How to Find an Agent... and Survive: Part III
Talent agencies sometimes offer workshops for actors, bringing in a well-known or respected specialist for an evening or weekend session. If attendance is optional and prices are not excessive, this practice is acceptable.
When talent or modelling agencies offer on-going classes in-house or make arrangements for clients of an agency to take classes at a specific school (which is often affiliated with the agency), you need to do some investigation. Check the training, experience, and other credentials of the instructors. Check the cost against fees charged by independent schools or instructors. Find out if you must take the courses provided by this agency before you will be represented. An agency that does not accept training from other sources is not serving your best interests.
There are many places to get training: universities and colleges offer acting and drama courses, and some colleges offer programs in fashion and modelling as well. There are independent schools with good reputations for both actors and models, and many highly regarded individuals who offer classes, workshops and private instruction. Local school boards may offer acting and modelling or "self-improvement/self-image" courses through their continuing education departments. A model's most valuable training can be the "on-the-job" experience s/he receives in the course of shooting his/her test portfolio.
Some modelling agencies, especially those outside the heavily competitive Toronto area, run legitimate schools which serve both as self-improvement or "finishing" academies for young men and women who are not planning a career in modelling, and as introductory training schools for those who are. The hallmarks of such legitimate schools are honesty with respect to an applicant's potential, strong ties to the local business community, and connections with national and international "high profile" agencies. Most also participate in one of the Canadian modelling associations: the Modelling Association of Canada (MAC) or the Canadian Model and Talent Convention (CMTC). To check out such a school, request local business references, and ask about affiliations with national and international agencies and modelling associations.
Talent agencies prepare binders or promotional packages with photos of the talent on their roster and distribute these to casting directors; these should not require any expense on the part of the performer beyond the cost of printing sufficient photo reproductions to be placed in each binder.
Modelling agencies do charge their models for inclusion in various promotional packages; the most common of these are the agency book, and the agency headsheet. Sometimes only the agency's top-line models are included in these; other agencies prefer to include all of their models in the agency book or on the headsheet.
If you are being charged to be in a book, or on an agency's headsheet, ask to see earlier editions to assure yourself of the quality of these promotional tools. Also, contact some of the agency's clients to see if the book and headsheet are distributed and used. The fees charged for inclusion in agency books and on headsheets should be calculated based on the cost of printing the promotional material, divided by the number of models included in the material. A nominal fee to cover distribution costs may be added to the cost. Remember that legitimate modelling agencies do not make any profit on these promotions. If the fees are greater than your fair share of the costs, something is wrong.
You may also find yourself being asked to pay for audio or video demo tapes, computer data-base casting services, or resume preparation and maintenance services, just to name a few of the services some agencies are selling. For all these services, do your homework; find out what is normal practice.
by Cathy McKim
Courtesy of ActingBiz.com