Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Gritty (but Great) Truth about Child Modeling and Acting

“A model?!?  Your child is a model?  Really?”

This is funny.  Why? How many of us ended up considering this opportunity for our kids because tons of people said, “Oh my!  Your child is gorgeous! He/she should be a model!” Apparently they don’t share memos.

When I talk to people outside of the business about child modeling and acting, they are often surprised to learn about some of these misconceptions.  But for those of us in the industry, this list is all too familiar. It’s also a great “study notes” guide to what you need to know before you take the leap.

1. “You/your child must be rich!”

The money in child modeling and acting typically falls into a few ranges.  Most print jobs pay $125/hr to a couple thousand (rare!) per day. More if you are working commercial print (like Pepsi or pharmaceuticals as opposed to clothes like Justice or Lands’ End).  Even the glorious giant windows in Baby Gap will pay out only about half a day of work (babies and toddlers have restricted hours according to NY labor laws). The more prestigious the brand does not equal more money.  The department stores, Ralph Lauren, Target and Amazon pay all in the realm of the fair NYC child print rates. Prestige is in the pics. What will pay out? Tech. A tech company may pay up to five figures for your kiddo to model in a print ad.  But — be prepared — that will likely take your kid out of the running for any tech-related work for a couple years. The lowest payer? Safe to say now because they aren’t in business anymore, but let’s just say… big toy store.

Commercials usually pay from $500 to $50,000 on up.  Yup, you read that right. Non-union commercials for kids pay about $500.  Union commercials (SAG/AFTRA) can pay out BIG. That depends on how many times the commercial airs, which channels, what time, which markets (locations) and for how long it runs.  Non-union commercials tend to pay a session fee (for the time you shoot) and then maybe more if the commercial actually airs.

2. You don’t keep the clothes.

It happens every so often… almost never but… here’s why.  Mostly you’re working about two seasons ahead of what people are buying now.  The clothes your child is modeling are supposed to be “under wraps” until the client releases the photos.  That’s why it’s also a no-no to take pictures of the products on set (so put the phones away, moms).

Also, many of the clothes are samples, meaning not quite the same you’d get in the store.  They may be a little less “finished” than what you buy, just so they client can get pictures of the look before the mass-production arrives in stores.  Some clients also tailor, which doesn’t mean customize the outfit like a fine suit… it means letting in and taking out and shortening or lengthening — but just so it doesn’t show in set.  For example, a tailor on set may take in some jeans just by sewing up the back of the leg — it won’t show in pictures, but it’s definitely not how you’d “wear” the garment.

3. Getting to the city on time WILL age you.

Oh man… this one alone.  If you do not live in NYC, like a subway ride or less from the shoot location/studio, block off the day for travel.  You cannot predict how long it will take you unless you’re working on specific train schedules. I drive in and it takes me 2-2.5 hours if you figure leaving home, maybe a pee and/or dunkin stop, light traffic, and parking.  Please note: it can also take this long at rush hour for someone driving in from NJ of LI… even like 20 miles away.

You get used to being very early or squeezing in an arrival just in the nick of time… and since time is the client’s money, you do NOT want to be late.  This is a business (okay, you know I always say that. You get it.)

Please note this is also stressful AF.  It will age you.

Important rules: always trust WAZE.  If it tells you to take the Lincoln Tunnel to go back over the GW Bridge just to get back to CT, you do it.  You swear a lot, but you do it. Second WAZE rule: you will always add time. Always. Leave earlier.

4. Oh the miles...

You will become one with your car.  Love your car. Have a comfortable car that you love.  And that you’re ready to drive it into the ground. You will get it scratched in garages, kissed by taxis, dinged by Amazon vans (I swear, those may be worse than citibikes) but but but… this is not the time to skimp on a car just so you have a plain old little city commuting car.  You will move into this car, and need to have a full kitchen, mud room, laundry facility, and two bathrooms in it. Your kids will barf, wet their pants, have to poop NOW, and… so will you. Be prepared.

Oh, and with the last minute nature of this industry, this car needs to be ready to roll in a few hours’ notice.  Don’t roll into your driveway with 2 miles left and think you’ll get gas in the morning — suddenly you have a casting at 9:00 am and you’re on E and need to add fifteen minutes into your trip to deal with the rush hour gas station dance.  (I may or may not be guilty of this.)

Embrace the mileage.  You’ll need to shop for cars that keep on keeping on after 200,000 miles.  And that you want to sit in four hour traffic going back to CT on a Friday in July.  Love your car. Praise her. She deserves it.

5. Auditions and castings after school can be a JUGGLE.

For school age kids, usually first grade and up, most castings are between 3:00 and 5:30.  Well, no one gets out of school before 3:00 in enough time to make a casting. So this means early dismissals.  And for 3:00, you want to get IN AND OUT of the city before… wait for it… RUSH HOUR. That means like, 3:15. Otherwise, if you live close enough to run in after school, amazing… but… what happens when it’s time to leave?  RUSH HOUR. Even if you do the train or bus thing, rush hour is not fun. And it usually takes a long time. See also: #4, preparing your car for hours of comfort.

6. Missing school is a reality.

just mentioned early dismissals, which can really stink if your child always has the same subject at the end of the day.  Prepare to help with lots of homework and maybe even extra help if you need to fill in for missed class time. But… when you get jobs, and for a few castings and auditions here and there, your child will miss school.  Period. If you have a problem with this, this is not your industry.

That said, all of the successful child models I know excel in school and plenty of other activities.  It’s all a balance and a juggle. Just be prepared for this. I have a post about dealing with absences — the real key is collaboration with the school.  It’s all communication.

Also worth mentioning here — your child will also miss after school activities and lessons.  Sometimes this is non-negotiable with the activity, so you may have to make some tough choices.  It can also be a drag if your child misses the activities that don’t happen as often — for example, we have Girl Scouts twice a month.  If we miss one, it ends of being a month between my daughter’s participation in the activities and that can be a real drag for her missing the continuity.  And all the other great things about the activity. Kids tend to leave the industry right around the time that after school sports and plays really heat up for kids.  Kids often choose the activities over the photo shoots.

7. This not translate to adult modeling.

Those dreams of that Vogue cover… the Prada runway show… it's very unlikely your child will transition into an adult model.  Of course it happens! But: your child will likely be very tall and age out of child modeling at a young age (think 58” inches as the end of the line for girls and 60” for boys) and then you have to wait several years until your child is the right height for adult modeling (tall), see if your child’s natural healthy weight would fit into tiny sample sizes, and… be 18.  There is not much of a market AT ALL for adult models under 18 (and those stories you hear about 14 year old runway models are old news — with child performer permit laws and regulations, no one would hire a 14 year old. Even junior models — like the odd-numbered sizes — are often over 18 and look young.

Oh — and the looks that make child models successful are often different from the more mature and artistic high-fashion looks.  Cute and sweet children may not translate into those looks. Still beautiful, but not Dolce.

8. My child is a brat for 20 other reasons

“But don’t child actors and models get so spoiled?”  Well, on set, it’s true they are treated well and there are people on set whose job it is to make them happy and comfortable.  But very quickly, kids also learn this is work. It can take a lot of patience and a lot of taking direction that can also make kids cranky at the end of a long day.  But isn’t that true of any job? We all get cranky at the end of an unusually challenging day. Often, these kids then get in the car and go to music, sports, or other lessons and groups and might seem a little grouchy.  As they get older, they learn that just doesn’t fly. People aren’t nice to grouchy kids.

One thing that is a plus in all of this is that your child learns to work with many adults and personalities (kids and adults) and your child is performing in a professional industry.  These are good skills that child models and actors learn young.

It’s important for parents to keep their children grounded.  Dina Lohan is very much the exception and not the rule. I have yet to meet a single mom anything like her.  Generally? Moms that break the norms of professionalism and good parenting tend not to last. Parents are very much seen on set but rarely heard during the actual shoot.  Kids need to learn to work without their parents nearby telling them everything to do. Parents of child models and actors also need to be sure this is just part of their child’s overall childhood experience.  Balance, variety, and a focus on education are paramount.

And if my child acts like a brat?  Trust me, it’s not because of this.  You can blame me for twenty other reasons, but not this one.

9. What about creepers?!?!

“But aren’t there pedophiles?!?!?”  

First, heed this warning.  There are pedophiles hidden in any possible place.  It’s possible for there to be a pedophile in schools, sports, clubs, and even at your dining room table.  Children who are sexually abused are most often abused by someone they know and there is usually a grooming process.  See my earlier post on this.

The key is vigilance.  You never let your child out of your sight and/or sound.  You never let your child be changed (clothes or otherwise) by another person and if you get the least bit uncomfortable use your mom senses and make the decision you need to in the moment.  California has layers of laws to protect child performers including background checks. NYC is not there yet, but most of the people in the industry tend to all work together and know each other so it’s not like you’re getting complete randoms every time you go to a job.

I’ve never heard of any sexual assault situation in the child modeling/acting specific community I’ve been part of for seven years.  

Again, vigilance in ALL places, including your own homes.

10. Remember: it’s a JOB.

Yes there are people there to make it fun and you and your kid should also prepare to make your own fun for the day — toys, electronics (this is NOT a no-electronics zone; every kid uses a tablet or iPod and the older ones have phones.  They need various forms of entertainment), snacks, books, etc.

But it is work and professionalism.  If a client is running late and you find out there are six more outfits to shoot in the next hour, your child needs to power through this like a trooper.  Kids who work regularly will get used to this. It gets easier as kids get older.

This isn’t like signing up for a fun activity where your child will laugh and love every moment.  A lot of toy/treat bribery goes on in this world. Maybe that’s why kids seem like brats, but by they time they are older and can read books and do homework, they are usually quite good at managing their own down-time along with work time on set.  It’s a developmental process — just like anything else.

11. No, you can’t just sign up.

So it still all sounds great?  You want to sign up? No, you can’t just sign up.  Now you need to do your research, find reputable agencies, learn how to submit and then… wait.  It’s not unlike applying to colleges. If you get called in and then offered a contract, now you’re ready to roll and you know what to expect.

Thanks for reading!  Check out my Instagram @theBizzyMama or my daughter’s professional IG @bizzyholland and you can like my Facebook page to learn when I post new blogs.  Contact me here or by email,

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Do you need headshots?

The universal question from every parent considering modeling for their child is “Do we need headshots?!?” and the first resounding answer I give is, “No!  Not yet!”

Why not yet?  If you are simply in the submission process to children’s agencies, you need basic submission photos — you can do these on your cell phone.  See this past post to know how to do that. If you are invited to begin working with an agency, use your agent’s guidelines for choosing the type and style of photos you need.  

So if you get to the point where you actually need photographs, the first thing is… not all photographs are headshots.  Headshots are shots, from the shoulders up, usually used for acting. If your child will be doing any acting with the agency, your agent will likely require strong headshots.  You should probably aim to get two to three different expressions. The goal is to have one semi-serious and engaging looking for movies, TV, and theater and another fresh, happy face for commercial submissions.

Vocab term:  a “look” is a hair and wardrobe combination.  Most photographers sell their packages by the number of looks they will shoot.  So five looks would be five different outfits with some different hair options mixed around.  Note: five looks is usually too many. Three is usually just right.

So headshots are a must for acting.  For modeling, your agency might ask for some professional pictures if your child is over five/six years old.  Usually before that point, when kids still grow fast, GREAT snapshots will work. Modeling pics aren’t headshots.  Usually they are full length and can be in fun clothes showing off a little fashion and then “lifestyle” pics which show the child doing something active instead of just standing there.

I’m going to show you some from my daughter’s recent session with Alex Kruk, an LA photographer who comes to New York for a few days at a time to shoot in the warmer months.  She first photographed my daughter when she was four and I’ve been in love with Alex’s work ever since.

Headshot (Legit — TV, Film, theater)

Headshot (Commercial)

Modeling shot

Lifestyle shot

Behind the scenes: Alex and her husband James

Behind the scenes: with Christina Turino, HMUA

When you’re selecting a photo package, be sure you talk to the photographer about what to wear.  They usually send a list and you just bring a big bag of stuff and the photographer will select outfits that will look best in the setting and highlight the child’s features.

Also discuss hair and makeup.  Most photographers have a hair and makeup artist they work with and I opt in for that package addition because my daughter has very long hair that needs attention.  Makeup is usually very minimal and would consist of a bit of blush and concealer if necessary as well as a neutral lip gloss. That’s the most they would need. This session’s HMUA (hair and makeup artist) was Christina Turino, who does great work with kids.

At our agency, we have four headshot options (two legit; two commercial) the on-camera agents use and the modeling agents use those as well as some full-length and lifestyle looks in her portfolio.  One session can provide all the photos necessary if your child is a model and actor — especially if you communicate with the photographer. Your work with the photographer should be a collaboration.  Be sure you each know what the other one needs/plans and you’re all in agreement. Photo packages in NYC are running close to $500-$600 and up, so you want to come out with everything you need.

There are many great photographers.  Your agent can recommend who is “hot” and the moment and/or who might do the best work with your child.  There are young/apprentice photographers who will do a no-frills, one-look, no HMUA session for a low price and that can be a good headshot option if you’re starting out and budget is a major issue — but use one that other people are using, not your neighbor’s cousin’s babysitter.  You want someone at least slightly proven.

I tend to stay in the box when choosing a photographer BUT I like to have a look a little different from what’s totally on trend at the moment — one reason why I chose an LA photographer who comes to NYC.  But there are so many great photographers to choose from — just go with your tastes as much as the recommendations from the experts in the industry. You need to be very happy with these photos — not just ok with them because that’s who everyone else uses.

I’m about a year and a half out of the agent seat so I don’t maintain a list or really even name photographers off the top of my head, so I’m not going to give any additional recommendations.  One reality is that kid models who work all the time really don’t need modeling pics because they have their tearsheets (actual modeling work like ads or catalogs) to use in their portfolios. If they act, however, they will still need pro headshots.

If you’d like to get in touch with Alex Kruk, her email is  You can reach me here, check out my instagram @thebizzymama, like the Facebook page The Bizzy Mama, or email me at

(Note:  I received no special price or other consideration for using Alex's work in this blog.  She granted me permission to write about her.)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

No, you’re not willing to travel.

As some of you know, I moderate and lurk around some FB groups for aspiring model parents and I have some strong opinions that come off.  If you’ve read this blog, you know that. But now I have a story for you and it’s the perfect example of one of my biggest rules of the road here in the biz:


So often I see parents saying they live somewhere quite far from a major market and they always seem to say, “We’re willing to travel!”

And I say, no way.  As an agent, I’ve turned down kids for their distance.  And in NYC, the general rule of thumb is you must live within a 2-hour radius for ground transportation.  This is important! And the simple reason is: this business is fast-paced and maybe not as glamorous as it seems from afar.

So here’s my story!

My daughter took some time off from print (about two years) and we jumped back in this fall.  She went to her first casting, got a hold, booked it, and was totally confirmed for the shoot the day before.

Here’s what’s kind of remarkable about the day of the shoot: my doctor scheduled surgery for me on the very same day and because somehow I am a moron with dates and times, I didn’t realize until about three days ahead of time that these things were both happening on the same day.  (See also: book out! See also: keep commitments!)

My wife had taken a vacation day to take me to surgery.  Makes sense, right? Spouse at the hospital with you? Wellllllll, once I realized both of these things were happening at the same time, I had to figure out a plan.  What seemed to make the most sense to keep this commitment was to have my wife take our daughter to the shoot and have my parents take me to the hospital. Easy enough, right?

Er, imagine you are the spouse — and definitely not a model mom — and you’re given this news.  And your she-shed has long since burned down and the playhouse in the backyard is filled with spiders.  Kind of rough patch there.

Ok, so we have the booking, the surgery, the wife, the parents… everyone managed to get out of the house and where they needed to be.

But my wife got to the shoot with our daughter and the shoot was cancelled.  Like, that morning. Like, at the start time. Like, no warning.

Travel?  From NWCT to Union City, NJ, during rush hour traffic.  Two hours is kind of cute at this point, but we’ve done it for six years and we know that burden is on us — just the actual, realized cost of a self-employed performing artist.  It was more like 3/3.5 hrs. And then back home, also at the end of rush-hour traffic. It was a six hour total day for my wife and daughter. And after all that my wife could have been at the hospital with me.  (My parents were great; don’t get me wrong; my wife just really wanted to be with me.)

Now imagine this scenario if you live in, say, Nebraska.  I’m guessing you’ve already traveled here for the casting — round-trip plane and probably a night in a hotel, right?  Then you book, YAY! So you probably come in a day early and stay overnight… then go to the shoot to find it cancelled.  

I’m now going to add: no one but you pays for your transportation (unless you’ve booked a job that specifically says they will cast nationwide) and even then, that is the JOB and not the casting.  And now I’ll add: this was a 4-hr gig that paid a usual NYC hourly. (I won’t get specific because usually agencies don’t want you sharing what that rate is, but it was “typical”.)

So not glamorous at all.  You’ve done all this and while you can be pissed off at the situation, YOU had no control and you and your agent can certainly say that it really sucks after all that driving that this happened, but I’ll bet there was probably a kid who booked from fifteen minutes away and in reality, who won that competition?  Seriously, not me.

While it is NOWHERE near common for a client to cancel, 2-3 trips from casting to working is not unusual.  There can often be a fitting on a date in-between.

Now you want your BABY to book something like Gap, Children’s Place, Target, or Carter’s?  Babies and toddlers get hired for a 2-hr window. That’s the amount of time dictated by law and what they can actually handle.  And that’s $100-$150/hr. Let’s conservatively estimate you could go to a casting, a fitting, and work a gig for your child to earn $250 (minus 20% so, that will be down to $200.  Fifteen percent to the trust account is another $37.50 and now a check comes for $162.50.)  Four plus hour gigs are usually for school-age kids during a school day.

Still willing to travel?  Planes get cancelled, busses break down, cars get stuck in miles of traffic at rush hour, during construction, or if there is an accident.  I
Don’t care what WAZE tells me when I leave the house; it will always add time.

Traveling is just not realistic.  I’m a firm two hours away in regular traffic but I have to add more for rush hour, UN traffic (last week… ugh), pit stops, and whatever else comes up.  Sometimes kids barf.

No, you’re not really willing to travel.  It sounds like fun — but even all that I described above is if your child BOOKS!  Are you ready to just do casting for long stretches at a time?  With no compensation?

Unless you are independently wealthy and paying for plane tickets today for a casting tomorrow OR you have a private plane, how could you possibly pull this off?  There are so many other wonderful things your child can do if you don’t live close enough. Remember your child is talented, beautiful, and special. Being a child model does not need to be part of that.  You cannot have a dream of working at Microsoft for Bill Gates if you have no intention of living near Seattle. And I hope I have convinced you that FINANCIALLY, child modeling is not a job anyone should re-locate for.

Hope everyone has been enjoying the last days of summer and a smooth transition back to school.  What’s up? Tell me what you want to know. Follow my page on Facebook where I announce new blog posts (The Bizzy Mama) or my insta @thebizzymama or my daughter’s professional insta @bizzyholland email is

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Submission Photos: Look with Me!

How Does a Children's Modeling Agent Look at Submission Photos?

As you may know, I was a print agent at a great NYC agency for a year in addition to my seven years in the biz as a model mom.  I belong to a few Facebook groups that serve the purpose of discussing headshots -- what makes a good one, is this a good one, whom do you recommend, etc.  I know my way around a decent headshot, but I’m going to talk about submission photos now.  Please note: THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!  I often see parents talking about their child’s new headshots when they are not really headshots… or parents thinking babies need professional headshots… OR WORSE: anyone in the industry telling you that a baby needs professional headshots.  We are NOT talking about headshots, but at the type of good cell-phone photos you would be using for submission.  I thought it would be helpful to know what it is EXACTLY that children’s print agents want to see when you submit your child for consideration.  What I’m going to do here is share what’s going on in my brain when I look at a submission photo.  (Please note: all of this info is based on current accepted practice in the NYC children’s print modeling industry.  This info will NOT carry over to adults or other divisions of print modeling.)

I grabbed a few “stock” photos (these are photos available on the internet for use or purchase, for any purpose; these are NOT children I know and I am presuming all parents involved have signed releases for their children to be used in the images).  The stock photos tend to be pretty good, but I picked a few that I can pick apart a little and a few I can praise as submission photos.  All of these kids are adorable so I am not commenting AT ALL on the “looks” of the child, but rather how I see the submission photo

Photo “Submission” 1:

Aw, happy first birthday, little dude!  Cake smash and other “styled” photo shoots show up in baby submissions often.  Doesn’t get much cuter, right?  Well, a few problems here.  What’s the biggest problem?  The hat?  It’s a problem… but the biggest problem is that I really have no idea what this child looks like.  I need to see a face -- full on, full-frontal face.  Eyes.  They eyes are a key feature to what draws us into a child.  Then, the hat: I don’t know if this baby has any hair.  After all, it is a first birthday photo, and I need to know what kind of hair this child has for his age.  Overall, save these styled shots for friends and family.  First, there is really too much going on here for me to give this child a good look.  Second, styled shoots like this tend to have a lot of editing/photoshop so we might be missing some key features.

Photo “submission” 2:
This is the perfect baby submission photo.  Plain background (can be any neutral color like a beige wall or a grey sofa), simple white onesie, good light on the face, and a clear shot of exactly what this baby looks like.  I even see the baby is sitting up, so that gives me more information about what the baby can do.  If you have a baby or young toddler you would like to submit to an agency, MEMORIZE this photo!  ALSO: this is the type of photo you should be sending to your agents every 2-3 weeks if you have a baby in the business.  Cannot praise this photo enough.

Photo “submission” 3:

This kiddo is pretty cute, but… right, the hat.  I can’t see what’s going on with the hair or head shape. But what if I threw down this one:  Let’s say I get this photo in May.  What does this photo tell me?  Ok, it’s at least 5-6 months old.  Which means, I have no idea what this baby looks like NOW.  Today.  NEXT!

Photo “submission” 4:

I’m really hoping this one is obvious… but that doesn’t mean we don’t get shots like this all the time!  I think she’s cute, but I have no idea because I have actually already moved on through three other submissions in the time I would have written this sentence.  Never hats; never sunglasses.

Photo “submission” 5:

This is an example of a great submission photo.  Nothing distracting in the background -- just grass.  The simple top is good -- notice no distracting words or logos -- just a minimal pastel something or other that blends into the shirt.  (I see the girl -- not the design.)  This is a happy, natural face with a little personality -- not a forced grin or squinty eyes in the light.  Her hair is natural, which clients love.  My only issue here is that I want to see a full-length photo as well, but this girl would get a call for sure.

Photo “submission” 6:

So yeah, this happens too.  Especially for girl submissions, I would see a lot of styled photo shoots.  A couple GIANT problems here: do not send bathing suit photos of your child to anyone, especially anyone seeking photos of children -- even this type of “innocence” can end up in the wrong place.  Gonna wander off a little here: You model a bathing suit for Target?  It’s up in Target?  Great.  But even as your agent I don’t want to be submitting bathing suit photos of children unless a client well known to me is asking specifically for the photo.  My daughter did an adorable bathing suit shoot with a really talented Canadian designer (shout out, Danica!) so there is nothing wrong with that if it’s in your comfort level and you and your agent is booking you with a vetted client.  NEVER LET YOUR CHILD OUT OF YOUR SIGHT AND ONLY YOU DRESS AND UNDRESS YOUR YOUNG CHILD.

Ok, back on track here.  So no to the bathing suit in the submission.  No to cheesy styled photos -- I can hardly find the child through all of that seaweed.  This child looks like she has pretty eyes, but upon closer inspection it appears as though her features have been significantly smoothed out in editing and her eye color may have been altered as well.  I even detect some makeup.  NEVER EVER submit a photo of a child wearing makeup.  Real, working child models do not wear makeup (look at a Children’s Place ad).  For some reason, people have an inclination to make children look older.  In child modeling, children should look as young as possible for as long as possible.  And one more thing:  the hair accessory.  Please, no hair accessories.  Maybe a little clip or pin if you need to keep hair out of a child’s eyes, but don’t do anything that distracts me from seeing the child’s actual hair or head.  You want me to see your child’s face; not some giant flower bow headband thing.

Photo “submission” 7:

Let’s pretend a parent actually submitted this.  This is a RULE-FOLLOWER!  Plain background, solid tshirt, the child is looking at the camera with a natural expression, and nice light.  This is what you are aiming for.  If you are submitting a toddler, memorize this picture!  Full-frontal face and good focus also make this a winner.

So, let’s review the rules.  I even made a handy checklist for your convenience!
Next time, let's talk about something else that's VERY important about your submission. Hint: No, you're not willing to travel.

Thanks for reading! Please respond here, via email at, or on The Bizzy Mama facebook page. Also, check out my Instagram @thebizzymama and my daughter's public account, @bizzyholland

Friday, May 3, 2019

Are GIANT castings worth it?

Well hello! It’s been a while!  I’m 100% back on the parent end of things after spending a rewarding and very fast-paced year as a print agent in NYC and another year dealing with some annoying health issues.  I want to be able to share some of my “double wisdom” from being on both sides of the desk.  I may even repeat some older topics with some greater emphasis – we’ll see!

There’s one thing I’ll throw out there right away: while I was working as an agent, the business itself was pretty much exactly as I imagined it.  My intuitions and insights as a savvy parent kept me grounded in day-to-day operations.  A few surprises, but nothing too major.  I also walked into the agency with some pretty good insight in to industry parents (from my own interactions) and parents in general (from my teaching career).  This leads to where I’m going with this post:

Are giant castings worth it?

There are as many types of castings for print work as there are clients.  Each client seems to have its own slight variation on their typical casting.  I’ve taken my daughter to the giant two-hour plus waits and to meet one-on-one with a client in her design studio.  Some castings are done with a lot of back and forth photos and maybe a video clip.  There are so many submissions and direct castings that you don’t even know about happening on a daily basis.  But we all know the ones that stand out are the ones most parents refer to as “cattle calls” which are usually still request castings – just giant.  (Cattle calls are typically not request castings but maybe open to entire breakdowns and sometimes even open to the public.)  Some are so big they go over two or three days, dividing up ages or agencies to spread out the volume of kids.  Some actually try to see a zillion kids in one day (or maybe 400+).

Usually the name of the client is pretty exciting, so parents will gladly hop on board the casting train, excited about the opportunity regardless of the hassle of whatever wait there will be.  (Will they complain?  At least to each other?  Yes.)  I also want to remind parents or let you know if you’re not part of this loop: one of the NYC CDs who holds the biggest castings advertises her breakdowns online so any unrepresented parent can submit (emphasis on unrepresented – she does NOT like it if you submit AND your agent submits, so DO NOT do it).  Whenever this CD posts, agents will invariably receive 5-10 emails that day from parents asking if you submitted their child.  Yes; yes we did.

So there’s this parent (clues seem to indicate it’s a dad who’s relatively new to the industry) who thinks he can shake up the industry by encouraging parents to refuse large castings because “there has to be another way.”  If all the parents refuse the large castings, then maybe they just won’t happen anymore!  Apparently, the goal is to end large castings and have everything done via photo submission.  Cute, right?

I didn’t know about this little movement until a friend pointed it out to me and, well, I have some thoughts.  A lot of them!

Here’s my first reaction: you know when you have a job in a company or group and things go pretty well so you decide to take on another employee?  And you get this new employee right out of whatever school and that person comes in and points out everything he/she thinks should be done differently after like, a week on the job?  I sense this is what we have here.  You can have the best job ever but still have to write the TPS report.  Or muck out the stalls.  Or track down the non-compliant patient.  And those things are always going to suck and no matter what, you’ve tried it all, there just isn’t another way to do it.

So, yeah.  Think back to your initial meeting with your agent.  We told you there could be direct castings, in-person castings, and giant castings.  We said pack for the day – snacks, changes of clothes, toys, comfy shoes, and be ready to hurry up and wait.  And chances are, once you’ve been with your agent for a couple of seasons, you’ve done them all.  But I want to emphasize something: you need to know that when you go to a casting, you will be meeting with a casting director, a production team, the actual client, or a photographer – or any combination of one or more of those people/teams.  Chances are, if it’s a giant casting, you’re with a CD and a production team or photographer.  If you’re going to a callback, then the actual client might be there.  So just tuck that into your mind so you know the cast of characters and that different castings may actually be with different people.

How does a giant casting work on the agent’s end?  We would get the breakdown, which tells the genders, sizes, and probably height ranges of kids needed for the campaign or project.  We would then put together a sampler (generated by our website) of everyone who fits that breakdown.  So we would sort for all boy babies, 9-12mos, size 12 mos and create a sampler for that and make a link.  The CD would click on the link and see our babies that fit those specifications.  We would make a link for every breakdown and package that all together in one email to the CD.  After a week or so (or maybe even a day, depends on the CD’s timeline), we get a list of requests.  THEN we send the requests with all the job info to the parents, get confirms (track down confirms as well) and send the confirms and unavails (you should have booked out!) to the CD.  That cycle continues back and forth through the callback.  I just want to remind you of something and this is a fact and not an “oh poor me” – the only time agents get paid is when kids book.  So, all of this is done with the goal of having up-to-date info, great photos, and cooperative parents BECAUSE WE WANT YOU TO BOOK.

But “there has to be a better way” guy wants some reasons why CDs/clients still hold these castings when they are sooooo inconvenient and torturous to little ones and their parents.  Let’s get this one out of the way: these people are not early childhood advocates and it’s not their job to be sure little Simon is happy and entertained during a giant casting.  It’s not their job to make sure nap times are upheld or you didn’t have to put little Tina in a car for too long and pay a lot in tolls.  You are wandering into THEIR business where they assume you are ready, willing, and able to take part.  They may see 400 kids today and 200 adults the next day.  Their job is to pick people who are right for their project.  No more; no less.  (Note that this is different on set – usually there are more plans in place to keep kids cooperative and relaxed during a shoot.  This is where the wranglers come in.)

But here are some very practical reasons why castings of any size are not going anywhere (because someone wanted a list):

1)      A lot of kids do not look like their photos.  They are not always up-to-date (AT A MINIMUM: babies need to be every two weeks; toddlers every 3-4 months; school-age every 6 months… and when you get to six or so and up, pro pics are great BUT we all know they are styled and edited.  Really, though, great snaps need to be added regularly – ideally, once a month.)
2)      Can the kid handle the photo shoot, or is a little one super clingy and shy?
3)      If it’s an older child, is the child surly or bratty?
4)      Parents are not reliable about size updates.  Sorry – they just are not.  And even when they are, a measurement at a casting never seems to match any other casting or what we have on file.  And that’s not something we can argue with.  (UPDATE SIZES MONTHLY!)
5)      Is the parent a hot mess and someone you don’t want on your set?
6)      How does the kid’s hair look in person?  What’s the texture like?  What types of looks can be styled with that type of hair?
7)      Does the vibe of the kid match the brand?
8)      The agent only sent one pic – from the chest up.  What does the child look like full-length?

Those were just off the top of my head in the morning, before coffee.  Dude comes back with:

"As for the kids’ behavior, disposition, parents’ behavior, etc., isn’t that for the agents to know these things about their talent and then the casting director putting trust in the agency to sift out the ones that wouldn’t work out?"

Well, perfect world, yes.  And an agent is not going to send anyone who is difficult to work with.  However, as parents, we know that kids change on a dime and they may have been totally cooperative a week ago and now they are going through a new phase.  I may have a baby who booked everything at nine months and now that she’s eleven months, she’s impossible to work with because she just started walking.  How many times have you met with your agent?  Were you not on your best behavior?  I know we rejected gorgeous kids who seemed impossible at the initial meeting.  But agents do not see their kids very often.  With our daily load of work to book jobs, seek new clients, create samplers, meet new models, we simply cannot meet with our kids more than once a year.  We rely on parents to tell us when the kiddos are “not into it” or at an impossible age – and unfortunately, sometimes we will find out the hard way when things don’t go well on a job.  We DO NOT WANT THAT – because it makes us look bad and it puts the client in a position of having to pay a kid they couldn’t work with.  And we’ve had difficult parents blackballed from brands because maybe they were having one bad day.  (I’ll tell you all about my daughter’s COLOSSALLY bad audition in another post.)

I also used this analogy: I would not hire a contractor to do an expensive job on my house without meeting him/her/them first no matter how highly recommended that contractor is.  Hiring 15 models for a few days’ project ends up being big money for that client.  If they want to meet the kids first, they are entitled.

Anyway, this parent who is starting this movement says that things will change if parents refuse to go to big castings.  A few more pearls of wisdom for you: if you refuse castings when you are not booked out, that’s a great way to get dropped.  If a different agent is willing to pick you up afterwards, go ahead and try that again.  I can predict how each office in NYC would respond to that.  If you refuse, I can find three parents and children thrilled to replace you – because agents can sometimes make a couple of replacements in these circumstances.  I also probably have a few hundred submissions in the inbox I haven’t gotten to yet.  I need kids on my roster who will book.  You refuse castings?  You’re not booking… so… next.

But – are the giant castings actually worth it?  Yes.  Kids book.  There are kids who go to the same CD and client and book on the fifth time.  First time.  Never.  Maybe they will not book one client with that CD but will book a different client with that CD.  Maybe a kid will book one division (say, a circular) from big castings but never book another division (like store signage).  You never know.  It’s just part of the whole scene.  Some smooth and simple castings and some that are huge.  You may even hit one that’s small BUT you still wait two hours!  You just never know.

Remember, you have chosen this industry for your child.  It is a business.  I think if you read through my blog posts you will see over and over and over that THIS IS A BUSINESS.  Your child is passing through a business that has been around a very long time and will be there for a very long time when your child is done.  You have agreed to the travel, the tolls, the parking, the waiting, and the inconveniences of wrestling around a busy city.  There are many joys and certainly – like any job – many pains in the butt.  But if the business if not for you, gracefully bow out.  Your child is not entitled to a smooth casting for every brand.  Everyone wants that, but things happen – there are going to be doozies.  This is not youth soccer where everyone plays, you can go to the coach or board with complaints about playing time, or the hours of the concession stand.  You should be incredibly fortunate that your child has the chance to participate in this industry – I participate in national advocacy programs for child models and actors and there are parents and children everywhere would do anything to be close enough to a major market to participate – and they do some pretty stupid things thinking they are getting a real shot at this business. 

So maybe turn the table a bit.  Be grateful and endure the challenges.  You know what’s best for your child.  If this isn’t it, so be it.  If you don’t know all the ins and outs of a business, don’t think you can jump onto the scene and make a great movement to change it.  It’s really not realistic.  If you’re really bent on sticking it to the man, may I recommend taking on DMV in Connecticut?

Check out my Instagram for dog and family and some modeling/acting posts @thebizzymama or my daughter’s @bizzyholland and follow the Bizzy Mama facebook page (I announce new posts there) or feel free to comment here or email at