How to Find an Agent... and Survive
by Cathy McKim
Major modeling agencies in urban centres such as Toronto will generally recommend either one or more reputable imaging specialists or a short list of photographers to test with. Again, you should visit each one, look at their work, and select the one you feel the most comfortable with. modeling agencies and schools outside of urban areas such as Toronto are more likely to directly arrange the test sessions for their prospective models.
If you are booking a photographer through an agency, find out the name and credentials of the photographer, what services are offered, and what you will be charged for them. Ask to see samples of the photographer's work and make sure that he or she is a working professional photographer. Contact other people in the industry to find out the photographer's reputation. Comparison shop: get price lists from other photographers, but remember that price is not as important as quality. Find out what this photographer charges for a session not booked through the agency: the price should be the same.
Keep in mind the differences in photographic requirements for actor and models. An actor needs a black and white 8" x 10" headshot. Actors do not need portfolios. A model does need a portfolio and "comp cards". The initial portfolio is developed through test shoots with fashion photographers, and is then expanded with tearsheets of the model's professional print work. Some of these pictures are used in making up the comp card. Models being promoted for commercial television will also need a "TV glossy", or 8" x 10" headshot.
Actors will need prints made of the headshot that you and your agent have selected from the contact sheet provided by the photographer. Models will need prints of their TV glossies, blow- ups of the shots to be used in their portfolio, and multiple prints of their comp cards. It may be convenient for your agent to maintain the supply of prints and promotional photos, and bill you for reproduction costs. Check the costs first; find out what a reproduction house would charge you for prints. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that your agent has a supply of your promotional photos on hand at all times; you don't want to miss out because your agent had no photos to send out.
Classes and Workshops
Talent agencies sometimes offer workshops for actors, bringing in a well-known or respected specialist for an evening or weekend session. If attendance is optional and prices are not excessive, this practice is acceptable.
When talent or modeling agencies offer on-going classes in-house or make arrangements for clients of an agency to take classes at a specific school (which is often affiliated with the agency), you need to do some investigation. Check the training, experience, and other credentials of the instructors. Check the cost against fees charged by independent schools or instructors. Find out if you must take the courses provided by this agency before you will be represented. An agency that does not accept training from other sources is not serving your best interests.
There are many places to get training: universities and colleges offer acting and drama courses, and some colleges offer programs in fashion and modeling as well. There are independent schools with good reputations for both actors and models, and many highly regarded individuals who offer classes, workshops and private instruction. Local school boards may offer acting and modeling or "self-improvement/self-image" courses through their continuing education departments. A model's most valuable training can be the "on-the-job" experience s/he receives in the course of shooting his/her test portfolio.
Some modeling agencies, especially those outside the heavily competitive Toronto area, run legitimate schools which serve both as self-improvement or "finishing" academies for young men and women who are not planning a career in modeling, and as introductory training schools for those who are. The hallmarks of such legitimate schools are honesty with respect to an applicant's potential, strong ties to the local business community, and connections with national and international "high profile" agencies. Most also participate in one of the Canadian modeling associations: the modeling Association of Canada (MAC) or the Canadian Model and Talent Convention (CMTC). To check out such a school, request local business references, and ask about affiliations with national and international agencies and modeling associations.
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