So , this is a tough one for me. I recently asked all of you to give me ideas what I should blog about and the most common topic asked was “ how do I get signed with your agency “?
I think there is this common misconception that if you submit your child to an agency, you just get signed. Well, for scam type agencies that’s true. This is because they charge a fee to sign your child without the guarantee of booking your child on a job. Then they scam you for 1,000-$3,000 for a portfolio that they profit from. So yes of course they will sign every child that walks in their door. If I made $4000 every child I signed I would be rich ! Would I be ethical ? Heck no !
Here is the truth behind agencies. We cannot guarantee you a single booking. Not one. We are not the client and we cannot determine which children clients are going to book for their campaigns. So I feel it’s unethical to charge you a signing fee when I can’t guarantee you a thing. Now, do I think I have a great eye for what clients like. Yes. Do I only sign children I think clients will book? Yes! Could I be wrong ? Sure. All I can do is market your child to my list of clients and put them in the absolute best position to nail that booking. The rest is up to the child and honestly the parent ( make sure you have great digitals).
With that being said. Because I do not take a fee to sign children I’m very particular about who I chose to represent. The last thing I want is hundreds of unhappy parents who were excited to be signed and now terribly disappointed their child hasn’t booked a job. That doesn’t help me or you. So I limit the children I chose to a very select small group of kids that I believe clients will book. This doesn’t mean anything negative towards your child. It’s just he/she might not be what I’m looking for at that time.
I do get quite a bit of messages that say “ I submitted my child and didn’t hear anything back “. I assure you I look at every single child that submits to me. However , I only have time to respond to the children we are interested in. If you did not hear back within 2 weeks , we are passing on representing your child at this time. You are free to submit to other agencies but be careful you do not get scammed. Don’t sign long contracts , if they force you to use only their photographer run , if they charge you a sign on fee run. All of these are red flags. Don’t be too anxious for your child to be signed that you ignore the signs of a scam .
So how do you improve your chances of getting signed?
Great pictures is key ( preferably professional) find out who the agents other models use and use that person.
I really hope this better helps you understand the process and answers all your questions.
So there is a difference between a proactive parent and a parent that that calls, emails, texts too much . I realize your child is the apple of your eye. I’m a mom too and my kids are #1. However , when it comes to an agency we represent hundreds of kids. Which means hundreds of questions from hundreds of parents. There are definitely good reasons to contact your agent such as size updates, photo updates, if you are running late for a booking or casting, or if there is an emergency. There are also a lot of questions we are asked on the daily and if you just look at your welcome packet or read my blogs the answers are right there. We are so busy booking your kids. We are sending out projects, doing accounting, booking talent , size updates etc.. the last thing we wanna do is anwser a question where if you took a moment to search you can find the anwser. I know a lot of parents get frustrated when agents have short responses. Or don’t respond to emails right away. I promise we are not being short with you and by no way is it ever personal we are just busy from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. So it’s much easier to give a simple quick anwser and move on to what we were working on. As far as emails go , I swear if you look at my emails on my phone I think I have a few hundred thousand lol. It’s so easy to miss an email. Sometimes we see it but we are working on a casting and think to ourselves we will get back to it and forget in the whirlwind of the day. Again, it’s not personal just send a kind follow up and we will get back to you. Every parent thinks their child is top priority and to you they are. To us , we have hundreds of kids that are all equal priority. So try to remember it’s never personal and if you have a question see if it’s in your welcome packet or my blogs before you ask and save the questions for when it’s important.
Today was one of those days that could have ended in a disaster. I have this new beautiful little girl in my system. She lives in Florida. I have a NY client that wanted to direct book her – which is super exciting. She purchased plane tickets and a hotel and flew to NY for this booking. She went to the fitting and they had told her that her daughter didn’t fit the clothing properly and they were not booking her. My assistant was disappointed for this mother- she knows that being let down is hard in the midst of being so excited. We all were. So I sent a very polite email (you get more with honey than vinegar) to the client requesting a cancellation fee. Next thing I hear … they are booking her anyway and paying in full. Phew 😅 we all took a sigh of relief. They book the baby, she went to the booking, she was paid – but the client never shot the little girl, which feels personal right?
After all of the confusion, the mother was still grateful , kind, and handled this situation with class and understanding. Some things are out of our control. I was so thankful for the mother’s grace. I imagined how other parents would have handled the same situation and I was so utterly grateful it was her.
These moments happen in this business. To be frank, they suck. It’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news especially when there is absolutely nothing you can do. It’s one of the absolute worst parts of this job , but that is life. What made this situation noteworthy was this mother’s amazing attitude. She showed up, stayed happy with her baby and communicated she was happy to be there and was hopeful they would use her daughter in the future. Imagine how this scene could have been different? The next time I have a client that needs a little girl with her description, I will recommend her, because we all need this attitude at our shoots, and in life. I will make it up to her- all because she was kind and professional- but something tells me, I won’t need to try hard because actions speak loud.
What you can take from this story is to be kind. We are human. Things happen that are out of our hands. Sometimes, they are out of productions hands and the clients hands. It’s not personal. We will work with confidence for your child if we feel that you can take industry issues in stride, see the silver lining and still be grateful for us at the end of the day. We want this for you as bad as you want it for your child.
I gotta be honest… this week was not one of my finest. It was one of those ALL CAPS kind of weeks. I was on a rampage. I’m my own defense my frustration was justified (at least I think it was lol ). Let me explain why I was so upset so you guys avoid making the same mistake with your agents.
The reason for my frustration was that I had two kids on hold for two different jobs. Both of the clients these kids were on hold for are last minute type of bookers. They hold the kids for weeks and don’t typically book until the day before the shoot day. FYI this is super typical in the industry, so if you can’t move your schedule last minute, this industry definitely isn’t for you. Back to my point. So, I had two kids on hold. If you don’t know what a hold is , a hold is when I client likes your child and is still deciding who they are booking and your child is one of the finalists. They hold your child for the shoot dates and ask if the hold dates are confirmed . This is your ONE AND ONLY TIME TO LET THE CLIENT KNOW WHICH DAYS YOU ARE NOT AVAILABLE. For instance, if the client is holding your child from the 25-30th and on the 28th you have a birthday party scheduled, you need to tell your agent to tell the client your available all days but the 28th. If you confirm ALL the days you MUST be available ALL the days ! I had two children confirm holds on two different jobs. Last minute they both booked trips and now forced me to tell the client they were not available. This makes me see RED!
I need all of you to remember this is your agents’ livelihood. This is not a hobby or just something fun to do. This is a business and it’s how we put our food on our tables. So, when we have to go back and tell a client that a child they planned for and scheduled for ( that they placed on hold for a reason ) is not available anymore, it makes a client furious. Rightly so , what would be the purpose of holding a child for a date if now the child is unavailable. The sole purpose of a hold is to HOLD THE CHILD FOR THEIR SHOOT. In the end they don’t blame the child they blame the agent. The parents unprofessionalism effected every child that could have worked for that client in the future if that client now won’t work with that agency . I understand that this is a hobby for you. Something fun you do with your child. However, your agent works their tush off 7 days a week to make these clients happy so they continue to work with their agency. One child not being available for a hold that was previously confirmed can jeopardize everything that agent worked so hard for!
Remember if you are put on hold that means you do not travel or do anything that would compromise you being available for your potential booking. If you are wanting to travel and you have not heard from your agent please email your agent letting him/her know that your wanting to make plans and to politely ask the client if your child is still on hold or if he / she can be released BEFORE YOU MAKE PLANS DURING YOUR HOLD DATE. If another client wants to book your child during your hold date it is your responsibility to let your agent know you are already on hold with another client. The agent will then check on your hold and see if the client is going to book or release your child. If the client releases your child and later changes their mind and wants to book your child the fault now lies in their hands not your agents and no one can get penalized.
So please Remember : if you’re on hold and confirmed the dates you MUST BE AVAILABLE ALL DATES YOU CLEARED unless you email your agent asking for permission to release a day or your hold entirely.
Every now and again I hear through the grapevine that someone is complaining about their current or former agency. Most of the time it’s common to hear a person saying “ such and such agency is terrible they never booked my kid” or “ such and such agency only books certain kids and the rest get nothing “. I cannot tell you enough how much I hear this about my fellow agents and I’m sure I’m not excluded from these types of comments. So I figured it might be good to touch upon the fact that no two people have the same experience with the same agency.
An agent typically represents a few hundred kids. We all consider our children unique in their own way. With that uniqueness comes unique experiences. For example , I can represent two children that are very similar in appearance. They might both have tan skin, dark straight hair, brown eyes. However, each child has their own unique personality. One child might be more outgoing and personable than the other. Or one might be more suited for a serious type role. Either way one child’s booking experience might be completely different from the others. That doesn’t make that agent a terrible agent because he/she didn’t book your child as much as the other child. It just means your child had different qualities than the other child which provided different booking experiences.
I would like to remind all of you that AGENTS DO NOT PICK THE CHILDREN WHO BOOK JOBS. Clients always have and always do pick the children for their campaigns. Agents only have the power to submit your child to a client, they do not have the power to book the children. I see so many parents bitter at their former representation because their child didn’t book a lot of jobs. I understand it can hurt if you tried something out for your child and it didn’t turn out as expected but remember your agent roots for you! We would love every single child in our system to book weekly but unfortunately that’s not a reality. It doesn’t do an agent any good putting a child in their system who they are not going to submit. If it didn’t work out don’t blame or badmouth your former representation, booking your child was out of their control. I can also tell you that if I personally meet a new talent that was represented by someone else in the past and is speaking negatively about their former representation I typically see that as a red flag and choose to not represent that family.
Every child has a very different experience with the same agency. Your friends child can book jobs on a weekly biases . Where your child might book 1-2 jobs a year. That doesn’t make that agency bad because you didn’t have the same experience as your friend. It just means your friends child has a quality that clients find bookable. If you are not happy with your current representation leave with dignity and class . Thank your agent for their time and effort with your child and keep any negative opinions to yourself. The grass might not be greener and you might wish to return to your former representation. If you burn a bridge it might be hard to mend that relationship.
Sometimes it can be stressful being an agent. There is a whole lot of pressure on you to keep parents happy. We have a lot of kids to manage and time can be limited.
With that being said I think it would be safe to say every agent has a list of questions that automatically causes an internal eye roll. I think sometimes parents don’t realize they are one of many.
The same 5 questions being asked by every talent daily can become a bit exhausting.
Especially when they take the time to write out welcome packets, and blog that give the answer to their questions.
So what are those questions that every agent hates being asked ? Glad you asked.
1. Don’t ask your agent if they received the calltime unless it’s the night before the booking. If it’s Afterhours and you still haven’t heard anything feel free to ask your agent. I promise we will not keep your calltime from you. We are waiting patiently for it as well and you can rest assured if we received it you will have it immediately. So please try to avoid asking unless it’s the night before. Chances are we are just as anxiously awaiting the call time.
2. Don’t ask your agent if your kid booked the job if you haven’t heard anything yet. Again, same as above. We will never hold a booking from you.In fact you will typically receive your booking within 5 minutes or less once we have received it. I get it that your anxious but try to be patient. If you haven’t heard please assume your child didn’t book this job.
3. What’s the rate ? If we didn’t include the rate in the details then we don’t have it. Please don’t ask your agent the rate if it wasn’t given to you yet or it’s just a submission. Many times we submit without having the full rate and we are waiting as well. We always include all the details we have right away. So if something is missing it’s because we haven’t received it.
4. Why isn’t my kid booking ? Please don’t ask this especially if your child has mediocre photos and you haven’t updated your child’s profile. We also don’t always know why your child isn’t working. Agents do not pick the talent. The client always picks the talent so we most likely don’t have a good anwser as to why it wasn’t your child. If your looking for advice on if there is anything you can do to help your child’s success rate you can politely email your agent asking what you can do to help increase your child’s booking potential.
5. Please do not ask your agent if they submitted your child. Please for the love of god don’t ask if your child is being submitted. There is this common rumor in the industry that parents spread that agents only submit their favorite kids. This is ludicrous! It costs us nothing to submit your child and we don’t always know what the client is looking for. So it be hooves us to submit everyone that fits the category asked, as we never know who the client will choose. I promise you guys agents do not only submit their favorites. Some kids just book more than others because their look or personality is inline with what clients tend to look for. We would sooner release a child from contract than keep them in the system and not submit them.
I know as parents these seem like super common questions all or most of you have asked at one point or another. I totally understand why they are asked and you guys mean no harm. If we were only representing one child it wouldn’t be such an issue to be asked the above 5 questions. Unfortunately we represent hundreds of kids and are asked these questions daily, it can certainly become a bit exhausting. I mean the best by providing this info to you as I’m trying to help you have the best relationship with your agent as you possibly can , even if it isn’t Sprout 🌱. Be mindful that we are insanely busy and would love more than anything to have the time to answer every question you have ,but if it’s one of the 5 above I would write it down on a piece of paper and throw it away before you ask it.
When we watch documentaries, see news stories , or read magazines about celebrities who have “fallen apart” due to fame , we ask ourselves where did they go wrong, what the heck went wrong, how could this happen , and most of all where were their parents ?
Why all the drug addictions, why so many mental breakdowns?
As parents in this business we reassure ourselves that would never happen to our child(ren), that we would give them a break when they are burnt out and need to stop.
“This is like any sport, they can quit whenever. I’ll never be like those crazy stage parents putting my child in any danger. This is different, I am different, they are different. Surely, that would never happen to my child , nope never” But will it ?
I remember when the Michael Jackson Documentary came out, I remember thinking what in gods name were these parents thinking allowing their child to be around this man ? They have to see what everyone else sees, right? No loving parent could ever be so naive to think that this man wanted to be best friends with little kids? What were these parents thinking?!
Being on the other side of the industry makes me see things from another perspective, it forces me to take the “ mommy goggles ” off and see things clearly. I can almost bet that they saw Michael as Willy Wonka, he was their golden ticket, and if they didn’t take a trip to neverland their children would never see the light of Hollywood land.
I’m not insinuating that these children were abused in any way, but what I am saying is that grooming was definitely going on, and sometimes the flashing lights of the cameras temporarily can blind parents ability to see clearly and make accurate character assessments.
This business is amazing, and it opens doors to so many dreamers. Those who dream of creating with cameras, or those creating on the opposite side of the camera. Even those like me, someone who loves to make dreams come true. This business can be beautiful and filled with this magical light, but behind the light there are people with ill intentions, hiding in the shadows, offering you and your child(ren) a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I know this is a hard topic to hear, believe me it’s harder to discuss. As a team at Sprout we have been contemplating writing this for a very long time, but keep modifying it, and putting it on the backburner, not sure if parents are ready to hear it .
However, the media is just bringing so much to attention to the subject . We have the stories of Howard Weinstein taking advantage of his position abusing children in the industry , you have Kesha suing her producer for sexual abuse, we have the Free Britney movement, Demi Lovato coming forward with rape allegations, the wonderfully talented Amanda Bynes who has been on a downward spiral for years, you have the stories of Corey Feldman and Cory Haim, there even has been countless local child photographers in the area arrested for child abuse. The list goes on and on. It would be against everything Sprout believes in if we didn’t share this.
In this blog we will go over the signs of grooming. How to spot it, how to prevent it, and how to report it.
We are here to not only make dreams come true, but to protect the pure innocence and light that our little dreamers hold. While we will go over some sensitive topics we hope that everyone receives this and carefully reads every sign. Sometimes it’s hard to see clearly when the groomer is grooming you and your child when it seems to benefit your child’s career, and it’s easy to not want to see things as they are. Imagine yourself outside of your body looking in. Is it normal that an adult wants to “play” with your child all the time. If it wasn’t a person in the industry benefiting your child’s career would you see this as very odd. Is the risk worth the reward? In my opinion NOTHING is worth the health and safety of a child.
Sometimes as parents we get so excited about the prospect of our child booking a job ,shooting with a photographer, or wearing a designers clothing that we tend to let or guards down to what we normally might have seen as dangerous. We can’t rely on social media platforms, strangers, or even agents to protect our children. We have to protect them ourselves. As an agent I try to do my very best to stay away from clients that seem well… odd ( for lack of a better word). If something doesn’t sit right I don’t take the job. If someone seems a little strange whether it being a parent of another child or someone in the industry, I do my best to tell parents to stay clear. It’s a slippery slope and I think it’s important to voice when we have concerns or when something seems off. However, in the end you have to rely on your own gut instincts to make sure you don’t put yourself or your child in a compromising situation.
I realize this industry is a competitive one . Parents are anxious for bookings and everyone wants their child to make it ! So when a person in the industry shows your child attention it’s easy to get sucked in and the usual red flags get ignored. It’s important to know the signs of grooming and to stay clear EVEN IF IT MEANS YOUR CHILD MIGHT NOT BOOK THE JOB. Not everyone in the industry has the right motives and you need to always proceed on the side of caution when it comes to your child . A booking is not worth your child’s safety and innocence . If your child is contacted by a designer , photographer, director, ANYONE you don’t personally know, and I don’t mean know like “ oh I met them on set a few times “I mean really know . Then you need to look them up . Check the internet , make sure someone always knows where your going , and don’t let your children be alone with ANYONE! If someone wants to meet your child make sure you have someone going with you. Social media is filled with predators! Anyone at any time can pretend to be a photographer, agent, director, designer, casting director etc.. Do your due diligence ! A BOOKING IS NOT WORTH YOUR CHILDS SAFETY. I have seen many parents contacted by a photographer they never met asking to photograph their child. Please don’t just meet up with anyone who contacts you because they offer you a free shoot . Anyone wanting to do something for you for free should be looked at with a few sets of eyes.
Most parents would shoot with anyone , go anywhere , and do almost anything for their child to be noticed. Parents don’t want to say no and turn down an opportunity and believe me guys, I get it ! I do ! I’m not saying to turn things down I’m just saying to use much more caution then you have been. Don’t go to someone’s home, don’t leave your children alone with someone , and don’t ignore the red flags! You are your child’s protector. If a random person said come meet me at this location with your child, would you ? If they say they are a photographer or director you would most likely go without a second thought. Just be mindful. How well do we really know a person ?
I’m going to share some of the signs of grooming from a few articles we have researched. If any of these sound familiar to you please keep your distance and do whatever is needed to protect your children.
Signs of Grooming :
1: The offender will pay special attention to or give preference to a child
2: Gift giving of any expense – large or small – is a grooming technique used to flatter children and their families into trusting the individual. Be vigilant. If another adult is overly interested in your child and family, consider this a red flag. Gifts can also be given in potential bookings or jobs. Perpetrators work to gain the trust of parents/caregivers to lower suspicion and gain access to the child by providing seemingly warm yet calculated attention/support. The perpetrator gains the child’s trust by gathering information about the child, getting to know their needs, and finding ways to fill those needs. ” I can get your child booked on a job, I’m designing a dress I want your child to wear , I’ll photograph your child for free”
3: Having the child call them aunt or uncle. Or another “safe feeling” word. When a perpetrator uses a term that in some way makes the child feel they are family ,the child tends to let their guard down with the perpetrator and it gives a sense of feeling safe.
4: Offenders are often seen pressing boundaries and breaking rules, but are rarely caught in the act of abusing a child. They might meet up with your child outside of work or at their home. When you see a boundary being crossed, describe the inappropriate behavior or boundary violation to the person who has crossed it. Have family rules about when and how adults engage with your children.
5: Perpetrators will test the limits by starting to introduce touch into the relationship. They might put their arm around the child or asking for a hug to see how the child reacts. They may do this in front of other adults. If the caregiver does not intervene or object, and the child is uncomfortable, it can confuse the child on what type of touch is appropriate. Teach your kids about body autonomy and let them know it’s OK to say “no” to adults. One can tickle the child to act as though it’s fun. Or ask if they want a piggy back ride or ride on shoulders. Let your child know to always say “no, thank you “. They need to know it is ok to say no!
6: The individual will offer to do special things or help the caregivers to gain alone time with the child “ come over hear in this room and let’s paint a picture , or I’ll show you something cool”. Be sure to let other adults know that you do not approve of them being alone with your child without your permission or knowledge. Check-in regularly so other adults know you are watching.
7: Groomers may rely on mobile phones, social media and the internet to interact with children in inappropriate ways. FaceTiming your child or messaging your child is never appropriate for an adult as adults should not be maintaining friendships with children.
8: They Become Useful to the Family. One way abusers work to gain the trust of the family of the child they are targeting is by making their lives easier. “They befriend the child, the family, and other adults in the child’s life,” says Pumo. “They’ll provide the child and family members with opportunities, privilege, emotional support, financial support. It could just be attention in a two-family home when both parents are working a lot of hours. It could be taking your kid to practice and saving you time.” No, this doesn’t mean that every time someone offers to do you a favor have nefarious intent. But it is a common sign of abuse to be wary of and note.
9: They Want to Be Alone With Your Child Most adult men, per Cooper, rarely want to be alone with children who aren’t theirs. “I always tell parents: if any adult male wants to be alone with your children, that’s a red flag. Most normal adult men want to be alone with other adult men or adult women.” She adds that if there’s an adult man in your life who exclusively wants to be alone with your kid, to take them to a movie alone or to the basement to play video games , ask about sleepovers ,that might also be a red flag. The same goes for women . Adults do not regularly want to spend their alone time with children. This is one of the most common red flags in potential groomers. While being good with kids and playing with them at a family dinner is no big deal, Pumo says a warning sign that grooming might be taking place or that someone you are around could be an abuser is if they almost exclusively prefer the company of children. “It could be an adult who you notice consistently prefers the company of children, or a particular child over same-aged peers and other adults,” she says. “At a party, is this adult always just with the kids?”
Everyone here at Sprout either had or has had a child in this industry. We get how amazing it feels when someone else sees the talent your child has and offers them opportunities . You want them to feel special, and you want to reap the benefits of this new found relationship. However absolutely no benefit should EVER come before the safety of our children. NO OPPORTUNITY WILL EVER COME CLOSE TO POSSIBLY SACRIFICING KEEPING THEM PROTECTED. There is no such thing as being an overprotective parent in this industry. This was not an easy blog to write as we are aware it might hit close to home for some. However, if it protects one child or one family from a lifetime of pain it was worth it.
I totally thought my kid nailed that audition. Why didn’t he book it ?
How many of you have taken your kid to an audition and the client seemed utterly obsessed with your child. It seemed they had the live version of googley eyes when looking at him or her? How many of you have had a casting director practically convince you that your child nailed the audition. How many of you were told “see you tomorrow“ by a client only to never get that call. Are you raising your hands? Yeah, I know. I get it and I’m right there with you.
I think sometimes my talent don’t realize how much I want them to book the job.
Yes it’s a business, but more than that I want you to know how generally happy I am for your child. When I get the call that little Sarah booked her first job, I can’t wait to pick up the phone and hear the excitement in your voice.
It genuinely warms my heart. I know I’m not alone in this. It seriously never gets old for an agent. Its kinda like being Santa every day ,to some extent.
Not really , but you get what I mean.
As good as it feels to give you good news it’s equally as hard to give you the bad news.
So why do some clients or casting directors give our hopes up? Let me start by saying it’s never intentional.
I truly don’t believe a client or casting director would ever be so cruel to intentionally make you think Amber got the job when she didn’t. I’ll explain. Let’s start with the client.
So let’s say one of the ladies on set said “ see you tomorrow “ and didn’t book your child. What happened ? Did little Robert smile funny “what the heck “.
Well , just because a lady on set loved your child doesn’t mean your child booked the job. Anything can happen from the time of casting to the day of the shoot.
For example , maybe they were going to pick your son and another boy walked in later that evening that might have fit the clothes a little better or matched the “ dad “ on set just perfectly,Or maybe they originally wanted a blonde boy.
However , a beautiful brunette girl walked on set and they decided to switch to a brunette boy. There are so many moving parts to a shoot , that anything at all can happen. There are also several people that determine who the final picks are for a campaign.
The lady on set “ loved your child “ however ,there are most likely at least 3 people who need to sign off on final choices for every production.
This leads me to casting directors. Casting directors are normally 99% right about who the client might pick.
However , once in a blue moon the client goes in another direction.
I’m sure the casting director was correct when they told you “you did a great job I think you’ll book it “.
You probably did do a great job, again there are so many moving parts to a production that anything can happen and multiple people need to give final approval.
The best advice I can give you is to congratulate your child on doing an excellent job on their audition and forget about it. If you hear back with good news it’s a welcome surprise. If you don’t , it’s no big deal as you already put it behind you.
I know it’s easier said than done . I’m not saying it’s easy but just go about your life as you would any day .
This business is filled with excitement and can create some really amazing memories. There are times it isn’t easy and we have to learn to handle rejection. Not just for ourselves but for our children .
“ No matter how great talents or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in a month by getting nine woman pregnant “ Warren Buffet
This year has definitely been a year that has complety changed how our industry works.
From rules and regulations, to how talent is casted. Nothing has been the same.
I think that if I were to have written this blog year ago, everyone would think I was writing yet another screenplay copying all pandemic movies.
“There is no way that would actually happen.”…
yet, here we are almost one year into this mess, and absolutely everything has been changed to adapt to Covid. Quite frankly, I don’t think it ever will be the same, this may just be our new normal.In a few months (that just happen to seem like a few years) in person castings have become virtually obsolete, Pun very much intended.
While virtual castings may have been what parents dreamed pre-covod, the reality of multiple self-tape request each week has been proven to be overwhelming. Not only for parents, but for Casting Directors and Agents alike. It’s double or even triple the work, if not more.
Parents are being asked to try to replicate what casting office do, and honestly none of us had time to train nor adapt.
Casting Directors know what works. They know how to get a genuine reaction from a child, They have a staff of people dedicated to only making sure they get the best footage possible. The files they send to their clients have always been cohesive and streamlined. They have spent years solidifying a method to provide quality tapes every time.
Now they are relying on you, the parents, to provide the best possible tapes you can.
To be 100% frank, the results have been far from pretty. It’s not anyone’s fault at all, it’s just the hand we have been dealt. 99% of you are not professional acting coaches and videographers, nor do we expect you to be.
To put this into perspective, Lets just say that we get about 100 submissions for one project. That is 100 people sending us at least one tape, if not more per household. That’s 100 people sending via different hosting sites, or text messages, with incorrect file names, and lets not even talk about the video quality. eek.
While we want nothing more than each and everyone on our roster to their chance to shine, we simply cannot hold each persons hand during the very fast paced casting process. We have spent countless hours(and months) trying to whip up the perfect guide on how to completely nail your self-tape castings.
You now hold in your power the ability to completely win over clients and Casting Directors. However, you also power to completely destroy a casting directors impression of you because of one bad self tape. That thought in itself is utterly terrifying.
This is why we took the time to develop our How to to guide to ensure that you never bomb another self-tape again.
In our never before seen Ultimate Self-Tape guide we will cover everything from how to position your camera, how to label your file, how to use drop box /wetransfer, how to dress, how to find the perfect lighting, and everything in-between to completly make a POSITIVE and lasting impression on every industry professional who views your tape.
If you aren’t much of a reader I have included videos, and pictures those who prefer visual guides!
I know it’s so hard to follow every direction (they can be overwhelming).
I will break it down by sections so you can skip through and read up on the areas you most need help with, without experiencing information overload!
For our first blog let’s get down to the basics.
What props/equipment do you need?
No high tech professional video needed.
Your cell phone/ tablet will work just fine!
Please make sure quality is not grainy when doing your test video.
I prefer the quality of my iPad Pro but sometimes the files are too large, so my iPhone is my go to.
Good lighting is key!
It can totally up your self tape game.
Before I dive in to how to make sure your lighting is just right let’s go over a few of our top lighting must haves.
A ring light is probably my favorite light for beginners.
It has a built in tripod for those filming with a phone and most come with a remote so you can control your camera.
Neewer Ring Light Kit [Upgraded Version-1.8cm Ultra Slim] – 18 inches, 3200-5600K, Dimmable LED Ring Light with Light Stand, Rotatable Phone Holder, Hot Shoe Adapter for Portrait Makeup Video Shooting
If you have a bigger budget and would like to splurge on a better light, these LED lights really help disguise any flaws!
Make sure your phone/tablet is horizontal when filming (we’ll) get into that later.
I prefer to use a tripod even when I use my ring light, it allows me to get the perfect lighting without compromising the angle of your tape.
Tripod for a tablet
T-SIGN IPad Tripod Tablet Stand, Reinforced Mount Foldable Floor, Height Adjustable 360 Rotating for More 7 to 12 Inch Tablets, Carrying Case, Phone Holder, Bluetooth Remote Control
Tripod for iPhone
Phone Tripod, Torjim 50-inch Extendable and Lightweight Aluminum Tripod Stand with Bluetooth Remote Shutter, Phone Clip, Portable Travel Tripod for Photography, Video Recording, Vlogging, and More
My absolute favorite budget option for mamas on the go is the popable backdrop. I keep it in my car for all those last minute self tape requests.
While you can use with a backdrop stand you can just rest against the wall if you don’t have one.
This option works best for small children since you won’t have the awkward out of frame slate shot (I’ll elaborate soon), for adults and older children check out the paper and backdrop stand options below.
Neewer Chromakey Black Chromakey White Collapsible Backdrop Collapsible Reversible Background 5’x7′ Chroma-Key Black/White
Paper backdrop and backdrop stand-
Stains and rips? No big deal!
Just roll the paper down and boom brand new backdrop!
Great option for those who want to try out different color paper options as well!
Last item on my list but by far the most important in my opinion!
Any stool or chair will work, but in my experience kids tape best when they are relaxed!
Especially when multiple takes are involved.
I prefer a stool, because kids tend to lean back and fidget when they have a chair option.
Folding Stool – Heavy Duty 24-Inch Collapsible Padded Round Stool with 300 Pound Capacity for Dorm, Rec Room or Gameroom by Trademark Home (Black) (161263AMA)
Dressed to Impress
While you may think that wardrobe isn’t important for virtual castings/self tapes that couldn’t be further from the truth!
You should be just as presentable on tape as you are when you do an in person casting.
I know this may seem silly for some, but I’ve seen tapes where the kids literally looked like they just woke up and rolled out of bed. While that may be the case, it’s 100% not acceptable to do a tape in pjs 😆
Hair and makeup
While good lighting helps blur imperfections, there is no light that can make sweaty ponytails look polished 😆
So if there ever is a time you must tape right after a soccer practice session make sure their hair is styled and presentable.
Loose hair always is best, but if it’s already styled that’s fine too! If for example your child’s hair is in braids and you will keep them styled in braids for the shoot days don’t bother taking them out. However, if there hair is in braids and you are about to take them out please let casting know and include a picture of how there hair will be styled for the shoot. It’s always important to not change their look too much! Same goes for boys haircuts.
Very light makeup is acceptable but it should always be age appropriate.
A CC cream/ moisturizer, lip gloss, and clear mascara is usually all they need.
My absolute favorite secret weapon to perfect dewy skin
If your child has dark circles, or blemishes a tiny dab of concealer works wonders!
Boys shouldn’t be afraid to use a little cover up help. Makeup on set is the norm.
It should go without saying, but PJs and yesterday’s tshirt with a stain from spaghetti dinner should not be worn.
Avoid any colors that are similar to the background you are shooting on.
A cute bright t-shirt and jeans is perfect!
You want to stand out but you don’t want the outfit to distract casting from your child.
When starting out I didn’t know any better and I’d take her to castings in her sundays best.
While big pouch dresses still takeover her closet, I always have a few t-shirt and jean options for self-tapes and castings!
Don’t worry about splurging on expensive options.
Walmart and Target have the best inexpensive lines that are bright and just right for every budget.
Ready to get started?
Not so quick!
Before we dive deeper on the technology side of self tapes let’s go over the basics laws of self tape.
1. Your should always film horizontally
2. There should be no background noise
3. Only the person(s)requested should be on tape
4. Other than the slate and unless specified otherwise the person being taped should look slightly off camera, and not directly at the camera.
•this is especially true for acting videos
5.. Unless specified it is typically taboo to use any props
6.. Good lighting is key
7.. You should always include a slate unless the casting director does not request one.
8.A good reader(person reading lines off camera) is just as important as the person auditioning
9.You should always submit ASAP! Casting directors view as they receive tapes, it is never in your benefit to wait until last minute.
10.Read carefully and follow all of the instructions!!!!
How do I shoot you shoot a self tape audition?
To shoot a self-tape, use a tight frame that goes from your chest to just over the top of your head. (This is called a medium close-up.)
I always recommend sitting down on a stool while your reader is also sitting on a stool at the same eye level. Remember the reader should be SLIGHTLY to the side of the camera.
The camera should also be centered and at eye level.
What is a slate and where do you put it?
If you are asked to slate, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Every casting director wants something slightly different. Some want full-body shots, others tight close-ups or profile shots. If the instructions don’t specify, Film ONLY the slate vertically and the rest horizontally. For the slate you typically want to pan the camera out, and do a full body shot.
• Shoot the slate separately from the scenes.
• Slate directly into the camera.
• State your name, age, role, and agency (and anything else requested by casting).
• Place at the end of your tapes.
With little kids I think it’s really important for the person reading to do the slate as if they were interviewing them. Instead of having the child memorize what they should say, ask them their age, location, etc. They show so much more personality when they are engaged opposed to just reciting back what you told them to say.
What makes a good reader?
While casting is focused on the requested talent, a bad reader can totally be a distraction and make casting skills ahead.
They don’t expect or need James Earl Jones lol, however a boring or monotone voice is not enjoyable for anyone.
The readers voice should not be as loud as the person auditioning but casting should still be able to hear the reader so the scene comes off as real and believable.
Should you wait for a deadline to submit?
While sometimes casting doesn’t send instructions until last minute, you should send in your tape as soon as possible.
Definitely take time and make sure you are sending in your best tape possible, but don’t purposely wait until last minute to send in your tape!
Casting typically goes through tapes as they receive them and can make a selection even before the deadline!
Your best bet is to always submit as soon as you feel comfortable with the material.
Come to the light!
When it comes to self tape auditions your first focus needs to be can you be seen Yes, you can get more intricate with your set up to make it look more cinematic, but it’s going to be viewed for about 2 mins and then they will move on. A poorly lit self-tape is a sure way to have your tape skipped and overlooked! Of course at the end of the day your talent will ultimately be what books you, a quality tape will help get you noticed!
When you’re struggling to submit a self-tape on time, the last thing you want to do is struggle with finding just the right light in your self-tape setup.
Natural Light ( naturally free)
There is no denying natural light is beautiful, but it’s not always an option. You are limited to shooting during certain hours of the days. Depending on where your natural light source is, a room simply may not allow for natural light taping. Here are some tips when looking to strictly natural light for your tape.
Always avoid any light behind you. Stand directly facing the window.
Remove any curtains/blinds that may cast weird shadows on your face
Leave 2-3 feet of space between the back wall and you
Ring light ( our favorite budget friendly option)
The Ring adds a glow to the front of of your face and a sparkle to your eye. We love how it gives an almost airbrushed appearance by evening out any blemishes.
To even up your ring light game we suggest adding two soft box lights to each side of the ring light to take away the harsh circle on the eyes and take away any shadows.
Adding a back light (Secret weapon) Want to fool a casting director into thinking you know exactly what you are doing?! Lol
Do yourself a favor and add a back light It creates even more depth in your video, which puts more focus on the person auditioning. It helps get rid of any shadows that are on the back wall.The back light should be low to the ground and shining up on the wall. You don’t need to go out and buy any expensive lights. A table lamp without a shade will give you the same results!
The back light can be directly behind you or to the side, shining on the wall behind you.
There is no right way, but there will be a right way for you! It may change from day to day, but don’t be afraid to play with the intensity and placement until you find a set-up that works best for you!
How to rename your videos on an iPhone or Android?
One of castings biggest frustration is the amount of videos that are not properly labeled. Without proper labeling you can completely bomb your chances at booking a job because a casting director can’t locate you or locate the tape later. Check out short tutorial on how to rename your files!
Is there such a thing as contacting your agent too much?
One of my biggest hopes when I write these blogs for all of you, is that I come across informative. I never want to give off the impression of being critical or condescending. I want all of you to walk away from reading my blogs with a little more knowledge about the industry than you had to start with. I hope that’s the impression I’m giving off. When writing this blog, it was important to me to start by saying my intentions so you know where I’m coming from when you read it.
So is there such a thing as contacting your agent too much? I would say, Yes! First things first, your agent’s personal phone should never be called or texted unless you hear from them first and they are waiting on a response from you. Email is always the best form of communication. Your agent should never be called after hours unless it’s an emergency and your child is going to miss a booking.
As agents, we are surrounded by all types of parents. We have the parents who are easy and take life as it comes, we have the parents that are a little rude, and we have the parents that make sure to call, text, and email at a minimum of once a day. The hard truth is there is never a reason you need to call your agent every day. We always appreciate the enthusiasm, but there is such a thing as too much. Try to remember that we represent hundreds of talent and we need to make time for everyone including ourselves.
The entertainment industry is 24/7 . Clients can call on weekends , in the middle of the night , first thing in the morning , and on holidays . We truly never get down time or a day off . It comes with the territory and we fully expect it . However , during the few minutes of downtime we might get, we need to take a breath . So if you have a question first read my blogs as most questions are answered there . If you can’t find your answer make sure to check that your emailing during business hours , and if so send us an email . I would strongly discourage you from calling or texting . This also goes for the agent’s assistants .
One of the common complaints I get from parents coming from other agencies (and I’m sure some of my parents) is that the agent is short with them and they think the agent is rude. I promise you, I don’t think there is an agent out there that is intentionally being short or rude. We are much busier than you might think. If you have a question, most of the time, I might give a one sentence answer just so you know I’m not ignoring you. I know my fellow agents probably do the same. It’s never our intention to not give you adequate time, we are just so limited on the time we have. That’s my purpose in writing these blogs. I want to have a place where you can read, educate yourself, and feel like you took something away from reading them.
Please, don’t get me wrong, we love that you’re excited about the industry and we are just as excited with you . It’s just important to remember that we are human and we need some time with our families and some time for ourselves. We want to be everything for everyone. I care so much about each and every one of you and want you to feel like you’re not lost in the industry. I’m always here when you need me even if I give you a one word answer 😉