Do you work ? If not does your husband , wife , aunt , uncle, or friend ? I’m sure someone in your household works or you wouldn’t be able to pay for the internet to read this blog. Would that person work all day out of the kindness of their own heart? Would they work 6, 8, or 12 hours for no paycheck ? Would you ? Probably not. Neither should your child! This industry has taken a turn. In a lot of ways it’s been for the better but in one way it’s taken a nose dive! Social media clients, small brands who mainly operate on FB and IG expecting your child to work for free. This subject is one that makes fire come out of my ears!! I realize all of you want your child to grow their following, but is it worth ruining the industry ? Is it worth doing this one shoot if it causes the client to hire kids for free instead of paying them? This was unheard of years ago ! A child that was a signed model would never shoot for free ! It just wasn’t an option . Let’s not forget your child has value just as you do. Your time is valuable and so is theirs. Think of your little model as a brand. They are a professional child model , they have experience , the look, the following . All of that has value and should not come free of charge. Did the photographer get paid? Did the stylist ? Did the makeup artist ? You bet your but they did! So why should your child who does all the work make nothing in return ?? The simple answer is they shouldn’t !
Let me explain it this way. If there are 10 clients that come to Florida and they have a clothing line they want to shoot, typically they hire a photographer, hair and makeup artist , stylist , some times art director , and always models. The shoot wouldn’t work without the full team right ? So typically they would pay each member of the team and if they couldn’t afford to they might postpone the shoot for a time when their budget is higher . So let’s say they hired 5 kids at $500 a day plus agency fee. Now the child made their money and it was worth their time to take off school or a potential play date with a friend. The agency was able to make a fee and help keep their doors open and so did the rest of the team. Now times that by 10 clients a year. That’s a significant amount of money lost for the children and the Agencies . This is on 10 clients and we all know their are thousand upon thousands doing this! The industry is losing and your child is losing! All for what ? A couple followers if your lucky.
My thoughts are this. If you want a child to work for your campaign for free you can hire a friends child or a child playing at the park. If you want a certain esthetic for your line which entails a professional child model than you need to budget for it. That simple! Again , you wouldn’t work for free and neither should a child. Let’s not forget the element of burning your child out either. I mean if I photograph 5 or more kids a day I’m tired and I get burnt out just like anyone would. So does your child! Do you want to run the risk of them getting burnt out on the industry because of a few free shoots?
I know next I’m going to hear… “ but what about the smaller clothing lines that don’t have a budget for models?” My simple answer is wait until you have the budget like the good old days where you had to grow a business for it to be successful. Just this week I shot a brand new clothing line they had a limited budget and I knew that, but instead of having them go to another photographer and not pay the kids I gave them a starter rate for new clients and they got a full shoot with models for a very reasonable price. I would rather do this then ruin the industry. For smaller brands there is also the option to photograph a few of your favorite pieces on models and the rest on mannequins to save some money. There are plenty of options but everyone wants something for nothing, and we are prepared to give it to them .
Please guys help me help you ! Let’s start a MY KID WILL NOT WORK FOR FREE REVOLUTION!! If we join together we can fix this!
“When we stand up for what we believe in—for what’s right—there is always a chance that we risk the very things we fight for: our safety, our lives, our freedom. But if we stand down, the risk is definite.”
This blog series is dedicated to how a mom with kids in the industry understands not only the struggles of fellow moms but agents as well. It will serve as a guide to help navigate your journey in the entertainment industry with eyes that have seen both the parenting and agency side.
I wasn’t always a working mom. I was a mommy mom. I was the type of mom that only shared about my kids on Facebook (well, still do). I was all about my mommyhood and never strayed from my official “mom uniform” of black compression leggings and a highly knotted mom bun. I’d tote my infant in his baby carrier and toddler in her way overpriced stroller to all the castings I received. I was a typical stay-at-home model mom: bored out of my mind, just looking forward to the next casting.
Ok, to be honest , I was borderline obsessed! My manager even had her very own, very distinguishable ring/text tone, and you better believe those emails were marked as VIP. (Not that she really needed it because I refreshed my emails religiously every other minute.) I, too, was in a daze by the flash of all the photos taken of my “perfect” children.
Oh , they were perfect. God forbid someone try to get me off my high horse and reject my child. I had my model mom bff’s on speed dial so that we could trash talk the stupid casting that “we didn’t want to go to anyway,” or the crazy casting directors, who obviously only wanted everyday kids, not my stunning child. Why else would they not pick me?!…. I mean… my kid.
In reality, I was an amateur. I was the mom who almost every mom in this business is in the beginning. The mom who just cannot handle the rejection as well as they thought they could. I used to think, “Oh, modeling will be just something else to do.” Then, it became everything!
The hardest part in the modeling business is to accept it when someone rejects your “perfect child.” I think that any parent who doesn’t think that they have created a future legend should get an award. It is normal to think that way, but it doesn’t mean that everyone thinks that way. That’s the lesson I learned from rejection.
I think that if I never got a job in the industry, I would still be like every other mom lost in obsession. The mom that no one can stand. You know exactly who I am talking about: the mom with her kids’ headshots and resume neatly tucked into a leather (or pleather for the earth conscious mommy <3) portfolio, the mom who proudly calls herself a momager on her child’s instagram account (you know, the instagram with the paid followers), the mom who congratulates her own child on social media for her kid’s booking just to make other moms jealous #nothumblebrag (don’t do this by the way), the mom who talks way too much trying to get “in” with production but ultimately just ends up annoying the crap out of them. I promise I was totally getting to that point: the point where you think your kid is a star before he really is a star. Then, everything changed.
Everything that I thought I knew about the industry came crashing down within 24 hours of getting a job with THE top manager in all of South Florida and Orlando, who is now the owner of Sprout Kids Agency in Miami, FL. #Boss This was the same manager who I was positively sure hated my guts, up until the very second before I sent her THE message: the message that, unbeknownst to me, would change my life.
It was a typical day, I was sitting on the sofa scrolling on social media making sure no other agents or managers had posted new bookings. I had time for that, even if I swore I didn’t care. Out of the blue, on this completely ordinary day of my completely ordinary life, I heard that echoing loud obnoxious ring tone. Then, I got another, even before I could stop yelling at my kids to stop fighting. I always got nervous when I heard that tone; imagine two back to back. She was either really excited about something, or I must have pissed her off.
I opened the email. Ok, she was mad, thankfully not at me. She was sending out instructions about a new agency she was working with and no one was listening. ( Little did I know, I would soon understand her frustration.) As I’m reading the emails, I get another alert. “CHECK YOUR EMAIL NOW!!” I can’t lie, she scared the crap out of me. Then, I got another all-caps message. When that 4th message came in, I got the BIGGEST urge to ask if she was ok, and it just wouldn’t go away.
I wrote and rewrote THE message maybe 15 times. I am naturally shy and very awkward, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, so the last thing that I wanted was to be the reason for another all-caps email. (I’d been there before, and I may have cried (she doesn’t remember this)… let’s just blame that on new mom emotions! She totally hated me…. or so I thought.) Once I finally mustered up the courage to send her THE text, I felt my soul leaping out of my body, and I now totally see this memory as an out of body experience, not even kidding. She texted me back almost instantly. She was at her breaking point, and I was too. I was tired of being just another mommy. I needed purpose, and she needed a helping hand she could trust. So that annoying ring tone rang, my heart was racing, but instead of being greeted by someone who I feared, I got a human that honestly put up with more than anyone should completely alone: to work with 13 agents, some not so nice agency owners, and hundreds of even more demanding parents. She held the weight of making sure everyone (hundreds of parents, 13 strict agents with their own agendas, and countless number of clients) was happy for 13 years, and it had become all-consuming, especially when the happiness of her kids, husband and most importantly her own expectations for joy had been met with disappointment.
In my head, I always thought, “How hard could it really be? I could do her job with my eyes closed.” #wrong SO wrong. I listened to her vent, and I offered to help her with all I could. I just didn’t think she would say yes. She did before I could even think about. She needed this, someone who would never let her down for the first time in years. For me, I somehow landed myself a job. As unexpected and organically as it could have happened, I didn’t even have time to call my husband and tell him. It was just meant to be, I didn’t just gain a job, I gained someone who I am so proud to know, someone, who I trust with my life. So did she. It was just the beginning of a beautiful and successful working relationship: Ying and Yang, Shake and Bake, Arnold and Danny.
I don’t think that any parent can fathom how draining this can be. I will not say that it is not rewarding, or that it doesn’t bring us great joy; it does. That is why we do this. We live to make kids smile and dreams come true. To be a part of such a magical journey, is just that: magical. However, we are not fairy godmothers, and no matter how hard we try and push a child, there will always be a mother who doesn’t think we did enough.
Everyone thinks that they can do your job better. We have to deal with the know it all parents who “just want to offer some insight,” aka they want to tell us, “you don’t know what you are doing.” We do, and we are doing the best we can. If you want us to do better, then you can help! Follow directions, email and call us during business hours, go to your classes, keep on top of your casting sites, update your headshots without a reminder.
Agents and managers are notorious for leaving you on “read”, or not answering every question after you’ve emailed them 10 times. Let’s not even talk about the dreaded one letter response… K. I always thought she was just intentionally being mean, but I can promise you that your agent/manager does not hate you. They are just working so hard to make sure your child doesn’t miss an opportunity. Just imagine at least 500 talent/parents emailing and calling and texting you all day and night. Most parents don’t, but I have gotten daily texts at crazy hours( 3 am/ 12:30 am). The classic message starts with, “Sorry for the late text, but I had to message you now or I would forget.” What they really mean is #sorrynotsorry.
I realized then that all the years of my child being represented by her, I didn’t ever before ask her about her. I didn’t ever care. That’s just the harsh reality. It makes me so sad that I could have ever been so blind. Working moms are moms, and they’re great ones who do whatever it takes to get things done… usually neglecting their own needs. I try now to be more conscious to never be that resentful person I was again. We are all humans just trying to make it through the day. Of course my kids’ careers matter, but it’s not an obsession anymore.
I go to a casting, and I’m done. If they book, it’s a blessing, not a right. If they don’t book, it’s an opportunity to show off their skills. It doesn’t mean that the casting director is blind; it means they had a different vision already. If my kids don’t get requested and my friend’s kids do, I don’t secretly mope around all day sulking in my misery. I get genuinely happy that there are enough jobs for everyone. Once I changed my outlook, my karma started changing, and more doors opened up for my kids (all on their own, with no help from me) in different markets and here.
The most important advice I can give a new mom, or veteran mom, is to be aware and not let rejection get to you. Life is so much greater than being obsessed with a booking. Remember the kids who did book the job wanted it just as badly as you did; they worked just as hard. Remember that your agent is human and forgets things or is just tired. Remember that the casting director is just trying to do their job and make the client happy. It is not personal, but you can be a personable person as you navigate on this journey. Let your child shine the way they were meant to, and everything that was meant to be for them will find them! Let them be who they want to be.
I can rant because I have done it, all of it. I really did. I assumed her phone was off when I was “just a mom” and I sent her an early morning message.The phones are never off, never on silent. Neither is your brain. Requests come in even when our brain just prays for one second, just one second of quiet. There are no weekends, no real vacations. This business never sleeps. We, just like you, refresh our emails religiously just to make sure we don’t miss a casting, so that you don’t miss an opportunity. We always have to be ready to jump on a computer and make sure that client has everything they need so that they keep coming back to us. You better believe that if we mess up, that client will not ever work with us again. That is the last thing we want, and not for selfish reasons. We try because all we want to do is make your child’s dreams come true, too.
Here at Sprout Kids Agency, we work so hard because we are a family, and we care about your kids,too. We want nothing more than for your child to succeed. If it were up to us, every child would book, and there would be enough jobs for everyone, and everyone would be the perfect look for every client. Although we cannot guarantee that your child works, we do promise we will continue doing our very best to get them all the opportunities to be seen. We will continue to educate ourselves so that we can share the knowledge. We will be the difference.
I am so blessed, and I say blessed and not lucky because it is so much more than luck to get to do something I am so passionate about. I get to make dreams come true everyday, and I get to do it with one of my favorite HUMAN beings that has ever walked the earth since the beginning of time. Shaina, for you, I am so grateful.
“There is nothing more prestigious than a beautiful soul painting the world with his or her vibrant colors. ” ~Bonnie Koury