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
I Hate To Bring It Up, But We Should Talk About The Money
As soon as your casting is completed, you need to call the agencies and check the availability of the models that you and your client have agreed upon. Now is when you start to talk about money. A phrase you'll hear a lot is "plus agency." For example, the fees for your favorite model will be quoted as $4,000 for the day and the usage—plus agency. The agency fee is an additional 20% of the model's fee. So in our example, the model will cost $4,000 + $800 = $4,800.
"Negotiate! All fees are negotiable, and agencies would rather have the work than not. Just be mindful of fair market value."
Just be mindful of fair market value. You don't want to lose a great model by pushing too hard. But do push a little—it's all part of the process. Also keep in mind that models get fitting fees if they have to come in before the shoot day to try on clothes. They also get travel fees if the shoot is a certain distance away from the agency. Lastly, find out how the agency defines a day. Overtime fees are per hour after the initial eight to 10 hours.
Taking It To The Street
If you've ever looked at any of your friends and said to yourself, "They have an interesting look," write that person's name down in your casting files. Casting "real people" talent is called "going to the street." Inevitably, because of an aesthetic requirement or budget restrictions, or both, you'll need to pull from your pool of friends to get a job cast. This type of casting isn't as glamorous as going to the agencies, but it's equally as fun, especially if you get to book a friend. It's also a fantastic test to see how good you are at matching a face to a job.
My first experience with this type of casting was when I was shooting an ad campaign for Best Western hotels. Agency politics and a miscalculation by the account executive left us with very little money to shoot the last ad. The art director was desperate. I found the answer in my girlfriend's roommate, a slightly goofy-looking guy named Dennis. It was a little nerve-racking because you never know how someone is going to react in front of the camera, but once he got on set, it became immediately apparent that he was a natural. He was awesome. You never know who's harboring a hidden talent underneath a mild-mannered exterior.
Since then, the casting of real people has become a real business. Agencies like The Blackwell Files keep a photographic library of all kinds of different-looking "real people" who are available for booking. Keep your expectations low and your directing abilities sharp. If things aren't going easily, hide your disappointment and dig deep to make something happen. The ability to pull a performance out of a pedestrian is what separates the true shooter from a tired, belly-aching, prima donna who happens to own a camera.
It Just Feels Right
Good casting is a mix of experience and gut feeling. Remember, you're getting hired for your execution of the concept. Be vocal in your opinion of who you think is right for the job. Sell your clients on your vision. You might not get everything you want, but try to get what you can. You'll find that the more experience you have as a photographer, the more freedom you'll have in choosing the talent.
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