Becoming a Classic Model . . . What’s It Like? Part 1
I’m a full-time classic model. It’s a new career addition along with voice-overs, TV Presenting and acting. I’ve not been very public about it the last six months for various reasons, but now I realise this is a large part of my life and will probably only increase. It’s also a re-emergence as I did some of this over 20 years ago, but the industry has changed and so have I. It’s a world that’s never dull and gives me fuel to write, though finding time to do so has proven difficult. I’ve only been on this path since October in a serious capacity, though I was ‘scouted’ in the summer. But it’s an incredible shift after spending the last 15 years supporting my husband through a PhD, being a stay-at-home mum and doing volunteer and charity work when I could – I have no regrets about any of that.
But I would have laughed at you when I started my blog last January if you had told me that within a year I would be meeting LA producers, adding model friends to Facebook, visiting Soho (London) almost twice a week, juggling agents/photographers, invited on talk shows, and then deferring my MA in Writing because of my new career (and for financial reasons). Yeah, I would have laughed at you and thought you had gone quite mad.
I want to write about it because: 1) I’m a writer, and that’s what writers do, 2) to dispel misconceptions because there are a lot of them and, 3) to share those random things you may not know about the industry unless you’re in it. This is the first of many posts on the subject. It’s a huge learning curve, but I want to say that I’m really enjoying it, especially all the people I’m encountering.
So, why the career choice? Great question. I tasted a bit of this industry back as a teenager with acting classes, beauty pageant titles (erm – there’s a lot of acting in that folks), modelling with a department store for a year, doing news updates on the radio and a few small commercials for a hospital. Since the mid 90s, it’s not been a serious pursuit.
It’s really different, between the ages of 16-25. I love re-entering as a classic model (models over 30), as it is a whole different world when you are older (I’ll do a future blog post on why).
Here I am, two kids later with stretch marks, sun spots and valuable life experience, and I’ve been given an opportunity. And if you have a good smile, and a warm disposition, there is longevity and major potential in commercial modelling.
Here are a few things I’ve learned already:
1) I do various types of modelling but I’m primarily a classic commercial model. A commercial model can be defined as:
Modelling for any non-fashion item. Billboards for a soft drink, mobile phone, kitchen products, toys, cereal,cough medicine, etc. are all examples of commercial modelling. This can be in the form of web advertisements, print media, and TV.
I also do lifestyle fashion, hair modelling, catwalk (though at 5’7″ I’m too short to do that consistently) as well as some editorial/high fashion.
2) Plan to be spontaneous. The entire industry feels last minute, though I know there are reasons they do it this way. Two weeks ago I was in London for voice coaching. I got an urgent email asking if I was available for a shoot in a city two hours away at 8:30 am the next morning.
Last Wednesday night I got a request for a casting (audition) the following morning at 10 am in London for a two-week trip to Mexico for photographic work. I turned down the casting for several reasons.
Some days are filled with urgent requests, others are quiet. You never know what a week will hold. This is my ‘normal’ life now, very foreign for a structured person who likes to organise months in advance. What has helped me the most is to PLAN to be spontaneous. I need a spontaneous and flexible mindset to be able to function well in this career path. And I’m grateful to have a husband who has the capability to support me in this (most of the time).
3) Hold everything lightly. Models have three ways of getting a job through an agent. *Side note on agents – if you want to do this professionally, you really need one and they are there to get you the best jobs. They know the industry, what is right for your look and how to negotiate. Everyone benefits when you have a good agent.
The easiest form is called direct booking, where a client sees your picture, hears your demo or show reel and then contacts the agent to book you for a job. Easy peasy and everyone’s favourite way of getting a job.
The second way is that a client sends an agent a request for a certain job and the agent, who asks your availability first, puts you forward, often along with several others, for it. You may or may not get it, but the agent is working on your behalf.
The third way is the same as the second but instead of getting a job, you get a casting request. These are usually for higher paid jobs and casting directors/clients need to see you in person to make a decision. Often there is a short list, and you may have a recall after a casting. Hence, my London trips. Most casting directors are in London though a few are in Manchester. You don’t have to take all the castings, but it increases your chances on larger jobs.
4) Have an extensive wardrobe. This is listed in several agency contracts. I had no idea that most clothes you see in commercial photos (ie., the mom at the grocery story, the woman in the office) are the model’s own clothes.
For example, I had two jobs a few weeks ago. One was a photographic job as a mum and the other was being filmed in a green screen studio for an infomercial. The photographic brief (job description) sent to me said: ‘Outdoor patio furniture shoot with various sets. Bring lots of bright coloured summer outfits, no patterns or logos. No dark colours or white.’ I had to bring lots of outfit combinations, and I wore four different ones for the day.
The second one was in a green screen studio (where they superimposed the background). This job brief said this: ‘No dark colours or white. No stripes, logos or patterns. Only solid colours in colours close to pastels if possible. And NO GREEN.’ I brought six tops – fortunately they loved one of them. The ‘no green’ part refers to the fact that in green screen, you blend into the background wearing green.
I’ll write another post someday about revamping my wardrobe full of ‘mom jeans’ and becoming the charity shop and dress agency queen.
Unless you are representing a brand, you provide your own clothes, though there are exceptions. Higher paid commercials and speciality shoots such as bridal or vintage shoots may provide a wardrobe. I just did a shoot and used my own wedding dress from 1999 – that was a blast from the past.
5) The first few months are mostly about making an investment. I read a blog post that said that most models take about six months after they sign with an agent before they are getting consistent work. It’s a matter of building up your CV (resume) with small jobs, creating a portfolio, and acquiring a business reputation, so you can land bigger jobs. No one knows you or if you are reliable. You can’t just be a pretty face. One production company told me of a model who was gorgeous but kept everyone waiting and had a poor attitude. They said they would never use her again. Who really wants a diva?
I learned a long time ago that I needed to be faithful in the little things so I can have a return later. This means keeping up with all the admin, being early to jobs, being overly prepared, and most of all, being kind and professional to everyone, no matter who they are.
Investments also include new make-up suitable for photographs and TV as you get make-up artists and hair stylists for some jobs, and you do your own for others.
When you first start working, you need a portfolio because it can take 3-6 months to begin to collect ‘working shots’ or ‘show reel material’. For example, I just did a shoot for a Spring collection. They won’t release the photos to my agent to put in my portfolio until it goes ‘live’ in April. I also did various filming projects last November and December. All of them are still in the editing process, and I won’t be able to create a show reel with them until at least March 2014. Portfolios are on-going and often a collaborative effort. I’m working with various photographers, models, hairstylists, and make-up artists to add diverse shots such as bridal, vintage, lifestyle,beauty, on location, etc. to both my portfolio as well as theirs.
Another investment is also all the petrol driving to agents. A full-time model has several different agents across the UK in different regions. A voice over artist has specific voice agents, and actors also have specific acting agents. This also includes coaching (voice overs, acting/casting) and expenses such as a website and business cards.
I want to have excellence in everything I do, which requires time, energy, research and financial investments as I get started.
I have many more thoughts but will share them in future posts. And just FYI – I’m still writing as well as a case worker for rescued victims of human trafficking, and I’m loving that as well.
To be continued . . .
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