Thursday, May 31, 2007
Control Your Casting Call
The process of finding the perfect model is a matter of art , science and more than a little luck
Armed with your description, you or your producer can call a few agencies and have them send out a package. When you call the agency, have the following details of the shoot ready: the client's name, address and phone, the usage location, the media type and the length of time that the ad will run. The agency will ask you about money. Tell them the budget hasn't been determined yet.
They're trying to discern if your shoot is a low-budget gig or not. If they think it is, you'll get a package of color xeroxes exhibiting young girls or guys who have been modeling for five minutes. This is the "new faces" division of the agency. The second stage of casting involves fewer words and more sounds. Feel free to use the following highly effective phrases:
"Hmm."—used when you really like a model, but are waiting for validation from your client.
"Ooohhh, fantastic."—used when you've previously worked with the pictured model.
"Uh, huh, I do kind of like her."—used when you find the model repulsive, but you notice the clients' eyes light up when they see the card.
Eventually, you get a small pile of selects. Now you can call the agencies to set up a casting call. If you have models from a few agencies to look at, arrange for a studio or hotel room and have the models come to you. Yes, it's perfectly legit to hold a casting at a hotel; just make sure it's a nice one. Don't have these young girls and guys traipsing off to a low rent motel on the side of a highway. If you don't have your own studio, most rental studios will give you a decent rate to use the space for casting. My personal preference is a studio—it's just groovier. I've had castings at the agencies as well. This is an easy process if you're only looking at one or two agencies. If you're looking at more than that, coordinating client, art director and staff to multiple places can be time-consuming.
The exercise of meeting the models and looking at their portfolios is fabulous. Their personalities almost never match what you think—and you get to see how many other photographers in town are better than you.
It's Really Not In The Cards
Sometimes, you have to cast solely from a model's card and portfolio. This usually happens when you're looking at someone who lives out of town. You then discover the universal truth of fashion: the cards lie. The purpose for a live casting is to see for yourself how short, tall, skinny or not so skinny the models are. When I shot my first big fashion job in Los Angeles, I only vaguely knew one of the modeling agencies. I was too nervous to call the other ones, so I did what any professional would do. I freaked out and called an agency in San Francisco that I knew well. We booked a girl named Sam who was the perfect brunette to our Los Angeles-based five-foot, 11-inch blonde. Sam's card said she was five feet, nine inches, which was just on the edge of working, in terms of height difference. We booked her off the strength of her card and fantastic portfolio.
On the day of the shoot, I picked her up at the airport. She came up to my shoulder. She was five feet, seven inches. I just about lost it. In the end, her extensive experience saved the day. She worked that camera like nobody's business, and the client thought I was a genius for booking her.
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