Model Life: Creeps

So there is a deluded myth out there that the modeling industry is full of nothing but porn directors, scam artists and rapists looking for their next victim. Well those people exist (unfortunately in the world at large), for the most part it is easy to identify and avoid the creeps. More so, the industry is filled with many, many, many girls with stars in their eyes who sometimes ignore the red flags in hopes of finding their big break and making a quick buck. So creeps will seek you out and you can easily find creeps but here are my personal tips for staying safe and creep-free.

First, vet everyone. VET= to investigate (someone) thoroughly to see if they should be approved or accepted for a job! This seems like a lot for every person who reaches out to you but it is a necessity. Here is my standard practice. A full check of their Facebook, Instagram and website if provided. If we have mutual friends whom I have worked with and trust, I always reach out to them to get a reference. This can not be stressed enough. A dear photographer friend saved me from a very uncomfortable situation once by merely being honest, ‘he is a creep, don’t do it’… problem averted. Stay within your known network and market even if you don’t have a mutual connection you are likely to find a reference with ties to you. It’s like the 6 degrees of separation game. I am not afraid to reach out to someone who knows someone and introduce myself….also this is how I have built my network over time. If you have no connections ask for references!

So what if there is no connection and no references available what-so-ever but you love their work and from your basic research they seem on the up-and-up? It may seem a bit nuts but if they are Wisconsin residents you can run a quick background check through the court system. Yep, it seems like a lot but if someone has sexual assault charges you probably want to steer clear. Of course if you don’t have court access, google is a simple and amazing tool….pictures seem too good to be true, the name seem a little fishy, do they claim they are with an agency. Find out, it is not that hard. Legitimate business professionals do not hide their background.  Learn how to do an image search to make sure the photos are real and belong to the photographer. Seriously, I am that cautious.

My other recommendation is a simple and effective one, bring a chaperone or escort. Now I might get guff from photographers or industry folk out there for this one, but if it is not a paying job set up through a reliable agency or with a known professional who either provides references or has been fully vetted, only agree to the shoot if you can have a chaperone present. I have brought someone with me when I don’t know the photographer and don’t feel comfortable meeting them in some remote studio or location, this just seems like common sense to me. So far the wonderful photographers I work with completely understand and welcome this. I also remain extremely professional and ask my chaperone to do the same, basically come along and stay out of the way! Like drop me off and wait outside (but within reasonable screaming distance:) Seriously my sweet mother has sat outside in a car for hours just waiting for me.  Actually most of the time photographers love her, she is one heck of a stylist and creative director.

Only once I have been told I could not bring a chaperone and guess what its the same person who I was warned ‘he is a creep, don’t do it’ that incident confirmed my logic. I am fortunate that in my network there are Facebook groups dedicated to sharing information about creeps. Sometimes there might be a smear campaign, sour grapes and crazy competition you have to weed through.

Also be completely upfront about expectations for shoots and jobs. I tell every photographer I work with I do not do nude and I do not do full out see-thru lingerie or overly sexy boudoir. No implied sex, and I keep my bits covered at all times.  I would say I’m PG for sure.  This is a hard line, high fashion and editorial photographers sometimes are looking for more edgy than I can provide, and I have turned down good gigs due to the fact it isn’t the type of work I am willing to do.  If that is what they are looking for they can simply look elsewhere. I have done a few shoots in my Calvin Kleins, with cleavage peeking and  a bra, strategic placement of things,  panties and over-sized shirt but those were at my request and for my personal portfolio. For those saucy shoots I had my mother along with me, because if anyone knows my personal line better than myself its her!

There are extreme stories out there about girls getting sucked into what seemed from all fronts legit opportunities that turned into absolute nightmares. So far I have not been in that severe a situation. My network continues to grow and I continue to vet and so far I have been blessed with safety and security. Creeps be warned, don’t bother reaching out, I have no interest in being your victim. I take my caution a step further. I will not respond to DMs, chats or other social media messages from people I have not met or who are not connecting for business purposes, even at that I prefer people reach me via email. If they are a photographer I prefer they send along a link to a portfolio of their work.

Finally two points that make me sound like my dad but I appreciate his advice the older I get. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is and It is OK to say NO! So stay safe out there my fellow models.

Dream Big, Skylar

CREEP

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Model Life: Free Agent-ish

So I get asked a lot why I am not seeking agency representation for my modeling career, I think for many people who have a different approach to this industry that is the way and only way to go, it is just not my way. I shared my big agency experience with you all a few weeks ago. Acting is a whole different beast and I will address that today as well, I love my film/television agency and I will explain why. But no modeling agency yet and there are a few reasons I will share for my career path in this post.

First, modeling agencies come in all sorts of levels of support, promotion and industry rank. There are small agencies that do mostly regional work, large agencies that do national work and/or will act as a mother agency connecting you to the big dogs who are the international players in the modeling world. I have been approached by three regional agencies and was just  approached by a Chicago agency, which could act as my mother agency in the next step of my career, and so far I haven’t signed on a dotted line with a modeling agency.  Many of my friends in this business are signed with regional agents or signed with agencies in large markets but are trying to live in the Midwest. I am fortunate, because they have all shared their wisdom and pitfalls of their contracts with me.

Once you sign that piece of paper often you are obligated to work with that agency and no one else, good models get asked to sign exclusive contracts. The relationship is meant to be mutually beneficial, they promote you on their available roster for paid jobs and you either go to a casting call/audition or get a paid job based on that promotion. They get a cut of your payment. Now that is great if the relationship is great. What if the agency doesn’t promote you?  Are you buried somewhere on page 27 of 50 on a website? If you are one of 400 female models the regional agency represents how much are you being pushed alongside of the 399 others? When a client seeks a blonde-haired, blue-eyed model is your info being sent, shared, viewed or even found? Many agencies aren’t agencies at all they are paid websites which are a monumental database of hundreds of inexperienced models who are willing to pay to be included. Do clients actually go there and offer jobs to models, who knows? I have never heard of someone getting their big break this way.

Sometimes you can get a non-exclusive contract and have multiple agents. This route works well for those who want multiple chances to get their face out there and be submitted for a handful of jobs, especially in markets like Chicago and Minneapolis.  A few models I know live in Chicago and are signed with LA or NY agencies and they all tell me the same thing, it is really hard to live where your agency isn’t, they might put you up for paid gigs in NY or LA but guess what you are in Chicago. Now you are asking for travel expenses and more. Sometimes the job makes the travel worth it but often it doesn’t and sometimes the client doesn’t want the hassle.

Upon the advice of one of the very first make-up artists and photographers that I worked with I have decided to not sign with a regional agency and instead pursue building my regional career on my own, until I know I am ready for the next move. If you have read any other blogs you know I hustle and so far, so good!

But what about that great agency that pushes you and believes in you and promotes you like no other, well I’m not ready for them. Frankly, I am still committed to my college career meaning I need to be able to choose my own jobs on my own timeline. It would be completely unfair to get a great modeling agent who finds me all sorts of great opportunities that I am constantly declining. Really big, big opportunities are going to take me out of the Chicago market and I’m not ready to go yet! Flying to New York or Milan on a whim just isn’t my life right now.   I will say it again 25% of this business is relationships and why burn a bridge by not delivering on your end of the deal. I won’t do that to someone, when I am to that point I will seek out the proper representation for where I am at with my career. If I sign with you I will give you all that I have 100% of the time.

So I guess my reasons are actually only one reason, right now I need to have complete control of my career, my approach is different than most, find success on your own and then find the right person to acknowledge that success and bring you to the next level. I know the type of agency I want to work with and when I am ready for them I hope they will take me. (fingers crossed, toes crossed)

Now I do have an amazing acting and film agency, YJB Talent out of Atlanta with an office in Chicago. They are a boutique agency and represent only a handful in their regions and work very hard on development. My agent is helping to develop me knowing that I have a looooooong way to go. Acting is a whole different game! I have done one film and been offered a few roles in others. I hope to work more in this field but without an agency in the acting field I would not be able to move forward. The agency submits me for SAG/AFTRA paid jobs and they also have me connected to receive information about unpaid jobs and opportunities. They also understand I model and will even give me the inside track on jobs I maybe haven’t seen on my own.  So I can chose to pursue student films, independent films and other career builders. They help me with head shots, available acting workshops and classes and building a brand. I shared in my last post about not paying to become a model, again acting is a very,very different beast. A good acting school, classes and workshops at some point are musts. It is an art and a talent which can and must be developed. I am working on that right now. My agent is available to help and willing to help and that is a relationship I am thankful for every single day.

Hopefully in a few years I will be able to add to this blog and share my experiences in becoming an actress, much like finding a modeling agency partner I’m just not there yet.

 

Dream Big, SkylarYJB

Model Life: Don’t PAY!

Growing up in small towns I would have had absolutely no idea how to get started in modeling, I do remember there being model searches in my hometown mall however and once in a great while a ‘talent scout’ would come to a hotel selling your chance to be the next Disney star. Now that I have been doing this for some time and built a professional network which includes many other models I have learned this one very, very, very important fact. Do not pay  a ton of money to become a model!!!*

That said there are costs involved but if someone tells you that you need a series of classes, expensive workshops or thousands of dollars’ worth of photos they want to take your money and once they have it their interest in you is likely over. People I know have done this and I imagine they would not only echo my thoughts but have an even harsher reaction. Now this is a point where I could easily name the names of companies that are notorious for doing this but as an aspiring lawyer I am smarter than that. So please google modeling classes and know that very few signed models (with good agencies that get you paid  work) actually ever went to those ‘schools’.  Modeling is one of the few things in the world that cannot necessarily be taught and attending classes will not make you more successful, if you want to spend money invest in great photos. If you want to find success build a network.  25%Luck, 25%Relationships,50%Hard Work.

Also to read a lot more about this check out my favorite article on the subject.

So if you aren’t lucky like I was and fall right into this business in an unexpected ball of fire, how do you start? This is where the money you do need to spend probably comes in. Get a decent headshot and set of polaroids (or ‘digis’ or ‘digitals’, they go by many names) They are called this because if you got an agency interview or scouted, back in the day, they would  pull out a Polaroid instant camera and take a headshot, profile, 1/3 and full body shot, usually in a bikini or tight clothing or something that shows off your build  and are usually fresh faced with little to no make-up, raw unedited images. These become part of your portfolio for potential clients.  In 2016 modeling agencies usually prefer you submit these images digitally and if you go to agency sites often they will tell you that these photographs do not need to be done professionally, this is probably true if you have all the makings of a supermodel. But don’t trust your smartphone with this task. Go and get these done by a good professional photographer, especially your headshot, one who has worked with agency signed models, do your research for your market and find the best photographer you can!

So if you aren’t a ready-made supermodel (and honestly, who the heck is)  my best advice is to work first, build your professional portfolio, hopefully with a good headshot and some prime networking you can find work with photographers also building their portfolio and you can work together. The progression of an unsigned print model usually follows this route, you pay for really good pictures from a really good photographer, sometimes you need to pay for more than just head shots and Polaroids, portfolio prints don’t come cheap.  When you get good enough you can work for free with photographers on a TFP (time for prints, time for photos) basis and finally you get paid by photographers who want to work with you.  This is how as a print model you progress, learn and get better. If you have talent photographers will seek you out. In my career I started by reaching out to really good photographers, now photographers will reach out to me, that is an awesome place to be.  Those pictures build your portfolio which you use for casting calls and a comp card. These are items you will take to casting calls and auditions.

Then if you are so inclined take that material and hit the open call agency circuit to get signed. A true agency may charge you a nominal fee for including you on their website and will likely suggest photos from a high end professional who can assure your listing is the quality the agency prefers and yes this may cost you some money. If you have a strong enough portfolio, brand and proof of success no agency is going to charge you up front to sign with them.  If they insist you spend $1500-$3000 up front for ‘signing’ something is seriously wrong. Since I am a ‘free agent’ most of this advice has come my way from people who have been doing this a LOT longer than I have. But I trust them and take their advice to heart.

Again most of these things are separate posts. Connect with other industry professionals and models but don’t use them to advance your own career .  Be cautious of snakes in the grass, I have horror stories about bad casting calls, shady photographers and downright scary situations, vet everyone you work with.

And as usual as I complete this blog post my last paragraph has just given me four more post ideas. So follow me, if you are curious about my experience or stories from this crazy world I have enough apparently for a novel.  So until next time.

Dream Big, Skylar

*These are my personal opinions and professional experiences, I know there are people out there who will not agree. I am sure with an infinite amount of money many models can build a successful career. My goal was to build my own career without spending my parents cash. It has not been easy…it’s a lot of work every day!

Photography: MCMXC Photography