Due to some recent communications I've had, I think this is worth re-posting. It was originally a Facebook post, but the same type of issues keep getting brought up fairly frequently, so I decided to make this a blog post so that it can be more easily read from my website. .
I get weird messages sometimes.
This afternoon, I received one from a young lady that I'd estimate to be in her late teens or early 20's. She asked me to be her agent. I said no. If you need me to help catch and relocate a possum, I can do that. I don't even need a net or a possum trap. I can help you worm your goats, too. I can even do goat CPR. But I don't have any ability, connections, or skills that would qualify me to be an agent, and unlike some people, that will make me decline to be your agent.
She said "I've heard that you can help people get paid modeling work." I told her (truthfully) that I really can't. I can count,on the fingers of one hand, the number times that I've recruited models for paid projects during the past few months. I doesn't happen often. Don't come to me counting on paid work. Learn a vocation. Have something to fall back on that offers more financial security than depending on the odd calendar or workshop I can refer you too.
The young lady ended up telling me her story. She had "signed" with what she believed was a legitimate agency. Her dad didn't like the agent. She thought her dad was just being overprotective. She thought he was stupid. She didn't listen to him.
Over the next few months, she traveled around to different locations to what is best described as "group shoots" where multiple creepy old guys with cameras photographed her and other girls. There would be 5 guys with cameras photographing her, and others, all at the same time. She never knew who to look at. They didn't care. No one gave direction. They made inappropriate comments and close up photos of her butt using a zoom lens. (Apparently, that happens a lot, I've been told this by others). She just stood there as multiple flashes fired. Modeling wasn't what she though that it was going to be.
She had been led to believe that she'd make some money. She spent her own money on wardrobe stuff, travel, and motel rooms. She partied after the shots with the creepy old guys. Partying is expensive. She did this because it was explained that socializing was part of the expectation of the agent/agency. She put miles and miles on her car. All of traveling, parting, and clothing purchases went on a credit card that she's now struggling to pay off. She never received a dime in payment or a even decent photo from any of the old dudes with cameras. . To make things even worse, the environment at these group shoots were bad. Very bad. "Somebody could go to jail" bad.
And, the creepy old guys with cameras had paid the agent to attend, make pictures of the models, etc. The models got nothing other than humiliation and credit card debit.
I was asked "can you help me?" My reply was "I can give you some advice. First, avoid guys like that." I explained the business model of a legitimate agency was the agent/agency takes a cut of money that a client pays to the represented model. For example, a clothing company needs some material on their new line of clothing. They hire a photographer, make up artist, stylist, secure a shooting location (or use a studio), provide some instructions on what they need, and they hire a model or two. They will go to a legitimate agency (not some old creepy guy), and through the agency, hire the models. The agency will take a cut (usually 10 per cent) of the money that the model is paid. The agency has a vested interest in getting work for the model becasue that's the source of their income.
One "scam" business model that non-legitimate agencies do quite successfully is recruit young people who have stars in their eyes, and make a bunch of promises. These are the guys that approach you in the mall and ask you to come back for a screen test, or something along those lines. The "agency" will charge all kinds of ridicilous fees (thousands) for photos, classes, etc. And the newly signed model will never see a dime of payment. This type of agency earns their income from the models that are recruited. They have no interest in booking paid work for their models since their income is derived from the models.
Apparently, a new scam is an "agent/agency" recruiting models to pose for workshops, group shoots, etc, by promising them good exposure that will lead to future paid work, fame, fortune, etc. The agent is getting paid by the workshop/group shoot participant. From what I'm hearing, the models aren't getting a dime.
I was asked how do you know if the agency is legit? It's easy. How does the agent/agency make money? Who pays them? If it's for clients hiring models, and paying a cut to the agency, that's legit. If the income comes from the models, it's a SCAM! If there are a bunch of creepy old guys simultaneously trying to photography one young lady, well, there's a good chance that's a scam too. It's definitely not going to be a positive experience or good for a modeling career. A legit agency is going to encourage you to protect your image, and avoid the creepy old dudes with cameras because, at best, what you are going to get is a bunch of close up mediocre images of yourself floating around all over the internet. And that is the opposite of protecting the marketability of your image.
This young lady asked me three times to be her agent. I declined. I explained it's not as simple as saying "Ok, I'm an agent now." I explained that I don't have the time, desire, or ability. Or connections. I help out a few friends, who are legitimate photographers, recruit models on occasion. And these models are treated well and they get paid. And they also get a few shots of themselves that are great. I can do that because I have a more or less good reputation and it's known by those who make it their business to know that each of these shoots are laid back, fun, but very professional. But I don't get the opportunity to do it very often. And the reason for that is I am not an agent.
I was told "But I really really need an agent." I replied "No, you don't. You need to slow down, be careful, and take the time to research some of the people you've been shooting with. Look at their previous work. Talk to some of the people who they have photographed." I threw in the normal stuff such as always check references, always take along someone with you, etc. And I covered the basics about not ever flaking, don't be wishy washy about showing up, try to avoid wasting the time of photographers, MUAs, etc, by not canceling at the last second, etc.
This is one of those situations that scare me. A young lady got lured in the field of "modeling," and immediately aligned herself with some very bad apples. She had a few bad experiences, she hasn't really learned yet, and she keeps coming back for more. Each time, she was subjected to some bad behavior by males who are a disgrace to this gender and she lost more and more money.
And to top it all off, she immediately tries to hire a weird old goat farmer as her next "agent" just because she heard he's "nice" he can get people paid work (he can't).
It pays to be careful. Don't jump in with both feet until you do a bit of research. And never hire a goat farmer to try to get you runway shows in Paris!