Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Day in the Life of a Print Agent

 As some of you know, I used to be a kids’ print agent for Take 3 Talent in NYC.  Within the past year or so, I’ve re-joined the agency part-time doing behind-the-scenes work.  Being back in the loop, and because of my past experience as an agent, I have gotten the opportunity to fill in at the kids’ print desk a few times and I’d like to share what goes on in a day as an agent.  It’s a lot of fun, but also a pretty fast pace and the day can go by really quickly!

First of all, everything is done over email and the internet.  Back when my daughter first started in the industry, hard copy comp cards and photo prints were just being phased out.  Now portfolios are online, there is software for putting out appointments, not to mention the heavy-virtual casting experience because of COVID.  This is a full day at your laptop.

First thing in the morning, before I even get out of bed, I check the emails to see if there are any urgent breakdowns from a client.  A breakdown is a description of the job, including the client/product, rate, usage (how long the images will be used and where), the job dates, and types of kids the client is looking for.  A breakdown would usually include size, sex, and look of kids, maybe something like “size 2T girls with diverse looks”.  Very commonly breakdowns include a height (in inches).  More on that in a minute.  I’ll also check for any holds or bookings that might have come in early or late.  I just like to know what I’m getting into when I start my day.  Clients will always get a quick reply so they know I’ve gotten the email.

The day usually begins percolating around 10:00 am.  That’s when I’m logged-in, comfy and have the coffee in hand and the TV-background noise set to Bravo, HGTV, or SVU (depends on the day!).  Time to really dig into the emails.  Breakdowns are the top priority and will always be handled right when they come in, so the client can see our kids right away.  Then, holds and bookings also need to be confirmed right away, which is why it’s so so so important for parents to check for emails from the agent. Don’t check like an obsessive madperson, maybe just set your device to sort agency emails into priority or give them a special tone when they come in.  Clients really need confirms within an hour or two.  If we email with a size question or for a quick snapshot, we’ll need that right away because a client is probably asking.  If you work, your child goes to school, or you’re away from your child during the day, you should have this information handy on your phone.  Definitely have a few good snapshots on hand that you update very regularly.  (This is where I remind you this is a business, and by having a kiddo in the business, we need you to treat it like you would your own business priority emails.)

Other than breakdowns, clients will send requests for casting materials such as size information, self-tapes, and snapshots.  Holds (also known as “first-refusals” -- or second-refusals, etc.) come out for kids the client would like to reserve a kid for a potential booking.  In theory, everyone should be available unless you’ve booked out, but clients will check because they want to be sure someone is available before they book them.  A first-refusal is a hold for the first potential booking.  If a child is on hold, the second client to hold the child would get “second-refusal”.  During busy times of year, it’s not that unusual to have a couple of kids with more than one hold.  Then there are bookings that come in, and agents get just as excited about bookings as parents do!  Those are the best kind of emails to receive, along with the parent confirmation as soon as we send out the details.

When a client sends a breakdown, we respond by sending back a package.  A package is a link or set of links for the client to open and see the photos of kids who fit the breakdown. Each photo in the package includes sizes and a link to the full portfolio of the child.  We can change the cover-pic for a child to suit the project, but usually the cover pic is a headshot as opposed to a full-length pic so the client can see the child up close.  This is why we need GREAT pics including the work the child has done so clients can see what the child looks like in a photo shoot.  Pics need to be current, reflect current hair and teeth, and should include full-length as well as head-shots.  Modeling photos, which look like the kids look in paid work, are also great if you have them.  A client will receive a package for each breakdown they sent -- so there might be several links for one project.  Usually the links are broken down by size and sex.  Every photo you send us should look like a child a client wants to book.

When a client sends requests, whether to see someone in person or gather virtual-audition materials, we enter the breakdown into our entertainment software data-base.  It is a system that keeps files on all talent and clients, and can carry a project from the initial breakdown and appointments all the way through to billing details.  It’s quite comprehensive!  When we input a project, we start from the name of the client and get in the rate, usage, dates of the project, if it’s union or non-union (in print, the work is non-union since it’s not on-camera BUT if there is any on-camera portion, it’s very important that we know if it is union or non-union because talent who are union members cannot work in non-union video).  Then we can use that program to put in the names of talent who have appointments to generate emails with all of the project details.  Once the talent are input for the appointments, it’s very easy to bump them to a hold and/or a booking.

That covers client emails, and of course confirms from parents.  Another task is when clients request paperwork from talent they have booked.  For the most part, we need that back as soon as possible along with the booking confirmation.  If you cannot do the paperwork right away, please at least confirm the booking and estimate when you can get the paperwork back to us.  Going through the paperwork is time consuming, so we need as much time as possible to get that sorted and sent back to the client.  The sooner you can get that back to us, the better!  Usually the items clients request are permits, I-9 (proof of citizenship), documentation for the I-9 (passport or birth certificate and social), W-4, proof of trust accounts, and sometimes contracts/releases and non-disclosure agreements.  The agency will look over those items before sending them to you just so there are no surprises down the road.  This is why it’s so important to have a printer at home and access to a scanner (maybe one that is along with the printer) or a good scanning app for your phone.  It’s ideal to send paperwork in PDF form and not jpg, as those can lose quality.  These are just tools of the trade for you to have as part of the business.  When Take 3 signs models, we ask for all of this paperwork and ideally we have it on hand to send to a client, but sometimes there is paperwork that is client-specific that we’ll need you to fill out. 

Bookings will also require size confirmation.  Parents, pleeeeeaaaaasssssssse update sizes!  When I was covering the desk this week, we lost a booking due to a size being inaccurate since the last update.  That was a bummer for all involved.  A baby needs to be updated monthly at minimum and older kids need to be updated literally every time they grow half an inch.  Still send updates even if there is no change.  Send the actual sizes and don’t just say “no change” because we will always want to double check the numbers we have.

Other than confirms, we hear from parents every day.  Size updates are important, and we also love to receive photos from jobs when they are released.  We do NOT get those photos unless they come from you!  It’s always a good idea for you to ask when you’re on a shoot when and where the photos will be released and then hunt them down.  When you find them, try to get us the highest possible resolution.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is send us a screen shot, but we always need the best possible version you can find so it shows up well in the portfolio.

Parents will also send fresh photos that they’ve taken or sometimes from a professional photo shoot.  We need you to send those to us in a dropbox link and NOT as attachments.  Set up a dropbox account, create a folder, fill it with photos, click share, and copy the link to the folder.  Don’t mail us an invite to view the folder, as we have one agency dropbox that we all share and it doesn’t match the email you sent the invite to.  Instead, send us the link so we can click on that and then download away.  We really can’t handle more than one or two attachments of photos in our emails, and dropbox is always best.  We’ll look through the photos and use what we can or coach parents if we need something different.

Bookout emails also come from parents, and we note those in the entertainment software I mentioned above.  When we put in appointments, the program will tell us if a model is unavailable.  We might still send you a project if you are booked out if the casting is virtual -- with snapshots and/or video -- since that’s something you can do anywhere.  In the past, when castings were in-person, knowing you were booked out was important for the casting, the callback, and the booking.  Now things are much more flexible.

Sometimes parents have billing questions, and we will remind them that non-union jobs (which includes print) can take 60-90 days to pay.  If it’s beyond 90 days, we’ll refer the question to our accounting department.  We do need to get those vouchers back from you right when your child finishes the job because we invoice right away, so make sure there is no delay.  This is where a scanning app on your phone comes in handy -- you can snap that voucher and send it to us as a PDF before you even leave the job.  Done and you don’t have to worry about it and we don’t have to chase it down.

Agents also get unsolicited emails from talent seeking representation.  We handle all submissions through the agency website, which we check constantly, and when we see kids we like, we send out invitations for them to submit virtually with additional photos (we specify what the photos should look like) and a self-tape (we give direction) so we can see the child’s personality.  We used to do in-person sessions where we’d block off a couple of hours at a time and see submissions that caught our eye, but now we’re doing that virtually.  I do miss meeting parents that way, though!  We then look through the virtual submission packages to make decisions about representing new models.

Unfortunately, there is a bit of a one-way street here.  As much as we need parents to get back to us right away, it doesn’t always work the other way around.  If we don’t get back to you right away, it’s because we’re working hard to get kids seen by clients and get them out to their appointments and doing everything we can to get the kids booked.  You’ll hear back from us, but just give us a little patience!  We didn’t forget you!

The day winds down around 7:00 pm.  It gets slower after about 6:00, but clients often work to get bookings and castings finished until they are done rather than putting unfinished projects off until the next day.  And appointments do come in on nights and weekends!  If a client is shooting or fitting over a weekend, chances are we’re fielding appointments!

So what questions do you have?  I think I got down most of the stuff that goes on in a day!  Did I miss anything?  Do we eat?  I have honestly forgotten to at times if the day is steady because there doesn’t seem to be a natural break to do that, but sometimes there is a lull when I can grab a bite! 

Any questions for me?  Feel free to ask on the facebook post, comment here, or shoot me an email!  My email is and Instagram is @thebizzymama.  Follow the Bizzy Mama facebook page -- I announce new posts there!


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Is it a scam?

Is it a scam?

If you have to ask… it probably is.

I, with a group of other moms, administer a Facebook group called “Child Model & Talent Scams”.  Mostly, new members are looking for representation in their area.  Sadly, a lot of these people do not live in major child performer markets, and what they often run into are scams.  Often they have had interaction with an “agency” and want to know if they should pay money for representation.  Answer?  Always NO.

Let’s define the word scam, because it might be a little different depending on the situation.  Technically, according to the little dictionary here on Google docs, a scam is a “dishonest scheme”.  In the modeling and talent world, it’s pretty similar, but more focused on someone who asks for money for something you can do for free.  Usually, these places are being dishonest because they make promises they cannot keep (maybe unless you read the fine print, which probably actually promises you nothing).  When you want something for your child, you’re probably going to get a great impression of what they can do for your child and face it, you may not be reading the fine print.  They are dishonest because they don’t tell you that you can do it for free.  They want your money.

Legitimate talent agencies in major markets do not charge for submissions, representation, or classes.  I’m in the New York market, so I can’t speak to the California laws very well (see Bizparentz Foundation for their wealth of information) but in CA it is actually illegal for agencies to offer and charge you for these things.  I can speak to what is ethical, though, and this should apply nationwide.  It’s not ethical to claim to represent a child but demand you get photos through that firm.  It’s not ethical to claim to represent your child and charge you for classes to model or act.  (But doesn’t my kid need acting classes?  Sure, at some point, but more on that later.) The only money a legitimate agent should make is commission from work your child does.

In fact, it is more and more frequent that casting directors DO NOT want professional pictures of kids!  Photos are perhaps the biggest scam going.  You can always find a great photographer for far less than scam “agencies” or their photographers charge.  One “agency” has “preferred photographers” that you pay THROUGH that agency which marks up the cost about 100% and then they pay the photographer the going rate, taking half for themselves.  Shameful.  If you can take a decent photo of your child with your cell-phone (most have better cameras than our old digital point-and-shoots), you have what it takes to get jobs for your child.  See this post for some direction.  Once your child works and has photos from those shoots, your agent will use those as well.

Classes are a blatant scam.  No child needs classes to model or to walk the runway.  There just isn’t runway modeling for children like there is for adults, and it takes no more than five or ten minutes of practice to do a runway walk should you encounter a children’s runway show (there are a few legitimate ones out there, which your child would book through an agency).  Classes that teach silly poses and pouty looks will be a detriment to your child.  Go online and look at The Children’s Place and Gap.  Those kids have natural, happy looks.  There is a wrangler on set to make them laugh and have fun.  Nobody is asking a five year old to look over her shoulder and make duck lips.  If someone wants to teach your child to do that, run.

Acting classes through an “agency” that claims to represent you are a huge NO.  Children who act should take acting classes, sometime after they read really well and can take direction -- such as “do it again, but with more energy/humor/fear/etc. and go a little more slowly but have better eye contact with that performer”.  That usually happens in the age 8-11 age range.  Your legitimate agency will have a list of acting classes that they like -- and they know what they like because they like classes that will help a child be prepared to book jobs.  They will also have a list of photographers that they like because those photos will hopefully help your child to book jobs.  But here’s the thing:  you shop around, do some legwork, talk to experienced parents, and make the choice YOURSELF and pay the fee YOURSELF directly.

The most egregious “agencies” promise you photos and classes with the ultimate goal of meeting agents who want to represent you.  Usually LA or NYC agents!  Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  Well, they are going to charge you a huge fee to get there.  I’ve heard of parents paying $15,000 for their “child’s dream” (your dream, I mean).  They promise big names but… we’ve investigated and some of those agents on the list they show you are dead.  Or out of business.  Or maybe attended ten years ago.  Full disclosure: when I was an agent, I went to one of those big conventions on a fact-finding mission.  I signed no one and saw maybe one interesting kid who lived five hours away and as a result would be impossible to work with.  And no, you don’t want to travel.  Did I see legitimate agents there?  Yes, for some adult modeling agencies.  Did they see anyone they liked?  I sat behind some reps from a TOP adult agency (and no, your fifteen year old 5’9” beauty will not work in NYC fashion week) -- remember, fact finding mission -- and they saw very few interesting prospects.  Maybe someday I’ll do a post on just that experience.

If your child has what it takes, you can get there for free.  When my child was younger, I did the legwork and got her signed by doing tons of research, taking some good pics myself, and even submitting through snail mail (back in the day).  It’s so much easier to do this today with better internet submission access.  I also live near a major market. If your child just wants to get hair and makeup done and walk a runway, there are those sorts of things that do just that and don’t make promises they cannot keep. Or go have a salon day. See if your local department stores do a fashion show in the mall.

If you really want your child to work in the industry, no one can make magic for your child.  If your child has what it takes, you can do this yourself.

Be sure to check out the Child Model &Talent Scams page on Facebook, the page for the Bizzy Mama on Facebook (where I announce new posts), and my Instagram @thebizzymama (fun with kids and pets and I announce new posts there, too). You can also reach me by email at