Let’s talk about the free lunch. I have heard it time and time again that people believe you can make it in the Industry without spending anything. I have never seen this happen. There is the common saying, “If someone asks for upfront fees, run for the door. It’s a scam”. This has been misconstrued for years. If an agency asks for an upfront listing fee, or if you are asked for a fee to audition, that is a scam. If a company is asking for fees for a service, not to be booked or signed for representation, it is standard practice. Photography, printing and coaching have always been the financial responsibility of the talent. Those companies who tried to give those things away went out of business. Why? Let me explain.
If you want to be a dentist, you go to college. You go to postgraduate schools. You do an internship. You work for someone else's office. Then you maybe open a private practice. Then you market and advertise that practice to gain clients. This process can take years and takes dedication. Do all those in dental school eventually end up at the finish line? Of course not.
Another easily found analogy is to compare it with a realtor. Although the process is quicker to get licensed and start marketing yourself, it is much the same with talents. Realtors even get their photos done. Do all those who attempt the career end up sticking with it? Of course not.
If you view the websites for printing companies that specialize in model and actor headshots, you will realize they are selling their services to the talent directly. This is an investment in your career. If you skimp on the quality, you appear to lack dedication, commitment, and the ability to be prepared in advance.
If modeling agencies invested in the coaches, the photos and the printing for every talent that came to them with the correct physical attributes necessary and the apparent ambition, they would go out of business. Too many young people don’t know what their future holds. They change their minds. They meet someone who becomes their significant other, but is unsupportive of their ambitions. Not all dating prospects can handle seeing their model GF or BF on the runway, or in a racy photo shoot. Dating an actor might mean an on screen kiss. Then there is always the chance that they pursue college or get married and have babies. Plus, with rejection being common to this career, some people are just not willing to keep trying.
So, what can you do to get started on a budget? Dedicate yourself to working towards this. Set aside the funds you earn at a regular job to support what you need. If you go to Starbucks regularly, stop and brew your own coffee. Babysit. Do promotional work (just Google Promotional Models in your state and apply), or wait tables like all the other actors in NY and L.A. Ask about test shooting with some of the local photographers. This may take many trial and error sessions to get some good shots, but invest the time. Offer to intern at the modeling school of your choice. They like gophers. But just because you can’t afford it, doesn’t mean you don’t need it.
One mother that I was interviewing stated, “I wasn’t about to spend $1200 for classes. If agencies want my kid, they will see something in her and sign her.” I asked if she feels that the lack of education has hindered her daughter in any auditions or castings. She admitted that it has, but said that they just keep going and try not to let it get to them. In fact, she started her own company to promote models.
I took a look at the models that were being advised by this mom. It made me sad that there was so much effort going into uneducated marketing. The models didn’t know how to pose. The photography was obviously amature. The styling and wardrobe choices were not flattering. If you submit to a major agency with unprofessional materials, they assume you are not professional. You would be considered too developmental to be signed. I’ve tried to get some models in the door without coaching them, and it failed every time.
Saying someone is a “natural” I can understand. There are some with natural ability. Take natural ability and add education. That is what makes an outstanding talent. If someone has a natural ability as a musician, they still take basic lessons to learn how to play and then add their own ability to that knowledge to gain a high level of success. A scientist won’t make it to genius without learning some science. A natural athlete still needs to learn to play the game. Educate someone with natural ability and just watch what happens.
When? Now, of course. If you wait for the right opportunity to knock and then prepare, you won’t be ready. Most casting calls and bookings happen in a 24-48 hour window. If you are not ready at a moments notice, you will miss out or appear unprofessional and unprepared. First impressions are important and in a world where image is key, a face or footage that is not up to standards will be remembered.
Certainly, all of these things have a real cost. Coaches, photographers, stylist and makeup artists and printing companies have their own life expenses. You can’t expect them not to eat or support their families. So, what can be done?
In my next blogs, I want to highlight the stories of some of the talents I have met. These are people who have the drive and the ambition along with natural abilities. They have met some life challenges that have created hurdles for them. It’s my goal to do what I can to enrich their lives and provide the tools to help them overcome the hurdles and reach success.
If you have such a story, please e mail me at email@example.com for consideration. I would love to hear from you. If you would like to support this facet of acts education, please click here and help us to support hopefuls and talents who so richly deserve it.