The Bizzy Mama is just a different mama now. Still Bizzy…still a mama…so what’s new? Well, my daughter has slowed down in the biz. She’s busier with her own stuff now and has wanted to stay closer to home doing camp (in the summer) and tennis, ballet (including the Nutcracker – and all of the various foul-language versions it earns the closer we get to the performance), Girl Scouts, softball and other kid stuff like birthday parties. BUT: she still wants to be a movie star and a model, so once a month or so she’ll still want an audition. It’s nice to dabble a little on that side without the full drop-everything-and-run schedule we used to have.
But what is the Bizzy Mama doing every day? I’m an agent now, y’all. Yup. Full-fledged. So now I can write to you knowing the business backwards and forwards – inside and out. And really: stop the presses NOT – I don’t have any major revelations for you. What I can do is 100% answer your questions honestly and truly. And the one that so many parents seem to want answered…Do agents punish parents/kids (for whatever reason)?
I’d like to put an interlude in before the actual answer (an imagine me nudging a colleague and saying this under my breath) “Do they even know how we make money?” If a kid who can book the job is not put forth to casting or the client and we don’t book the job, we don’t make money.
Actually, I’m going to put in another interlude.
When I was in my first few weeks as an agent, people kept asking me how different it was on the other side. I shrugged my shoulders often and said it really wasn’t *that* much different than what I expected – I felt that I had a really good handle on the business. (Emphasis on business.) I’m observant; I tend to absorb as much as possible; I soak it all in; I learn what I can. What actually DID surprise me, though, was the extent to which the agencies need to hustle to get bookings. And this really shouldn’t have surprised me – I was just somewhat oblivious to the competition out there. Beautiful kids galore, happy agents, right? Well, sure, but it’s like any other “agency” or brokerage – be it realtors, auto dealerships, travel agents. They all have perfectly wonderful things to offer but ultimately a client needs to make a choice. And that’s the way it is among the child modeling agencies – there are a good handful of solid, reputable agencies in NYC and they all have hard-working agents and gorgeous kids. Clients only need so many for their projects. Try as we might, we cannot really convince Gap or Amazon to increase the number of kids they may book to make it all go around “so it’s fair” (ugh, jeeeez, now there’s another blog post). It is, as they say, what it is. Bottom line: we compete.
So if you do something YOU THINK pisses us off – or ACTUALLY pisses us off – are we going to punish you?
I’m not going to speak for any other agents, but I’m probably pretty safe in speaking from the perspective of a sane business person who needs to make money: I’m a professional. I am not going to “punish” you. If you do something inappropriate, I am going to tell you. If I think it means we cannot work together, I will warn you about that and we will come to an understanding about how to go forward. If it really breaches our professional relationship, I will cut you loose. Otherwise, we will move on and I will continue to represent your kid just as zealously as I did yesterday. Because I need to make money and I get that is the reason we are all here. But I will not play games because I do not have the time nor the energy (nor, frankly, the brain cells – I am an aging woman) for that and I hope you will not spend any time thinking, “Did I do something wrong? Why haven’t I heard from them?” if we haven’t emailed you recently. (Hashtag office coffee fund: pay a dollar every time a parent writes, “We haven’t heard from you – I hope I didn’t do something wrong!”)
No, no, no, parents. We want to work in partnership with you. We need your updates and photos and cute stories from vacations. If you were 15 minutes late to a casting that one time because of an accident on the West Side Highway, WE GET IT. You called and you let us know and when casting called, we were on top of it. That ONE TIME you didn’t book out even though you have been perfect about booking out for TWO YEARS? Ok, ok, maybe we’ll say “Please don’t forget to book out at least two weeks in advance next time!” but we PROMISE that is NOT going to stop us from submitting your child every time we get that breakdown. There are even really bad things you can do that might not make us punish you – and I’m not even going to say what those are because I don’t want you to think you can get away with them – but the bottom line is, we don’t punish you. If your kid is capable of booking a job – WHICH IS WHY WE SIGNED YOUR KID – we will not stop submitting your child for jobs. Because this goes back to the whole business thing and making money thing. “Punishing” you -- that is spite. And spite does not run a business. Spite does not pay the rent, does not put gas in my tank, and does not buy my child’s dance shoes. So until spite takes the form of currency, it has no place in business.
What will stop me from submitting your child for jobs? If you ignore emails and phone calls and I’m not sure if I can reach you or not. (It’s not punishing you – I can’t count on you, so I can’t risk being unreliable for a client.) If you don’t send photo and size updates on a regular basis. (I have no idea if I am submitting you for the right breakdowns – again, I need to be reliable for a client.) There’s nothing more puzzling that going a few months without hearing from a parent and then reading them ask if things are slow and why they haven’t gotten anything lately…what am I ALWAYS going to write back? “Please send us updated sizes and photos so we can make sure we are submitting ___ for the right jobs.” We’re thrilled to hear from you – and I wish we had the time to reach out to each of you each month and do the legwork ourselves…but as I used to tell my students when they were clueless about their homework assignments, they have 6 teachers a day to keep track…versus me having 125 students a day to keep track of. Now, as an agent, it’s even a little more than that. (But I promise, no one just like your child.) Bottom line: be 100% reachable when we contact you, let us know when you are not available, and keep up-to-date with sizes and photos. If you drop off the face of the earth, I will stop submitting your kid.
So no, we don’t punish you. We can’t operate on spite. There will be slow patches, and it’s probably no one’s fault other than just a lull...season, size, which clients are in town, which kids are top bookers in the industry right now…did a butterfly flap its wings in a rain forest somewhere…and we really do want to work together. We’ve got this.