"ASK AARON" ADVICE COLUMN
By Aaron Marcus
From Jaime, CA:
Should I expect an agent to pay for my photos?
Even though agents do make their living by handling jobs for models, in the commercial modeling industry, they will not pay for your portfolio. Actually, most of them expect you to put it together on your own. They will help guide you and give you suggestions, but generally, the agent is not in the business, nor do they have the time to put together model's portfolios. In the fashion world, sometimes large agencies will front the money, but expect to be paid back with money that is earned future bookings.
From Alan, MA:
Why do you think is the biggest mistake actors make when trying to get commercial print work?
Without a doubt, the biggest mistake actors make when trying to get commercial print work is not having the right information about commercial photos. Most people will set up a photo session and ask the photographer what kind of shots he or she thinks would be good. It is much better if the actor creates the ideas on his/her own.
Actors should go through magazines and find ads that fit their type. Use those ads as a blueprint for your session. Arrange an appointment with a photographer and show him/her your ideas. Ask, which shots would sell you the best. After both parties agree on the photos, then the actor can walk into a photo session knowing exactly what shots are going to done, what props are needed and have a complete understanding of the message in the photo.
Agents want to see fresh and interesting photographs, photos that grab their attention, not the same generic shots that they are bombarded with 50 times a day. You can learn how to create strong commercial shots by reading How to Become a Successful Commercial Model.
See Aaron Marcus' Portfolio @ New York Best Models
Aaron Marcus is America's Premier Acting and Commercial Modeling Career Coach. You can read more about his workshops and book, How to Become a Successful Commercial Model at www.howtomodel.com
Should people work with an agent or try to get work on their own?
I highly recommend and teach people in my book, newsletter and seminars how to market themselves and get work on their own. I just had a woman in a small town in Pennsylvania write to me to tell me that after reading my book she just booked a job for a local bank and is on hold for a job as the host of a national TV show. All of this without an agent!
It can still be helpful to send a job that you booked on your own through an agent. The agent will know exactly what to charge and you always have a better chance of getting paid. Knowing that you get bookings will help the agent push you even harder for new projects. So, I highly recommend people market themselves.
I work with125 agents, and I still market myself. However, especially if you are just getting started in this business, I highly recommend marketing yourself, book the jobs, and send it through an agent.
From Jessie, MI:
I am 35 years old. Am I too old to be a model?
In the world of fashion modeling, then I would say that you are too old. If you have not had real success by age 20 then it would not happen. However, in the world of commercial modeling, you are not too old. The thing that most women don't realize is that at age 35, you are actually heading into the prime time for commercial modeling. If you open any non fashion magazine, you will see woman in ads portraying the mom, banker, lawyer, doctor, teacher, insurance salesperson etc... It would hard to believe someone who is 20 fitting those types of characters.
From Jennifer, Montana:
I really want to be a model but I live in a small town where there
isn't anywhere I can go to find work. Can you give me some advice?
Thank you for writing me such a good question. There are many people in your situation where they want to model but don't live in an area where there is a lot of modeling activity, or so they think.
You actually might be surprised about the amount of modeling that is actually going on in your area. You just have to do some homework and know where to look.
The first thing you will need is a head shot. That is a picture of you that clearly shows you and your personality. In my book How to Become a Successful Commercial Model, I spend about 26 pages teaching people how to put together great head shots and something called composite sheets. This is a collection of photographs that shows a variety of ways you can look.
You should call a number of advertising agencies in your area. Just look them up in the phone book, or see if there is a local business journal that lists a number of advertising agencies or the Chamber of Commerce. Call the advertising agencies and ask for the art or creative director. Along with photographers these people are involved in the process of hiring models and actors. Ask them if there are any photographers they would recommend for head shots or photos for your composite sheet. You should also ask if there are any agents in the area that you could contact.
Virtually every town has some form of advertising, and they always need actors and models. Even if you don't get paid for it, maybe they will offer you a product free or at a reduced rate. The important thing is to get a copy of the ad. That is a great way to build up your portfolio and get new photos for your composite sheet.
Modeling is a tremendous amount of fun, and to see your self in an ad is incredible. You can learn more about finding contacts in your area by reading How to Become a Successful Commercial Model.
From Kristin, Colorado:
I am interested in getting my daughters started in acting and modeling. They are 10 and 3. What do you recommend we look for in an agent or agency?
There are two types of people you might want to contact to help your children get started in modeling - agents and managers. Keep in mind that some agents do work with children, but some only work with teens and adults.
Managers do more than just send their models and actors to auditions. They help guide and mold their careers. For that extra service, they will take a percentage of any jobs the model or actor books. The fee can range anywhere from 10 to 25%. Keep in mind that you never pay an agent or manager up-front fees. They make their living by taking a percentage of any bookings your children get.
From Russ, Texas:
What is the standard percentage that an agent takes from a model or actor?
There are a few categories of percentages for agents. If it is a print (modeling) job, you can expect to pay anywhere from 15-20%. In larger markets, 20% is customary.
If it is an acting job (non-union) for a TV commercial, film or radio commercial you can pay anything the agents ask for. In non-union work there are no specific guidelines that agents must follow, however I have never heard of an agent asking more than 20 %.
If it is union job, then according to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) contracts, agents are not allowed to take more than 10 %. Agents who work with Union talent are in the process of trying to receive a percentage that is larger than 10%, but for now, it is still 10%.
From Andy, NJ:
How much can a model earn in one day?
That is a tough question because it can vary so much. In New York City we earn $250 an hour which means we could earn $2,000 in a full-day booking which is an 8-hour day. In Washington, DC commercial models earn $125 an hour, which gives us $1,000 for a full-day booking. Most of the time models are hired on the average of 2 hours per session.
The tricky part is that sometimes models are paid bonuses for high exposure format jobs. For instance if a model's ad is placed on a billboard, poster, side of a bus, point of purchase (those cutout items in stores) we are paid bonuses, on top of our hourly fee.
A friend of mine earned $50,000 from having his face and hair on a hair coloring box. The ad ran for 3 years. I have heard of models earning over $100,000 dollars from a shoot that lasted less than 8-hours.
What are the best ways to find an agent?
There are a number of ways of finding agents. When people purchase How to Become a Successful Commercial Model, from my web site, www.howtomodel.com, they also get a directory called the National SAG and AFTRA Directory. These are the 2 main unions for actors. There are about 30 SAG and AFTRA offices throughout the U.S. If you call any office (the numbers are listed in the directory) they will give you FREE the list of signatory agents. Those are the agents who have signed contracts with the union. These are good agents to contact.
You should also try going to some local theater and ask the actors after the performance, who are some of the agents in the area that you should contact.
You could call a few advertising agencies and ask the art and or creative director which agents they contact when they need models for jobs. You will find that certain names keep popping up. These are the people to contact.
On my web site I have a link to a company that supplies names of agents (on labels) for New York and LA. They are called Pro-labels.
In my book and newsletter I devote entire sections on finding agents and marketing yourself.