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How to Find an Agent... and Survive: Part II

Agencies which charge such fees average around $60.00 per year; fees should not exceed $120.00 per year. Agencies should not charge fees of a union member. Photographic Services Agencies are not photographic studios; however, agents will have varying degrees of involvement with the photographic requirements of the actors and models they represent. Generally speaking, legitimate talent agencies do not offer in-house photographic services for actors. Some talent agencies will make arrangements for you but if you are told that you must have photos taken through the agency, leave at once. Standard procedure is for a talent agency to give you a short list of photographers that they recommend. You should visit each one, look at their work, and select the one you feel the most comfortable with. Photos are a vital promotional tool. While an agent's advice about what photographer to use may be helpful, it is your choice to make.

Major modelling agencies in urban centres such as Toronto will generally recommend either one or more reputable imaging specialists or a short list of photographers to test with. Again, you should visit each one, look at their work, and select the one you feel the most comfortable with. Modelling agencies and schools outside of urban areas such as Toronto are more likely to directly arrange the test sessions for their prospective models.

If you are booking a photographer through an agency, find out the name and credentials of the photographer, what services are offered, and what you will be charged for them. Ask to see samples of the photographer's work and make sure that he or she is a working professional photographer. Contact other people in the industry to find out the photographer's reputation. Comparison shop: get price lists from other photographers, but remember that price is not as important as quality. Find out what this photographer charges for a session not booked through the agency: the price should be the same.

Keep in mind the differences in photographic requirements for actor and models. An actor needs a black and white 8" x 10" headshot. Actors do not need portfolios. A model does need a portfolio and "comp cards". The initial portfolio is developed through test shoots with fashion photographers, and is then expanded with tearsheets of the model's professional print work. Some of these pictures are used in making up the comp card. Models being promoted for commercial television will also need a "TV glossy", or 8" x 10" headshot.

Child actors under eight do not need professional photos. It is acceptable to promote children with inexpensive snapshots, and most agents do this to avoid the expense of having new professional photos taken for children every few months as they grow and change. Child models may require comp cards, based on the agency's policies, but should not require the extensive portfolios that an adult model needs.

Actors will need prints made of the headshot that you and your agent have selected from the contact sheet provided by the photographer. Models will need prints of their TV glossies, blow- ups of the shots to be used in their portfolio, and multiple prints of their comp cards. It may be convenient for your agent to maintain the supply of prints and promotional photos, and bill you for reproduction costs. Check the costs first; find out what a reproduction house would charge you for prints. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that your agent has a supply of your promotional photos on hand at all times; you don't want to miss out because your agent had no photos to send out.

How to Find an Agent and Survive: Part III >>

By Cathy McKim
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