos are little or see in the OB/GYN's office. Those are often as little as $50/hr BUT they are really cool jobs, so we take them as just being cool. Some agencies even have their talent do an occasional editorial shoot for NO PAY if the agent expects great photos that can be useful for marketing your child down the road. You have signed on to trust this reputable agent -- trust your agent.
If you've been reading for a long time or are new to my blog, remember or read the post I wrote about the money. For child models, it's not about the money. Very few kids make tons of money as child models. VERY FEW. The bigger $$$ is to be found in commercials, TV and film...which a lot of us would love for our kids to hit big, but we need to be realistic. Depending on your expenses, child modeling can be a nice bonus in the bank for your kiddo OR...it can actually be...A LOSS.
A $200 or $250 job -- which is what most of us could reasonably expect to make -- might result from a casting/go-see a week or so before. So...we didn't make any money on the go-see and paid $10 (minimum) for tolls, maybe $30 for parking, another $10 or so for bribery snacks and coffee plus tip, and who knows how much for gas. (I just got a new car -- "new" car -- that takes the super ultra premium gas: WHAT WAS I THINKING?) So there's $50 assuming gas was free. NOW, you book! WOOT! You pay that much again, and the commission to the agency AND don't forget you need to put 15% of the GROSS earning into that trust account... Let me assume $20 for gas (that's not accounting for any wear and tear on the car)...ok, so that's $70 per trip which is $140 now for 2 trips...let's say the job paid $125/hr for 2 hours...that's $250, subtract $50 for commission, now $37.50 for the trust account...now your kid made $22.50. And little more that they can have when they turn 18. But you are also out the miles on your tires, engine, and oil change.
I do know many parents out there who say things like, "All the money goes into my child's account...I don't take any for expenses...it's all theirs..." and that's great. I, personally, am not wealthy enough to NOT recoup some of my expenses. Do I eat a fair chunk? Sure. Do I need to get reimbursed for some as well? Definitely. Full disclosure: we also live farther away than average, so it's pretty expensive for us to go back and forth. Even when we train, we have to drive half-way and train half-way from the closest station.
So where was I? Back to the original question. This mama who wrote to me wondered if the job wasn't worth it. Fair question? YES. Was it financially worth it? NO.
But remember, why do we do this in the first place? 1) We all want our kids to be in a Baby Gap. Don't lie; that's why you started. 2) It's a fun industry. I meet and have become friends with some awesome people and my child has the opportunity to become friends and work with kids from far more diverse/different backgrounds than are present in our little white-bread Northwestern CT town. 3) We love seeing pictures of our kids in stores and catalogs. The grandparents are pretty cool with pictures as well. 4) Our kids often love the time to express themselves, play with other kids and experience things in the City they wouldn't at home...AND 5) they also learn to deal with direction, waiting, patience, self-entertainment, and the rejection that can come with the business when they are old enough to understand.
But ALSO remember this:
This is a business. This may be fun for some of us, but for our agents, this is their livelihood. When we sign on, we are expected to follow by the general rules of the business and take the great jobs with the lame jobs...just like in any business, there are ups and downs. Positives and negatives. In the end, if it's not right for you and your finances/schedule/personality, it's fine to bow out professionally and gracefully.
In the meantime, have a blast!
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